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 2020.
In July 2020, all new tenancies required an EICR. As of 1st April 2021, this requirement applies to all tenancies – new and existing.
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 the electrical laws for Wales and Scotland?
- 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?
- Do new builds need an EICR and electrical inspection?
- Do I need an EICR if I had a rewire in the last five years?
- What if my EICR is valid for 10 years?
- If I need remedial work, can my tenant still move in?
- How has COVID-19 impacted electrical inspections?
- What is COVID-19 delays my electrical work?
- My inspection is after 1st April – will I be fined?
- What should landlords do to comply with electrical regulations?
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 applied to all new tenancies in England from 1st July 2020. They now apply to all existing tenancies in England (as of 1st April 2021).
What do the regulations mean for landlords?
The mandatory electrical inspection regulations set out some duties for landlords. All private landlords in England 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)
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 (EICR)
- 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
Electrical regulations for properties in Wales and Scotland
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 apply to England only.
Rental properties in Scotland must abide by the electrical safety requirements set out in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. Since 2015, sections 13(4A) and 19B(4) require landlords to get an Electrical Installation Condition Report and a Portable Appliance Test.
In Scotland, electrical inspections should be carried out by a competent person before a tenancy starts and at five-year intervals. A copy of the latest report must be provided to new and current tenants.
EICRs will become a legal requirement in Wales from 15 July 2022. This requirement forms part of the new Renting Homes (Wales) Act.
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 of 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.
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Does a landlord need permission to enter the property for an electrical check?
Landlords and lettings agents must give tenants at least 24 hours’ written notice before any arranged visits to the rental property. No landlord, letting agent or any contractors should enter the property without consent from the tenant.
As electrical checks are a legal requirement, most tenants should be happy to accommodate an inspection, but prefer to be in the property at the time.
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 in 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 believes 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.
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 previously 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 has a valid EICR when the regulations are enforced (1st April 2021), 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?
These regulations apply to most tenancies, including regulated tenancies (pre-1989) and HMOs. 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
Electrical inspections for new builds
New build properties should have an Electrical Installation Certificate known as an EIC.
If your rental property is a new build or has been completely rewired, you will not need to get an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) until five years after your EIC has been issued.
Do I need an EICR if my property was rewired?
If your property has been completely rewired, you should receive an Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC).
In this circumstance, landlords will not need to carry out further checks or arrange an EICR until five years after the EIC has been issued – as long they comply with the regulations. Landlords can provide a copy of the EIC to tenants and, if requested, the local authority.
What if I have my EICR or EIC is valid for 10 years?
Before these regulations were introduced, Electrical Installation Condition Reports were recommended every ten years – not five. As a result, many older certificates will have an original validity of ten years – but will technically no longer be valid once they reach five years old.
So, if you have an existing certificate that was carried out longer than five years ago, it will not be applicable for these regulations – regardless of whether it has an original validity of ten years.
As of 1st April 2021, private rental properties must have an electrical inspection and EICR every five years.
If my property needs remedial work, can my tenant still move in?
If your EICR deems the electrics in your property unsatisfactory, there will be required remedial work that must be done within 28 days.
It is best to carry out remedial work before a tenant moves into the property where possible. If your tenant moves in and your electrics are still unsafe, they could be at risk of injury and you (the landlord) will be liable.
If your property doesn’t have an EICR and it’s the first time you’re letting it out, you should book your EICR well in advance of the tenancy start date.
How has COVID-19 impacted mandatory electrical safety inspections and EICRs?
When the first lockdown was announced back in 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.
The government have since announced that work in other people’s homes can continue 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.
What if COVID is delaying my electrical work or tenants don’t want visitors?
The ongoing pandemic has made organising an carrying out electrical work more difficult than normal.
If your tenants are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus or are isolating, it may mean that an electrician or inspector cannot visit the property and electrical works may be delayed.
It must be reiterated that the government have acknowledged that the pandemic has made organising an electrical inspection more difficult, landlords should make every effort to comply with the regulations.
If they are not self-isolating, tenants can allow local authorities, landlords or contractors access to their home in order to carry out a range of works. This includes:
- routine inspections, including annual gas safety checks and EICRs
- essential and non-essential repairs and maintenance
- planned maintenance activity inside and outside the home
More information on this topic can be found at GOV.UK Advice for Landlords and Tenants.
In these cases, landlords and tenants should work together to make prior arrangements to maintain social distancing.
How should landlords comply with mandatory electrical safety inspections?
To comply with the regulations, it is recommended that all landlords ensure they have an up to date Electrical Installation Condition Report.
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. Whilst you’re at it, get your other inspections done and dusted – such as Portable Appliance Testing, Gas Safety Inspections and Energy Performance Certificates – and benefit from discounts. Create a bundle.