Electrical safety is one of those areas which appears to cause lots of confusion for landlords, a quick tour of many blogs, social media support groups and online forums tells you that many are aware of their responsibilities but are unclear on how to execute them.
Landlords offering accommodation in the private rental sector have always had a responsibility to ensure that the electrical installations and appliances they provide are safe and fit for purpose at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout. There has not been any legal obligation to carry out checks through a qualified person and many landlords have completed these checks visually themselves.
The NRLA estimates that around three quarters of landlords do in fact already instruct electrical engineers to complete these checks but the government has now introduced legislation to standardise this practice and introduce legal requirements to serve documentation on relevant people related to electrical safety.
The Legislation for England
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 requires that landlords maintain their property to the electrical safety standards and to be able to provide evidence of this. This responsibility is continuous and comes into effect on the 1st July 2020 for all new and renewed tenancies. From 1st April 2021 this will apply to all tenancies.
The effect is that your rental property must now meet the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations and you must be able to provide a report that shows this from a qualified person.
If you have had an EICR completed under previous regulations and it is dated within the last 5 years we expect that these will remain valid.
What does the inspection check and who can complete it?
The checks will need to be completed by a qualified person and these must hold an identified qualification as laid out in the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification. These become effective from September 2020 but will be adopted by the electrical certification and registration bodies from now.
Checks will be completed on electrical installation and wiring of the property and you will be provided with a report highlighting any breaches and also recommendations for improvements which may not be required but are advised for best practice, these are referred to as class C3 recommendations.
If your report identifies areas which need to be addressed to meet the standards you will need to arrange for a qualified person to complete the work or investigate it within 28 days and then obtain a written report and retest. This must be done within 28 days of the work being completed and then you are required to share this with the tenant and the local authority.
How long do they last and who needs to get a copy?
Reports are valid for 5 years from completion and you must provide copies to all tenants before the start of the tenancy and within 28 days of a renewal during the tenancy.
The tenant can request a copy at any time and this must be provided within 28 days. The local authority can request a copy of this and it must be provided within 7 days.
Prospective tenants may request a copy also and must be provided with it within 28 days, there is no need to advertise these with property listings.
Powers to act and enforce have been granted to the local authority and they have the responsibility in much the same way as with Gas Safety Standards.
A civil penalty can be levied of £30,000 per breach of the regulations and where the local authority identifies non-urgent work they must serve a notice within 28 days to act on the landlord. Landlords which receive these notices can make representations to the local authority within 21 days and the local authority will then need to respond within 7 days, until they do respond the work requirements are suspended.
The local authority can carry out emergency remedial work on the property and recharge the costs to the landlord if they are satisfied that the landlord is in breach and have the tenants permission.
Regulations in Wales
The new regulations are not effective in Wales and the current requirements are for landlords to provide a property which meets electrical standards including safe installations and appliances from the start of a tenancy and throughout.
If you have a HMO you are required to complete the EICR and this is recommended for all properties but not yet required.
The advice is to instruct a qualified individual to carry these out routinely and this extends to portable appliance testing. If you do not wish to instruct a qualified person to complete them then you should carry out a visual check at the start and regularly throughout the tenancy making sure to keep a record of these and complete any work which you may identify or obtain further investigation.
If you fail to provide a safe property for electrical standards and a problem arises you may be considered negligent where there is damage or personal harm to your tenants and their property.
Portable Appliance Testing - England and Wales
As a general rule this should be carried out annually which is best practice and you can complete these visual checks yourself by investigating the appliances, wiring and plugs.
It is important that you record these and also complete regular checks at inspections once the tenancy begins.
It is best practice to get these checked and certified by a qualified engineer but should you choose to complete this yourself below are tips of what to look out for;
fraying, cuts or heavy scuffing to the lead
damage to the plug such as bent pins
tape applied to the lead to join leads together
Visible wires where the lead joins the plug
loose parts or screws
signs of overheating, such as burn marks or staining on the plug
equipment being stored in dusty or wet environments
cables trapped under furniture or in floor boxes
You should also record a risk assessment for each appliance and cover how the item is being used, it’s suitability for the task and how reports of issues are made to you. This will allow you to determine the risk of unnoticed or reported damage and highlight any appliances which need more regular checks.
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