Back in January 2020, the government announced the much-anticipated introduction of mandatory electrical safety inspections for private landlords.
The new regulations, titled The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, were officially brought in on 1st April 2020. From 1 July 2020, these regulations have applied to any new tenancies. However, as of 1st April 2021, the regulations will be extended to all tenancies –both new and existing. If landlords have not taken steps to comply already, they should do so urgently, given the limited time remaining to comply.
What do the regulations mean for landlords?
Landlords are now required to ensure that electrical safety standards are met when residential premises are occupied.
The regulations apply to all tenancies including HMOs, with a few limited exceptions: for example, lodger arrangements where the lodger lives in the same house and shares facilities with the landlord, long leases of more than 7 years, hostels, hospitals, refuges, care homes and student halls.
Essentially, landlords will need to ensure that every electrical installation in the premises is inspected and tested at regular intervals to ensure compliance.
This will be done by obtaining an electrical installation condition report (EICR). These reports will need to be carried out at regular intervals. This usually means once every five years, unless the inspection and test provide for a shorter period.
Landlords must make sure that their inspection is carried out by a legitimate electrical engineer as local authorities and lettings agents will only accept certificates issued by a qualified person.
The engineer will issue an EICR detailing any damage, defects or dangerous conditions found. If the property is deemed unsafe, the electrical installation will be declared as “unsatisfactory” and remedial action will be required.
Once a satisfactory EICR has been obtained, landlords will need to ensure that a copy of the report is given to the tenant/s within 28 days of the report having been carried out. Failure to do so can have serious ramifications for the landlord.
Does a landlord need an EICR for a new build and/or if the property has been re-wired?
New build properties and properties which have been re-wired should have an Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC). If this is the case, landlords will not need to obtain an EICR until 5 years after the EIC has been issued.
It is worth highlighting that, before these regulations were introduced, EICRs were recommended every ten years – not five. As a result, many older certificates may have an original validity of ten years. Landlords should be aware that no matter what the report says, it will only be valid for 5 years and the reports will not be valid once they reach five years old. So, if you have an existing certificate that was carried out longer than five years ago, it will not be applicable for these regulations – regardless of whether it has an original validity of ten years. From 1st April 2021, private rental properties must have an electrical inspection and EICR every five years.
What if a landlord does not comply?
If the local authority believe a landlord to be in breach of the regulations, they must serve a remedial notice to the landlord who must then carry out the action recommended.
If the local authority has concluded, beyond reasonable doubt, that a private landlord has breached their duties under the regulations, they may issue a notice of intent to impose a financial penalty. This penalty is determined by the local authority but cannot exceed the amount of £30,000.
Whilst it does not appear to be the case at present, landlords should also be mindful of the potential ramifications with respect to serving section 21 notices in the future. Currently, the provision of the EICR does not impact a landlord’s ability to serve a valid section 21 notice, but this could be changed in due course…(or perhaps this is indicative of a potential abolition of the section 21 notice procedure in the future…?)
This is yet another potential issue for many landlords, and landlords should be doing all they can to ensure compliance with the regulations by the deadline of 1 April 2021.