Updated electrical safety requirements for landlords in England

On 1 June 2020, the government introduced The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020.

Previously, landlords in England had a duty to make sure that the wiring in their rental properties was safe, but they didn’t have to conform to a set standard unless they were running a licensed house in multiple occupation (HMO). The new regulations mean that it’s now mandatory to carry out an electrical installation condition report (EICR) at least every five years to confirm that all wiring meets a fixed national standard. 

To tie in with the regulations, the government has also released a new package of guidance for landlords

What are my responsibilities under the new regulations?

All your wiring and fixed electrical stuff (including lighting, plug sockets, fuse box, electric showers etc) need inspecting by a ‘qualified and competent person’ (ie, an electrician) to make sure they meet the latest edition of the Wiring Regulations (also known as British Standard 7671) – which at the moment is the 18th edition. 

New inspections need to be carried out at least every five years, or sooner if the electrician says so.

The electrician will fill out an electrical installation condition report (EICR) and you have to provide a copy of this to your tenant within 28 days. If any further work is needed to bring it up to standard, you’ll need to get this done within 28 days at most – or quicker if the electrician says it’s urgent – and should then notify the tenant in writing that it’s been completed.

New tenants should be issued with a copy of the existing EICR (much as you would do with a gas safety report) and you have to provide it to the council within a week if they request it.  

What about my appliances?

‘Portable appliance testing’ (generally called ‘PAT testing’) is recommended but not an obligatory part of the regulations like the EICR. However, landlords do have a duty to make sure any appliances they provide are safe, and if you’re stumping up for an EICR then there’s an argument that you might as well get your appliances like fridges and washing machines checked while you’re at it.

Who counts as a ‘qualified and competent person’?

In short, a professional electrician. It’s not the sort of thing you should be doing yourself, even if you know a bit about electrics. The regulations are complicated and regularly updated, and knowing your way around them is hugely important. It’s a job for a certified expert with professional qualifications, experience and insurance.

When do the regulations come into force, and are there any exemptions?

The regulations came into force on 1 June, and apply to all new tenancies from 1 July 2020. For existing tenancies you’ve got until 1 April 2021 to sort out an EICR.

There are some exceptions, but not many. Landlords with lodgers, as you might expect, are exempt, as are those with tenants on ‘long leases’ (7+ years) and those providing social housing, student halls of residence, hostels/refuges and various healthcare-related properties. 

In general, though, if you’re a private landlord with a tenant on an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) then the new regulations will apply to you.

Weren’t a lot of landlords doing this anyway?

While the previous rules were pretty woolly, five-yearly EICR inspections have been best practice for a long time now, and many landlords will have been doing them off their own back.

They’re also obligatory for any landlords running houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) or renting out properties in areas where the local council runs HMO licensing schemes for smaller properties.

If you’ve already been carrying out regular EICRs, it’s possible that you’ll have a report that’s less than five years old but doesn’t conform to the latest wiring regulations, since the most recent edition came into effect in 2019 and was updated in 2020. If so, the government has sort of said in a fairly ambiguous way that it’s alright (see this FAQ section). It looks like so long as you continue to carry out EICR inspections to the latest standard at least every five years, they’re not going to come down on you. The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has confirmed this view in their own guidance.

Is all this going to be expensive?

Possibly. Depending on the size of the property and the state of the electrics, an EICR itself could cost £200-400 by the time you’ve factored in VAT, but it’s the remedial work that might get you.

It all depends on when your wiring was installed, who did it and when it was last checked. The IET Wiring Regulations are on their 18th edition, and while that doesn’t sound too bad when you consider they’ve been going since the 1880s, they’ve been updated much more frequently in recent years, and are due another major update in 2022. This means that even if your wiring was all above board ten or fifteen years ago, it probably isn’t now, and there may be some expensive stuff to fix.

While this might be a bit frustrating, it’s worth keeping in mind that normally when the regulations change it’s because something else has. It might be that there have been industry-wide safety improvements, or it could be that technology has advanced (the last update, for example, was made in response to charging points for electric cars). The very first regulations in 1882 just gave advice on how to make sure a lighting circuit didn’t catch fire, and a lot has changed since then. Ultimately the goal is to keep tenants safe, and it’s difficult to argue with that.

Disclaimer: Ezylet is not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any information shared in the above blog is an opinion based on personal experiences within the property rental sector, and should never be construed as legal or professional advice.

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