A portable appliance is basically any appliance with a plug attached to it. For example personal computers, and their equipment (monitor, speakers etc), kettles, irons, leads, cables, toasters, printers, etc
There is a very good and informative web-site here from which you can see that PAT testing is mainly an obligation of employers as part of providing safe working conditions.
However your lodger will expect to be able to switch on his bedside lamp without having it blow up in his face, so you might want to think about it if you rent rooms to lodgers. As a supplier, you should comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.
If someone supplies electrical appliances as part of a service (in your case the renting of a room) they need to make sure that they are safe. New items should be all right for a while, but if you are renting out a room to a new lodger and you are using appliances which have been used before, perhaps by your previous lodger, it is worth making sure that they are safe. Portable appliance testing will do this.
- if there is any damage to the cable covering
- if the plug is damaged
- if any of the joints are taped or look damaged
- if the coloured insulation of the internal cable cores show where they enter plug
- if the appliance seems to have been used in conditions for which it is not suitable (e.g. if it is wet)
- If there is any damage to the external casing of the equipment or are there loose screws or parts
- if there is any evidence of overheating (e.g.. burn marks or discoloration)
- if the off/on switch is damaged
Or indeed if you are just a bit worried, you should get your portable appliances tested. Best to be safe than sorry.
Getting Portable Appliance / PAT testing done
In order to make it cost effective, you should get all your appliances done at the same time, perhaps after one lodger has left and before the next one moves in. It is not hugely expensive, you can expect to pay about £25-45 which will cover testing about 10-20 appliances. You can find companies which do this online or in Yellow Pages, plus there is a helpful directory here. Some companies specifically advertise a service for landlords.
Finally, make sure that you keep a record of the appliances tested and the date this was done, so if there is any problem later you can prove that you have had it done.