Electrical safety inspections and reports will become a mandatory requirement for all new tenancies in England signed on or after the 1st of July this year.
Fines will be heavy for those landlords who fail to have their rental properties tested by a qualified electrician before letting, or if they fail to comply with any of the important recommendations made in the test report. The landlord will ordinarily have 28 days to make good any reported defects or needed improvements, unless the issue is dangerous, in which case it may be recommended the remedy is made sooner.
This article is based on English law and is not a definitive statement or interpretation of the law; rules change and every case is different – ultimately only a court can decide. Other jurisdictions are similar but there are important differences. Always seek expert advice before making or not making decisions.
Local authorities will have the power to issue a fine of up to £30,000 and where necessary may carry out any recommended remedial work itself and charge the landlord for this work.
The electrical safety regulations were put before Parliament in January in order to implement this long awaited change, which will bring electrical testing in-line with the gas safety check regime and the electrical regulations already operative in licensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), as well as the electrical testing regulations in operation in Scotland.
The planned implementation of the regulations for the 1st of July, providing there are no delays in the Parliamentary schedule in view of the current health crisis, will not affect existing tenancies until the 1st of April 2021. Before then, landlords will need to contact their existing tenants to make arrangements to have the checks done.
Not all tenancies will be affected by the regulations. Excluded ones will be:
- social landlords
- resident landlords, where the tenant lives in the same building.
- Landlords with lodgers
- long leaseholds and tenancies in excess of seven years or more.
- student lettings in halls, hostels, refugee care homes, hospitals or hospices.
Included in the checks will be all electrical wiring and fixed electrical installations. The checks must be carried out by an approved and qualified electrician who will produce a report which must be shown to tenants on entry to the property, or in the case of existing tenants, up to 28 days following the checks on or before the 1st of April 2021.
Ordinarily new checks and a new report will need to be produced on or before the fifth anniversary of the previous checks, unless that is the landlord makes changes to the electrical wiring or installations in the rental, in which case earlier checks will be needed.
Given that there is likely to be a heavy demand for qualified electricians to carry out these checks, and any remedial work needed, it makes sense to be prudent and for landlords to act sooner rather than later to make sure they are compliant when the new law when it comes in – even if it were delayed, it is certain to come in soon.
As with the gas safety checks, landlords will need to produce and supply to tenants the correct documents, including the electrician’s report prior to any lettings, otherwise they may be unable to peruse a possession claim if the need arises. Similarly, agents will refuse to let properties lacking the correct documentation.
Landlords will also need to plan ahead to balance their cash flows as this change has the potential to cost them quite a lot of money, depending on the state of the electrical systems in their portfolio of properties.
Most landlords will appreciate the necessity of having their wiring and installations, just as their gas systems, safe and free from defects. Most will be brought up to the modern safety standards relatively inexpensively, but it’s the rogue landlords, those with defective and dangerous properties that this measure is aimed at.
These new regulations will replace the already existing requirements and regulations for houses in multiple occupation (HMO) to have the electrical installations tested.
Should tenants refuse landlords access for inspections and any required remedial work, and this is not unheard of with gas checks, the landlord could be considered to have breached this duty, even the landlord has tried repeatedly. It is important therefore to keep the local authority informed in this event, preferably in writing.