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Mandatory electrical safety checks for landlords

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

What is being introduced

Perhaps the most high-profile planned change is the introduction of mandatory five-year electrical installation checks on private rented accommodation in England, which the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) propose to implement in a phased approach.

Following a consultation on ‘Electrical safety in the private rented sector’, which ran from February to April 2018 and received 582 responses from a range of organisations and individuals, including electricians, letting agents, local authorities, individual landlords and tenants, and fire and rescue representatives

The new measures will lessen the risk of faulty electrical equipment in homes, in turn giving Landlords and Tenants peace of mind and prioritising safety.

Time to prepare

The Government insists the property industry, which is broadly supportive of the new measures, will be given at least six months to ‘become familiar with the new duty’ before it comes into force.

There are a number of elements to the phased approach, which is based on the framework used in Scotland in 2015, when the Scottish Government implemented similar new rules to make electrical safety inspections in private rented properties mandatory.

These are as follows:

  • A transitional period will apply in the first two years, with the new rules only applying to all new private tenancies in year one, before being extended to all existing private tenancies in year two.

  • Rental properties with an existing EICR (electrical installation condition report) will not need to replace it for five years from its start date.

  • In the case of new and fully rewired properties, an Electrical Installation Certificate can be provided instead of an EICR as long as the date of the next inspection indicated on the certificate has not elapsed.

What happens next?

The proposals still need to be fully approved by Parliament. The regulations are subject to the affirmative procedure and will need to be debated and approved in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before they can be brought into force.

Once the regulations have been approved, they will be introduced on a phased basis, starting with new tenancies.

The consultation’s other major recommendations revolved around promoting voluntary action by landlords to improve electrical safety standards in the sector, for example by conducting visual checks of electrical installations at the change of a tenancy. A high level of support for all measures of landlord action were recorded in the consultation paper.

Landlords will be given at least six months to come to terms with the new regulations before they become law, and the same time-frame for the finalisation of new guidance and any voluntary competent person schemes.

It’s important to be aware of what is coming. And, even before the new measures come into play, it’s a wise idea for you – or your letting agent on your behalf – to keep on top of the safety of your rental properties, including regularly checking any electrical installations to ensure tenants are put at no risk of faulty equipment and the possible hazards this could cause.

Tough financial penalties will be levied on those that fail to comply.

What is an EICR?

An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), formally known as a Periodic Inspection Report (PIR) before BS7671:2008 [IET Wiring Regulations] Amendment 1 was published in July 2011, is a report detailing the suitability of an existing electrical installation for continued operation.

Obtaining such a report on any newly rented property will be a legal requirement as of 1st July 2020, however in the case of owner occupied dwellings it is recommended in BS7671 that you have your installation properly inspected at least every ten years. For offices, shops and properties being rented, an inspection up to every five years or upon a change of occupancy will become law. Landlords are obliged to ensure the electrical installation in their property is safe, and ordering an EICR is the only recognised method for legally ensuring compliance.

If you don’t have complete and valid EICR paperwork, you may be required to or want to obtain such if you plan to sell or rent your property, if you have major building work planned, if there has been a serious incident such as fire/flood damage, if previous electrical work is suspected to have been botched, if your insurance requires it or if you have purchased or rented a property where you feel the electrical installation may be old, inadequate or unsafe.

An EICR will involve the inspection and testing of all of your final circuits, your consumer unit(s), the protective devices, the suppliers' service head & earthing arrangements, and the earth bonding. The report you receive will classify the overall installation as satisfactory or unsatisfactory as deemed appropriate by the inspector. Any deviations from the regulations will either be coded as C1, danger present, C2, potentially dangerous, C3, improvement recommended or FI, Further Investigation required without delay. Any C1, C2 or FI observation would result in an ‘unsatisfactory’ verdict being passed on the installation as a whole.

A valid report is valuable document, not just a few pieces of paper. Having a valid and current report will help you with any legal or insurance claims. Without it, you won't be able to prove that you kept the electrical installation suitably maintained. It is important therefore that the company undertaking the report is competent and insured.

An EICR fully satisfies the requirements of landlords, estate agents, letting agents, banks, solicitors, mortgage lenders, loan providers, insurers, local authority building control and surveyors.

Where someone refers to as a 'landlord electrical safety certificate', they actually mean the EICR paperwork as no standard 'landlord safety certificate' is provided for by BS7671 and any paperwork claiming to be is meaningless if it doesn't contain the information that the BS7671 wiring regulations demands.

What is PAT Testing?

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is the inspection & testing of in-service electrical equipment to ensure compliance with the Electricity at Work Regulations. Many of you will be familiar with the ‘checked for electrical safety’ stickers applied to equipment used in the workplace where testing is often carried out annually.

It’s both a visual inspection and a series of tests for electrical appliances to ensure they are safe for continued use. It’s similar to the M.O.T. on your car, except this is for microwaves, irons and kettles etc. It usually applies to the workplace and came about as a result of The Electricity at Work Regulations (EAWR) requiring equipment to be maintained in a safe condition. Besides the EAWR, three other main sets of legislation covering inspection and testing of in-service electrical equipment are the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR). PAT inspections themselves will become a legal requirement for Landlords who rent properties with portable electrical equipment as of 1st July 2020.

Important: ONLY equipment or cables which connect to 50 volts or higher (such as 230v AC appliances or 110v site equipment) should be PAT tested which means low voltage items such as some laptops, battery drills and suchlike are exempt.

We await the final details on this from Government so....Watch this space.......

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