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Electrical Safety for Landlords

Commencement:

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 1st June 2020. There has been some confusion as to when the Regulations will apply and Government guidance has been inconsistent.  It is not entirely clear but it is now understood that the regulations apply to new ‘specified tenancies’ (tenancies granted on or after 1st June 2020) from 1st July 2020 and existing ‘specified tenancies’ (tenancies granted before 1st June 2020) from 1st April 2021. 

Scope:

These Regulations impose a continuous duty on private landlords of residential premises in England to maintain the fixed mains wiring in any rented property to the appropriate electrical safety standards.  The regulations apply to private sector tenancies (PRS) in England and have two main requirements for landlords:

1. General Safety.  The regulations require that landlords must provide and maintain the property according to the electrical safety standards (18th Edition (2018) of the EE Wiring Regulations) for new ‘specified tenancies’ (tenancies granted on or after 1st June 2020) from 1st July 2020 and existing ‘specified tenancies’ from 1st April 2021. 

“specified tenancy” means a tenancy of residential premises in England which—

(a)  grants one or more persons the right to occupy all or part of the premises as their only or main residence;

(b)  provides for payment of rent (whether or not a market rent); and

(c)  is not a tenancy of a description specified in Schedule 1 to these Regulations.

2. Inspection and Certification.  Similar to the gas safety regime, landlords will be required to have properties inspected by a qualified electrical engineer and provide tenants with a copy of the electrical installation condition report (EICR) at the start of the tenancy.  Testing only applies to the fixed mains wiring (not appliances) and will be required to be carried out every five years, at which point, an updated EICR will need to be provided to the tenant.

“Electrical Installations” essentially means the fixed mains wiring and fusebox or consumer unit in the dwelling and fixed electrical equipment connected to it.  These regulations do not generally apply to portable appliances that may be connected to the mains wiring installation.  

Key Provisions and Enforcement:

Regulation 3(1) requires a private landlord to ensure that the electrical safety standards are met during any period when the residential premises are occupied under a tenancy, and that every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified person. “Electrical safety standards” means the standards for electrical installations in the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the British Standards Institution in 2018 as BS 7671: 2018.

Regulation 3(1) requires a private landlord to ensure that the electrical safety standards are met during any period when the residential premises are occupied under a tenancy, and that every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified person. “Electrical safety standards” means the standards for electrical installations in the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the British Standards Institution in 2018 as BS 7671: 2018.

Regulation 3(3) provides that a private landlord is required to obtain a report which gives the results of the inspection and test, supply that report to each tenant within 28 days of the inspection and test, and to the local housing authority within 7 days of a request, and retain a copy until the next inspection is due. The private landlord must supply a copy of the last report to any new tenant before occupation, or any prospective tenant within 28 days of a request from the prospective tenant.

The new regulations will require landlords in England to have an electrical installation condition report (EICR) in place from 1st July 2020 for tenancies granted on or after 1st June 2020.

Regulation 3(4) provides that, where the report requires the private landlord to carry out further investigative or remedial work, the private landlord must undertake such further investigative or remedial work within 28 days or within such lesser time period as specified in the report.

Regulation 3(5) provides that the private landlord must obtain and supply written confirmation of completion of such further investigative or remedial work to the tenant and local housing authority. The local authority must serve a notice on a landlord where they have reasonable grounds to believe the landlord is in breach of the regulations.  If the landlord ignores the notice the local authority has power to arrange remedial action.   Landlords who fail to comply with the new rules will face fines of up to £30,000.

Exclusions:

The Regulations do not apply to:

  • Social Housing
  • Student Halls of Residence
  • Lodger arrangements in Private Rented Sector
  • Long leases – 7 years or more
  • Hostels and refuges, care homes, hospitals, hospices and other healthcare settings

Issues with the legislation:

Poor drafting and scrutiny of the legislation has created some important issues:Poor drafting and scrutiny of the legislation has created some important issues:

  • Upgrades and Improvements.  As currently drafted the regulations do not appear to allow for a qualified inspector to declare the installations are safe, even if they do not meet the latest standards of the 18th Edition. This means that substantial alterations to the property may need to be made as the 18th Edition is a recent publication and most properties were not built or altered with this publication in mind. During the Covid-19 lockdown period, it is unlikely that landlords will be able to progress such works to meet the timescales required by the regulation.  The Covid-19 government guidance for landlords and tenants includes information regarding gas and electrical safety checks during Covid-19 on page 19.
  • Safety Inspections.  During the current Covid-19 situation, many electrical engineers are being advised to suspend safety inspections due to distancing regulations and the potential for contagion spread when moving around premises and touching electrical switches etc.
  • Existing Inspection Certificates.  One of the largest areas of controversy within the introduction of these regulations is that landlords may need to upgrade existing installations that are currently tested and safe as installed to the latest safety standards but the position is unclear.

Portable appliances and Electrical equipment:

Landlords and agents are required to ensure that any electrical appliances that are supplied as part of the letting agreement are safe.  There is no specific requirement for certification, but many landlords and their agents carry out PAT testing and ongoing regular visual inspections in order to discharge their obligations.  See Letting Factsheet No.5 for more information on portable appliances and electrical equipment.

Sources for Further Information:

This summary is intended to assist landlords and letting agents to understand the effect of the Regulations.  It is not an authoritative interpretation – this is a matter for the courts.  For more detail, you should refer to the text of the Regulations themselves.