Mandatory electrical safety checks introduced for PRS
15 January 2020
The Government has proposed detailed regulations for enforcing mandatory five-year electrical safety checks in the private rented sector from July this year.
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 were laid in Parliament on 13th January 2020. They require approval from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before they come into force.
The draft regulations propose that, from 1 July 2020, all new private tenancies in England will need to ensure that electrical installations are inspected and tested by a qualified person before the tenancy begins. The landlord will then need to ensure that the installation is inspected and tested at least every five years – and more often if the most recent safety report requires it.
For existing tenancies, an electrical safety test will need to be carried out by 1 April 2021, with regular tests following this as outlined above.
The regulations will apply to all properties across the private rented sector, including houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), although lodger arrangements where the tenant shares accommodation or amenities with the landlord or their family are excluded. These regulations will replace the existing requirements for HMOs regarding electrical installation testing and inspection.
A ‘qualified person’ for the purposes of these regulations is a person competent to undertake the inspection and testing required and any further investigative or remedial work in accordance with the electrical safety standards.
Local authorities can impose a financial penalty of up to £30,000 for a breach of the regulations. Where there are multiple breaches, the local authority can impose multiple penalties.
Electrical safety reports
Once the electrical installation has been tested, the landlord must:
Ensure they receive a written report from the person conducting the inspection, which includes the results and the required date for the next inspection
Supply a copy of this report to each existing tenant living in the property within 28 days of the inspection
Supply a copy within seven days to the local authority, if they request a copy
Keep a copy of the report until the next inspection, and give a copy to the person undertaking the next inspection.
For new tenancies, the landlord must:
Give a copy of the most recent report to a new tenant before the tenant occupies the property
Give a copy of the most recent report to any prospective new tenant who requests the report in writing, within 28 days of receiving such a request.
Remedying any faults
If the electrical safety report identifies a fault or potential fault, which the landlord must either investigate further or repair, the landlord must ensure further investigations or repairs are completed by a qualified person within 28 days of the inspection, or within the timeframe set out in the report if this is shorter.
Following these further investigations or repairs, the landlord must ensure they receive written confirmation that these have been carried out and that either the electrical safety standards are met, or further work is required.
This confirmation must be supplied to each existing tenant within 28 days of the work being undertaken, along with the original report identifying further work is required.
This process must be repeated until the electrical installation is found to be compliant.
If a landlord breaches the above requirements, the local authority has a duty to act. Where urgent works are not required, the local authority must serve a ‘remedial notice’ on the landlord. This must be served within 21 days of the local authority deciding it has reasonable grounds to act. The landlord will have 28 days from the date of service of the notice to take the action outlined, or must make written representations within 21 days if they disagree with the notice.
Once the landlord has made written representations, the remedial notice is suspended until the local authority responds – which must be within seven days. If the local authority confirms the notice, the suspension ceases, and the landlord has 21 days to comply with the requirements.
If the tenants of the property refuse access to the landlord for these remedial works, the landlord will not be considered to have breached this duty purely because they have not brought legal proceedings to access the property.
If the landlord does not undertake the remedial works, the local authority can access the property with the tenants’ permission to remedy the issue. The local authority must serve notice to the landlord informing them of this action – to which the landlord can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal. Local authorities can also recover costs reasonably incurred from the landlord.
Where urgent remedial works are required and the landlord has not undertaken these, the local authority can arrange for the works to be undertaken. The local authority must inform the landlord within seven days of the works commencing.
Responding to the announcement of the imminent introduction of mandatory electrical safety checks in the Private Rented Sector (PRS), Martyn Allen, technical director at Electrical Safety First, commented: “We have heard harrowing tales of fatal accidents caused by unsafe electrics in rented properties. This new regulation – which we believe will benefit tenants and landlords by protecting both people and property - will help ensure such tragedies don’t happen again. Tenants will finally be able to hold landlords to account for the safety of electrics in their rented homes. And, while most landlords already ensure their properties are safe, this new law offers clarity and helps private landlords protect their assets through regular upkeep of the electrics in their properties. But it is essential the new regulation has teeth and the enforcement body has the resources to take action effectively."