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More regulation for private rented sector landlords – electrical safety checks

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 will bring long-awaited safety checks into effect from 1 June 2020.

These changes are the culmination of a government consultation in 2018 “Electrical safety in the private rented sector”, and an announcement last year that the government would be introducing new regulations to require private sector landlords in England to undertake regular safety checks of electrical installations in their properties.

Subject to certain exclusions, the new regulations will apply as follows:

  • To all new tenancies commencing on or after 1 July 2020
  • From 1 April 2021, to all existing tenancies granted before 1 July 2020.

The exclusions are private registered providers of social housing, lodgers, tenants sharing accommodation with landlords or landlord’s family, long leases (more than seven years), student halls of residence, hostels and refuges, care homes, hospitals and hospices and other NHS provided accommodation.

The main requirements

The Regulations will require all private landlords to:

  • ensure that the electrical safety standards (being those in the 18th edition of the Wiring Regulations, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the British Standards Institution as BS 7671: 2018) are met during any period when their property is occupied by a tenant as their main or only home
  • ensure every electrical installation in the property is inspected and tested at least every 5 years by a qualified person who will provide a written report;
  • ensure the first inspection and testing is carried out before the tenancy commences in relation to a new tenancy, or by 1st April 2021 in relation to an existing tenancy;
  • provide the inspection/testing report to:
    • new tenants before they occupy the property
    • existing tenants within 28 days of the inspection and test
    • prospective tenants within 28 days of a request for the report
    • the local housing authority within 7 days of receiving a written request for the report
  • carry out any further or investigative work recommended by the report within 28 days or any lesser period specified in the report and obtain written confirmation that the work has been done to the correct standard.

Enforcement

Local housing authorities will be responsible for enforcing the Regulations. Where it has reasonable grounds to believe that a private landlord is in breach of the regulations, the authority must, within 21 days of arriving at this belief, serve a remedial notice on the landlord setting out the breaches and action required to remedy them. That action must then be taken within 28 days of the notice being served.

The landlord can make written representations against the notice, in which case the notice will be suspended until the local authority has considered those representations and informed the landlord of the outcome.

If a landlord fails to carry out the required works, the local authority may, with the tenant’s consent, carry them out itself and charge the cost back to the landlord to be paid within 21 days. The landlord has a right of appeal against the authority to the First Tier Tribunal and there is dispensation for landlords who are prevented by tenants from gaining entry to the property to carry out works.

Local authorities can also impose civil penalties up to a maximum of £30,000 if they are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a landlord has breached the Regulations. These penalties can also be appealed to the First Tier Tribunal.

Comment

Interestingly, the Regulations do not contain a prohibition on landlords serving section 21 (no fault) notices to terminate tenancies when they are in breach of the Regulations, although perhaps this is explained by the government’s intention to scrap these notices altogether.

Otherwise, legislation to protect tenants can only be a good thing, although the Regulations also do not give any ‘rights’ against landlords for breaches, save for the ability to complain to the local authority to prompt enforcement action.

Having said that, the timescales imposed by the Act are relatively short considering the number of private rented properties in England (4.5 million in 2017 according to the Office of National Statistics), equating to 230,000 checks needing to be done for each of the next 19 months. Was any research done as to whether there are sufficient numbers of people qualified to do these checks? And will local authorities have the resources to enforce in any case?

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.

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