Electrical Safety In the Private Rented Sector

Brexit has delayed the implementation of most legislation over the last 18 months, but hot off the heels of a triumphant Conservative Party victory, the first real piece of lettings legislation has made an appearance.

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 hits the statute books on the 1st June 2020. It will firstly have an effect to those tenancies which start on or after the 1st July 2020, to include renewals and those that become statutory periodic, and then apply to all tenancies in existence on the 1st April 2021.

Considering that there are some 4.7 million houses in the private rented sector and a significant number of those will not currently comply with the legislation, it will be quite a feat for absolute compliance by all landlords by the 1st April 2021 especially if you consider that there are only around 45000 registered electricians in the UK. The Government have publicly stated they believe there is sufficient time for compliance by all landlords, but only time will tell if that is achievable.

Basically there are two safety standard requirements that must be met by a landlord:
• ensure that the standards for electrical installations in the eighteenth edition of the Wiring Regulations, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the British Standards Institution as BS 7671 are met during any period when the residential premises are occupied under a specified tenancy; and
• ensure every electrical installation in the residential premises is inspected and tested at intervals of no more than 5 years or, where the most recent report requires such intervals of less than 5 years, at the intervals specified in that report.

In relation to the report itself, this must be provided to the tenant before commencement of the tenancy, and then within 28 days of any renewal of the report. If there are any remedial works required on the report, then these must be done within 28 days of the report being conducted or shorter if stated on the report. Once the remedial works have been done, the landlord is then obligated to provide a copy of the original report again, with the confirmation that the remedial works have been completed. Strangely, in addition to the tenant, this must be provided to the local council.

The Government have pursued a slightly different path in relation to the penalty for non-compliance. Unlike gas safety obligations, where the penalty at the time of writing, is the inability to ever serve a section 21 notice, for electrical standards non-compliance, the penalty is financial, with a fine of up to £30k. This can be levied on a landlord numerous times, if the non-compliance is on-going.

This is currently draft legislation, but it is unlikely much will change before Royal Assent is given, sometime in the spring. What is more anticipated, is the Government guidance, which will hopefully give clarity to many of the ambiguous issues contained within the draft.