In January 2020, the government announced the much-anticipated introduction of mandatory electrical safety inspections for private landlords.
The new regulations, titled The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, were officially brought in on 1st April and apply to all new tenancies as of 1st July 2020.
In this article, we’ve put together some information including what the regulations mean for landlords, what exactly an EICR involves and what happens if you fail to comply with the rules.
- What were the laws before 2020?
- Why have new electrical regulations been introduced?
- When did the regulations come into force?
- What do the electrical regulations mean for landlords?
- What does an electrical inspection and test involve?
- What happens if my electrics are unsafe?
- What are the fines for unsafe electrics?
- What types of tenancy are excluded?
- How has COVID-19 impacted electrical inspections?
- What should landlords be doing to prepare for April 2021?
What were the laws regarding mandatory electrical safety inspections before 2020?
Before April 2020, mandatory electrical inspections were only legally required in England for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
For other private tenancies, it was recommended that an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) be carried out every five years, but it was not technically required by law.
Why have electrical regulations been introduced?
Mandatory electrical safety checks for rental properties have been discussed for a long while. Whilst many landlords already follow electrical best practices, the new regulations aim to ensure that properties are protected and that tenants are safe.
Back in 2018, a consultation was held by the Electrical Standards Working Group to discuss electrical safety in the private rented sector. In January 2019, the government published a response to the consultation that contained a number of recommendations, including mandatory requirements for landlords to carry out electrical checks every five years.
In Scotland, electrical testing became a mandatory legal requirement under The Housing Act 2014.
When did the regulations come into force?
The regulations officially came into force on 1st April 2020.
They apply to all new tenancies in England from 1st July 2020 and will apply to all existing tenancies in England from 1st April 2021.
What do the new the regulations mean for landlords?
The mandatory electrical inspection regulations set out some duties for landlords. All private landlords are required to:
- Ensure that the electrical safety standards are met during a period when the residential premises are occupied under a tenancy
- Ensure every electrical installation in the residential premises is inspected and tested at regular intervals by a qualified person (‘regular intervals’ is every five years, unless a report from an inspection and test specifies sooner)
- Ensure the first inspection and testing is carried out before a new tenancy commences (as of 1st July 2020)
- Ensure the first inspection is carried out by 1st April 2021 for existing tenancies
After the inspection and testing is carried out, landlords must:
- Get a report from the qualified person carrying out the inspection and test, which includes the results of the inspection and test and the date of the next one
- Supply a copy of the report to each existing tenant on the premises within 28 days of the inspection
- Supply a copy of the report to the local housing authority within 7 days of receiving a request from the authority
- Retain a copy of the report to give to the qualified person that carries out the next inspection and test
- Supply a copy of the most recent report to new tenants and to prospective tenants who request to see it
What does an electrical inspection and test involve?
Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICRs), otherwise known as ‘periodic inspections’ should be carried out by a fully qualified and registered engineer. The purpose of the inspection is to:
- Find any potential fire hazards or electric shock risks
- Identify any defective electrical work
- Detect any lack or earthing or bonding
- Pinpoint any overloading of electrical circuits or equipment
Landlords must make sure that their inspection is carried out by a legitimate electrical engineer as local authorities and lettings agents will only accept certificates issued by a qualified person.
The engineer will issue an EICR detailing any damage, defects or dangerous conditions found. If the property is deemed unsafe, the electrical installation will be declared as “unsatisfactory” and remedial action will be required.
Book your electrical inspection with a qualified engineer today for £149 (inside M25) or £199 outside M25 (inc VAT).
What happens if my electrics are unsafe?
If the report indicates that the property is not electrically safe, the landlord must ensure that recommended investigated or remedial work detailed on the report is carried out by a qualified person. This work must be carried out within 28 days or within the period specified in the report if sooner – starting from the date of the inspection.
The landlord must then obtain written confirmation from the qualified person that this work has been carried out and the electrical safety standards have been met. This confirmation must then be supplied to the tenant and local authorities, along with a copy of the original report.
Financial penalties for unsafe electrics
If the local authority believe a landlord to be in breach of the duties set out by the regulations, they must serve a remedial notice to the landlord who must then carry out the action recommended.
If the local authority has concluded, beyond reasonable doubt, that a private landlord has breached their duties under the regulations, they may issue a notice of intent to impose a financial penalty. This penalty is determined by the local authority but cannot exceed the amount of £30,000.
More details regarding remedial notices and financial penalties can be found on the government website.
Don’t get caught out – book your EICR today for £149 (£199 outside M25) (inc VAT). Create your own bundle of all the landlord services you need and save up to 20%.
Do I need a new inspection and test even if my current one was carried out in the last 5 years?
Although carrying out an EICR has not been legally required for single tenancies in England, it’s still best practice for many landlords.
Electrical Installation Condition Reports are valid for 5 years. If your rental property had a valid EICR when the new regulations began on 1st April 2020, you will not need to carry out a new one until that report expires.
It’s best to check your EICR certificate and put the expiry date in your calendar so you won’t forget that it’s due.
What types of tenancy are excluded from the mandatory electrical safety inspections?
There are a few types of tenancies that are excluded from the regulations. These are:
- A tenancy where the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing
- Any tenancy under which the occupier shares accommodation with the landlord or a member of the landlord’s family
- A long lease tenancy or a tenancy that grants right of occupation for 7 years or more
- Student accommodation
- Hostels, refuges, care homes, hospices, hospitals and other healthcare buildings
How has COVID-19 impacted mandatory electrical safety inspections?
When lockdown was announced on 23rd March 2020, many landlords and letting agents expected the regulations to be postponed.
The government, however, did not announce any form of deferment and the regulations became effective from 1st April as planned.
Whilst the law was not set back by the pandemic, it did create a serious delay for electrical inspections. All in-home visits came to an immediate halt – meaning EPCs, EICRs and other property inspections were temporarily off the cards.
On 11th May, the government announced that work in other people’s homes could resume with serious safety measures in place.
Since then, the void period of lockdown combined with the introduction of new electrical regulations, and a limited number of technicians available has created an inevitable backlog of inspections.
Because of this, we’re advising landlords to book inspections well in advance to avoid delays or disappointment.
How should landlords prepare for mandatory electrical safety inspections?
To prepare for the regulations being applicable to all tenancies in April 2021, it is recommended that all landlords ensure they have an up to date Electrical Installation Condition Report.
Although it may seem a while away, the commotion of new regulations is sure to cause a shortage in available electrical engineers in the month’s leading up to it.
To avoid putting your property at risk, book your Electrical Installation Condition Report as soon as you can. Once you have your certificate, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your property is legal and safe – and you won’t have to worry about it for another five years!
Book your Electrical Installation Condition Report today for £149 or £199 outside M25 (inc VAT). While you’re at it, get your other inspections done and dusted – such as Portable Appliance Testing, Gas Safety Inspections and EPCs – and save up to 20% with our landlord bundle.