There are heavy fines for those landlords who fail to have their rental properties tested by a qualified electrician before letting, and for existing tenancies, or if they fail to comply with any of the important recommendations made in a 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 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 bring electrical testing in-line with the gas safety check regime in England and Wales and the electrical regulations already operative in licensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), as well as the electrical testing regulations in operation in Scotland.
Not all tenancies are affected by the regulations, excluded ones include:
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 are all electrical wiring and all fixed electrical installations. The checks must be carried out by a competent person, usually a qualified electrician, who will produce an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)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 5-yearly checks.
What the regulations require
Landlords of privately rented accommodation must:
Ensure national standards for electrical safety are met. These are set out in the 18th edition of the ‘Wiring Regulations’, which are published as British Standard 7671. Ensure the electrical installations in their rented properties are inspected and tested by a qualified and competent person at an interval of at least every 5 years. Obtain a report from the person conducting the inspection and test which gives the results and sets a date for the next inspection and test. Supply a copy of this report to the existing tenant within 28 days of the inspection and test. Supply a copy of this report to a new tenant before they occupy the premises. Supply a copy of this report to any prospective tenant within 28 days of receiving a request for the report. Supply the local authority with a copy of this report within 7 days of receiving a request for a copy. Retain a copy of the report to give to the inspector and tester who will undertake the next inspection and test. Where the report shows that remedial or further investigative work is necessary, complete this work within 28 days or any shorter period if specified as necessary in the report. Supply written confirmation of the completion of the remedial works from the electrician to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days of completion of the works. New checks and a new report will need to be produced on or before the fifth anniversary of the previous checks, unless the landlord makes changes to the electrical wiring or installations in the rental, in which case earlier checks will be needed.
As with 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 and the landlord’s insurance may be invalid. Similarly, agents will refuse to let properties lacking the correct documentation.
Landlords need to plan ahead to balance their cash flows in case remedial action is needed to bring electrical systems up to current standards, with the potential cost involved.
Most landlords will appreciate the importance of having their wiring and installations, just as their gas systems, safe and free from defects. Most will be brought up to modern safety standards relatively inexpensively.
These new regulations replace the previously existing 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, as with gas checks, the landlord could be considered to have breached this duty, even where the landlord has tried repeatedly to have the work done. It is important therefore to keep the local authority informed if this is the case, preferably in writing.
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