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New electrical safety regs won’t beat slum landlords

New electrical safety regulations are unlikely to affect the Government’s ‘slum’ landlord target, says Scott Battram, residential property specialist at Hunters Law.

Scott Battram

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New electrical safety regulations were presented before Parliament on13th January 2020 in a move by the Government to strengthen electrical safety practices and bring them in line with those already well-established within Gas Safety Regulations in private residential tenancies, and in line with those comments noted within the Hackitt review of standards that followed the Grenfell Tower fire, which was started by a faulty fridge freezer.

Who will it affect?
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Scott Battram, Hunters Law.

The regulation, if implemented, will only affect private residential tenancies; it will affect new tenancies from 1st July 2020 and those tenancies that are already in existence from 1st April 2021. Currently this level of regulation is stipulated only in licensed House of Multiple Occupancies (HMO).

If a landlord doesn’t comply with the rules, the Local Authority can issue a potential fine of up to £30,000.

However, certain tenancies are however, excluded from the ambit of the new regulations, such as social or resident landlord, long leases or tenancies granting a right of occupation of seven years of more, student lettings in halls and tenancies granted to occupiers of hostels, refugee care homes, hospitals or hospice.

Reporting

The proposal will move to ensure all electrical wiring and fixed electrical installations are signed off and reported by a qualified electrician. This ‘report’ will be required to be shown at the outset of every new tenancy and renewed at least every five years, if not earlier, dependent on any electrics or fixed electrical installations that are altered or changed by the landlord. If the report highlights any issues, the landlord will be required to remedy the issue within 28 days or sooner dependent on the recommendation within the report.

If the landlord does not comply with the recommendations made in the report, and this is notified to the Local Authority, the Local Authority has the power to issue a potential fine of up to £30,000. The Local Authority will also be granted the power to carry out the recommended works and seek to impose the costs of such actions onto the landlord along with the potential fine of up to £30,000.00.

However, the most likely route being the Local Authority will look to serve a further notice of 28 days in order for the landlord to carry out the specified works, before looking to impose a further actions and potential fines.

What does it mean?

This may mean, in short: rents may rise and a possible shortage of rental properties in the immediate coming onto the market.

Putting it simply, landlords will need to ensure their properties are compliant with the regulation for any new tenancy and will no doubt seek to reclaim any costs missed or outlaid due to a delay in obtaining a compliant report or undertaking any necessary but unforeseen works.

On the other hand, we may see more properties coming onto the market for sale if landlords are unable or unwilling to comply with the regulations, with potential new buyers willing to undertake any potential works.

The regulations seek to ensure that the policing is self-compliant, however in reality this will need policing by letting agents who will be unable to market a property without the appropriate electrical report.

Will ‘slum’ agents take any notice?

Is this fair on landlords? Yes, as safety is absolutely key. However, it is clear that the policy is aimed at those worst offending landlords who may be referred to or portrayed by the media as ‘slum’ landlords as, who undertake illegal electrical works and may still look to ‘illegally’ let their premises as they look to self-manage the property without the use of a letting agent or provide notice to a Local Authority.

Nevertheless, all landlords must now pick up the mantle and ensure their properties are safe.

Inevitably there are going to be issues with regard to landlords seeking electricians to sign off their properties which will no doubt require works undertaking to bring them up to the current code. This work may cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds to ensure that a property is compliant, due to possible unforeseen issues or historical electrical works that have never been signed off as compliant.

However, in today’s world, safety is crucial and should be the primary concern.

e: scott.battram@hunterslaw.com

March 26, 2020

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