Private landlords face electrifying regulations from 1 April 2021
On 17 July 2020, we published an article on the introduction of the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 (the “Regulations”). During the last year, in a transitional period, the Regulations have only applied to new tenancies created on or after 1 July 2020. However, from 1 April 2021, these Regulations will apply to all existing specified tenancies, not just new tenancies.
By way of reminder, the Regulations apply to any tenancy of residential premises where it is the tenant’s only or main residence and which provide for payment of rent (“Specified Tenancies”). So this will include assured tenancies and assured shorthold tenancies, licences to occupy and, in some cases, houses of multiple occupation. There are some exceptions such as lodgers, long leases of seven years or more, halls of residence, hostels and refuges, social housing and accommodation relating to healthcare provisions, as other legislation applies to these tenancies.
Under the Regulations, landlords are required to arrange an inspection and obtain an electrical safety report for all Specified Tenancies. The Regulations are designed to improve the safety of tenants by ensuring that ‘fixed’ electrical installations in the property, such as the wiring, fuse box, light fittings, plug sockets, showers and extractors are inspected. The Regulations do not cover appliances, although it is good practice for landlords to carry out portable appliance testing (PAT).
Once the inspection has been carried out and a report obtained, usually an Electrical Installation Condition Report (ELCR), a copy of the report must be supplied to tenants within 28 days of the inspection and test. Landlords are also legally obliged to supply a copy of the report to new tenants before they occupy the premises, to any prospective tenant within 28 days of receiving a request and to the local authority within seven days of receiving a request. If the report requires remedial work or further investigation landlords must complete this work within 28 days and then provide written confirmation that the work has been carried out to the tenant within 28 days.
The obligation in respect of Specified Tenancies is on-going as all electrical installations in the property must be inspected and tested by a qualified person at least every five years. Local authorities have the power to enforce the Regulations and failure to comply could result in civil penalties up to a maximum of £30,000 if the landlord is found to be in breach of its duties. In contrast to the failure to provide a gas safety certificate, these Regulations do not impact on a landlord’s ability to serve a section 21 notice seeking possession of a property.
With the deadline to comply fast approaching, and given the potential penalties, it can be frustrating for landlords where a tenant will not permit access to a property to carry out an inspection, obtain a report and, if necessary, carry out remedial works. The Regulations provide that where a local authority has reasonable grounds to believe that a private landlord is in breach of its duty, the authority must serve a remedial notice on the landlord. A landlord will not, however, be in breach of their duty to comply if the landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with that duty. Landlords should retain copies of their communications with the tenants and electricians to show they have attempted to inspect and/or carry out work. It is also reassuring to note that the landlord will not have failed to have taken all reasonable steps to comply if it does not bring legal proceedings against the tenant to gain entry.