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Strike a light! Electricity regulations are on the way!

Electrical safety really is an ‘old chestnut’, says Frances Burkinshaw – the lettings industry has been calling for more regulation on this subject for many, many years.

Frances Burkinshaw

Link to Frances Burkinshaw

After all, regulations were introduced for gas safety in 1994. At that time, I was a National Council Member of ARLA with responsibility for safety – and I clearly remember querying why similar levels of legislation were not going to be introduced for electricity at that time; I was furious that I didn’t receive a satisfactory answer then – or indeed since!

Frances Burkinshaw image

Frances Burkinshaw

I also remember asking the relevant government department which had introduced gas safety measures why the legislation didn’t include all burnt fuels since they all create carbon monoxide which can be lethal. The answer I received amazed me…” I am sorry but that would be dealt with by a different department”. I wondered why the various departments couldn’t get together!

‘On the way’ since 2016

Anyway, better late than never I suppose. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 was the first step towards new legislation but still nothing happened with regards to electrical safety. I suppose it wasn’t surprising, bearing in mind the fact that the whole country and parliament were obsessed with Brexit. Now that we have moved on the draft of “The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020” has been laid before Parliament. It would appear that the intention is for the regulations to be in force from April 1st 2020. I do hope that this won’t just be an April Fools’ joke especially since the date of 1st July is also mentioned as an effective date.

I do hope that this won’t be an April Fools’ joke… especially since the date 1st July is mentioned as an effective date too…

There will obviously be a period of grace, which appears to be until 1st April 2021 for all tenancies. From the effective date there will be a requirement on all private landlords (save for specified exceptions) to ensure that an electrical safety check is carried out before the commencement of a tenancy (for new tenancies created after the regs are in force) and by April 2021 for all tenancies which existed before the regs came into force.

Thereafter it will be necessary to have further electrical safety checks carried out no more than every five years.

What’s included?

The check must result in a report being produced, giving the result and the date of the next inspection. This report must be supplied to the tenant within 28 days. The Local Authority may request a copy and this must be supplied within seven days. Copies of the report must be given to prospective tenants and to new tenants before taking occupation.

Any remedial works must be carried out within 28 days or shorter period if specified in the report.

There is a constant obligation on a private landlord to ensure that the electrical standards are met throughout the time that the property is let under a specified tenancy. Indeed, landlords have always had such an obligation under many pieces of legislation but landlords and agents have generally ignored this responsibility. Section 11, Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 says the landlord is responsible for all the utilities; the Defective Premises Act 1972, Section 4 places a duty on landlords to keep properties in good order; Part P, Electrical Regulations state that electrical works and repairs must be carried out by a professional electrician who is a member of one of the professional bodies. All consumer legislation states that anything that is ‘hired’ must be safe. Therefore the responsibility has always been there but was difficult to enforce when peoples’ retort was “there is no need to have a safety check”.

Agents will now be in a position to insist and will be able to quote legislation.

Breaches and penalties

Enforcement will be by the Local Authority and the penalty for breach of an order will be up to £30,000. This penalty could also apply if the landlord fails to provide the safety record at the required time although there will also be an appeal process.

Tenants will be able to make a complaint to the Local Authority or take action under one of the other pieces of legislation above.

Some tenancies are excluded from these new regulations – private register providers of social housing, lodgers, tenant sharing accommodation with landlord’s family, long leases, student halls of residence, hostels and refuges, care homes, hospitals and hospices and other NHS provided accommodation.

Frances Burkinshaw is an experienced independent trainer available nationally for in-house or group training. 01892 783961 or 07887 714341 or [email protected]

March 30, 2020

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