The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”) have now been published and seem to be causing a storm in the letting industry.
The regulations apply to all private rented sector properties (including HMOs) in England.
What you need to know
From 1 July 2020 for new tenancies, landlords must ensure that electrical installations are inspected and tested by a qualified person before the tenancy begins.
From 1 April 2021, for existing tenancies, an electrical safety test will need to be carried out by 1 April 2021.
The Regulations oblige owners to carry out tests and comply with the 18th edition of the “Wiring Regulations”, British Standard 7671 (BS7671).
The electrical installations must then be tested every 5 years (or earlier if the safety report requires it).
The electrical safety test must be carried out be a “qualified person” i.e. a person competent to undertake the inspection and testing required and any further investigative or remedial work in accordance with the electrical safety standards.
BS7671 came into effect in 2019, so if a landlord already has a report that was carried out after this date and has complied with all the other requirements of the Regulations, they won’t have to have another inspection for 5 years, provided the report does not state that the next inspection should take place sooner.
The government guidance and The Institute of Engineering and Technology states that existing installations that have been installed in accordance with earlier editions of the Wiring Regulations may not comply with the 18th edition in every respect. This does not necessarily mean that they are unsafe for continued use or require upgrading.
The Regulations state that a landlord must ensure that electrical safety standards are met, and that investigative or remedial work is carried out if the report requires this. In practice, if the report does not require investigative or remedial work, the landlord will not be required to carry out any further work.
Further work will only be required where the inspection demands further remedial or investigative work. If the certificate only recommends improvements, this is considered best practice but not a requirement.
We will have to wait and see how problematic this definition becomes and whether electrical contractors are going to issue reports requiring a full upgrade to 18th edition or whether they will adopt an approach designed to ensure that the electrics are safe for continued use.
The electrical safety report
The Landlord must
- supply a copy of this report to each existing tenant living in the property within 28 days of the inspection.
- If the local authority request a copy provide this within 7 days of request.
- Provide the safety report to the person carrying out the next safety report.
- Give a copy of the most recent report to a new tenant before the tenant occupies the property (and 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.
A landlord must ensure it receives written confirmation that these have been carried out and that either the electrical safety standards are met, or further work is required and provide this to the 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.
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
Local Authority Duty and procedure
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.
Local authority powers
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 and then bill the landlord for these works. The local authority must inform the landlord within seven days of the works commencing.
This update is for general purpose and guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken before acting on any of the topics covered. No part of this update may be used, reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form, or by any means without the prior permission of Brecher LLP.