Regulations introducing new electrical safety check rules in the private rented sector in England are expected to come into force later this year in a bid to improve safety for tenants.
The new rules, likely to become a legal requirement from this summer, mean landlords – including estates and farm businesses with let residential property – may need to plan and budget for mandatory five-yearly electrical safety checks.
Failure to carry out the checks and any remedial work needed as a result could leave landlords exposed to hefty fines.
Under the regulations, landlords will have to ensure that every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified person. A fixed ‘electrical installation’ is defined as fixed electrical cables or equipment located on the consumer’s side of the supply meter, but excludes Portable Appliance Testing (PAT).
The period between inspections may be shorter than five years if it is noted during an inspection that an installation is compliant at that point in time, but becoming ‘aged’.
The landlord will also be required to supply a copy of the inspection report to the tenant within 28 days of the inspection and retain a copy until the next inspection is due. If requested, the report must be provided to the local housing authority within seven days.
Any remedial work will need to be carried out within 28 days of the inspection or sooner if specified in the report.
The regulations are expected to come into law in the next few months and apply to new specified tenancies from the 1st July 2020 and existing specified tenancies from the 1st April 2021.
While social housing, long leases and student halls of residence are directly excluded from the new electrical safety check regulations, the new rules will apply to most other tenancies.
It therefore looks likely, although this will need to be confirmed, that the rules will capture Rent Act tenancies and tenancies that form part of an employee’s contract of employment, such as a farm worker living in a farm or estate cottage, for the better performance of his or her duties.
Local housing authorities will be required to enforce the regulations and have the power to arrange remedial action. Proven breaches of the regulations could result in fines of up to £30,000.
The impact of these new regulations will be limited for those landlords that we advise and manage lettings for who are already following current NICEIC/ELECSA guidance to get an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) at least every five years, or at change of occupancy, and ensure any necessary remedial works are instructed.
Landlords do recognise the importance of tenant safety and many have wanted to demonstrate they are following best practice in order to attract and retain tenants.
However, landlords who have not traditionally carried out this level of testing will need to ensure they schedule these extra tests into their compliance programme and budget accordingly.
It has always been good practice to follow NICEIC/ELECSA guidance, but the new regulations now make this compulsory, bringing electrical regulations in line with the more stringent oil and gas regulations.
Now is a good time for landlords to check when electrical installations were last inspected, so they can take the necessary steps to ensure they are compliant when the time comes.
Similar legislation is already in place in Scotland. In Wales, any landlord who has a rental property rented on an assured, assured shorthold or regulated tenancy is required to register with Rent Smart Wales, which includes five-yearly electrical safety checks in its Code of Practice.
Strutt & Parker has a checklist for landlords which details the list of legislation that they must comply with if letting property to tenants. To find out more contact your local Strutt & Parker office.