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Electrical Issues to Check Whether You're a Tenant or Landlord of a Rental Property

It’s nice to get away – from work, chores, and even your own home. While many people still opt for hotel living, others prefer the comfort of home without being at home. Air B&Bs and house rentals provide a great, and more reasonable solution for people who want all the amenities that a house has to offer (kitchen access, washers/dryers, extra bedrooms) while being somewhere else…preferably with a beach or mountain view!

Whether you’re renting or preparing your property to be rented, there are some things that you should look out for. As you would in your own home, it’s important to make sure everything is in working order, and most importantly, SAFE!

Check all outlets and switches for broken covers.

Does your electrical seem to be in good working order? If you rented an older home, there is a possibility that the outlets aren’t producing enough juice. An easy way to test outlets is to use a multimeter, multitester, or voltage detector to test your voltage.


These tests should be performed with the power on, which is why you should hold both meter probes in the same hand. No one wants a shock!

Insert a probe into each slot, and if your outlet is putting out 110 to 120 volts, it’s working properly. Anything above or below, or no reading at all, means you may have some issues with the wiring or outlet. Check out this article from Better Homes and Gardens for the proper way to use a multimeter!

Testing an outlet

It’s always best to have outlets that are properly grounded. This means that outlets should be 3-prong instead of 2-prong. Three prong outlets have a ground wire, which provides a safe place for unexpected bursts of current to go when they occur.

Without that connection between the ground wire and the plug, wild current can go anywhere: into your electrical device, where sensitive components can be destroyed, or worse, into your body. Shock and electrocution are more likely to occur when no ground wire is present.

Check Smoke Detectors for fresh batteries and expiration date.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors should always be checked regularly, even if you’re moving into a brand new or renovated space. It’s important to check the batteries – even hard-wired smoke detectors use batteries as a backup power source. Testing the batteries is easy. Most detectors should have a “test” button.

Smoke alarm

Also, check and see if there are enough detectors for the space that you are in. Typically, smoke and CO detectors should be installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the house. A quick tour of the place should confirm how many detectors are installed. If you’re renting out a property, make sure CO detectors are NOT placed in the following areas as they could create false alarms:

  • At least 10 feet away from fuel-burning devices
  • Areas, like the bathroom, that generate a lot of humidity
  • Direct sunlight
  • Near fans or vents

While you’re at it, make sure your rental property has fire extinguishers available, preferably on every floor of the house.

To find out how smoke and CO detectors work, click HERE.

Make sure all (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) GFCI outlets are tested.

Most GFCI electrical outlets have “Test” and “Reset” buttons. Pressing the test button should elicit a snapping sound. This “snap” indicates that the outlet has tripped and cut off the power.

Testing an outlet

When the power is off, whatever is plugged into the outlet –the TV, hairdryer, heater, etc. – shouldn’t work. Flipping the reset button will restore power to the outlet, enabling your devices to work.

           Why are GFCI outlets important?

  • Electricity is always trying to find its way to the ground any way it can. Unfortunately, sometimes the most convenient path is through a human body. That's why if you touch a live wire, the current will likely run through you on its path downward. The consequences of electric shocks can include burns, heart arrhythmia, nervous system damage, and death.

  • GFCIs work by constantly monitoring the amount of current running through a circuit. The instant that the current level returning from the circuit drops below the level going out – which could indicate that the electricity is escaping to the ground, possibly through a human – the GFCI trips and cuts off the power. The device should kick in less than a second, which decreases the danger of serious injury – like electrocution!

Make sure all light switches are operable.

Guess what? You can also use a multimeter or multimeter to test your switches!

Place each of the tester’s probes on the screws on the light switch cover. When the switch is on, the reading should be near zero. When the switch is off, it should have a reading of “1.” If the switch fails either test, it needs to be replaced.

Make sure the electrical panel is in good condition.

If you’re renting out a home or property, it’s always best to have a licensed electrician look at your electrical panel. Is it labeled correctly?

Circuit breaker panel

Are there signs of damage, like rodents chewing on wires or birds nesting in the panel? If any of the wires are frayed or damaged, this could end up being a larger problem down the road.

Make sure all circuit breaker boxes function.

Here we go again, multimeter!

Not many of us carry around a multimeter – just in case the need presents itself. But if you’re going on a vacation or trip and staying in a home that is not your own, it’s best to be prepared.

Ask the owner if they have a multimeter or multitester, and whether the circuit breakers have been tested. And when was the home’s electrical last evaluated? Are there instructions on how to use it?

A circuit breaker panel may be faulty is if it keeps tripping or if the electrical system keeps getting overheated and overloaded. Signs of burning or water damage can indicate that the panel needs to be inspected. As an owner, it’s best to take care of this before your guests arrive.

Know the code.

For landlords: Make sure that the property you’re renting out is up to code. The best way to do this is by scheduling an electrical inspection. This will ensure that your electrical work is up to the National Electrical Code® (NEC®).

The NEC® is updated every three years and has been adopted in all 50 states. In 2020, major changes to the code included:

  • Surge protection is required for dwelling units.
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection is required in all 125-150-volt supplied by single-phase branch circuits.
  • Outdoor emergency disconnects are required for new construction, home renovation, and home service replacement. This is especially important because it helps first responders to respond to emergencies without the threat of electrical harm.

“Getting away” doesn’t mean putting safety on the back burner. It also doesn’t mean that it needs to be at the forefront of your mind. A quick check and conversation with the landlord can provide you with the peace of mind you need to enjoy your vacation.

For landlords, a safe home can ensure happy customers who will return to rent from you again!

For more information or to schedule an electrical inspection, visit us HERE.

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