Despite all that is going on at the moment with the global coronavirus pandemic, new regulation for the private rented sector (PRS) is still being enforced.
Although there has been calls for them to be pushed back, all the signs are that the government is pushing ahead with its new electrical safety standards in the PRS, which are set to come into force on July 1 2020 – now less than two months away.
The regulations are for new tenancies and require that landlords – or their agents on their behalf – ensure that their properties are subject to electrical inspection and testing, resulting in a satisfactory report, conducted by a qualified, competent person at intervals not beyond five years. The changes will apply to all existing tenancies from April 1 next year.
The standards are still being introduced as planned despite the coronavirus crisis, with the government recently issuing guidance making it clear that landlords and their agents are still responsible for providing safe homes during the pandemic.
However, if they can prove that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with their duties under the regulations, they will not be in breach of the duty if they cannot comply.
Mike Andrews, the chief executive of the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) – which has issued new guidance for the sector – commented: “Electrical safety is at the forefront of everything we do, and we have worked hard on this guidance to make it easy for landlords to understand their requirements. We have also launched a dedicated online search facility on our website helping landlords search for competent and qualified tradespeople that they can trust to carry out their electrical inspections.”
He added: “As well as this, we have created a new Landlord Electrical Installation Safety Record for our members to use which provides a summary of the often lengthy Electrical Installation Condition Report.” You can see the guidance from NAPIT on The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 here.
What do the new standards mean in practice?
The new regulations apply in England to all new specified tenancies from July 1 2020, and all existing specified tenancies from April 1 2021.
Following the inspection and testing, as a private landlord you must obtain a report from the person carrying out that inspection and test. This report provides the results of the inspection and test and the date of the next inspection and test.
Additionally, you or your agent must supply a copy of that report to each existing tenant of your rental homes within 28 days of the inspection and test. You must also supply a copy of that report to your local housing authority within a week (seven days) of receiving a request in writing for it from that authority.
Furthermore, you must retain a copy of that report until the next inspection and test is due and supply a copy to the person carrying out the next inspection and test, while a copy of the most recent report to must be supplied to any new tenant of ‘the specified tenancy to which the report
relates before that tenant occupies those premises’. Equally, any prospective tenant must receive the report within 28 days of you receiving a request in writing for it from that prospective tenant.
What if the report is unsatisfactory?
There are a number of steps you can take if action is needed as a result of an unsatisfactory report. Where the Electrical Installation Safety Report highlights urgent remedial work or requires further investigation, you or your agents must ensure that this essential work is carried out by a qualified and competent person within 28 days. Or, the period specified in the report if less than 28 days, starting with the date of the inspection and testing.
You must then obtain written confirmation from a qualified and competent person that the further investigative or remedial work has been carried out and that the electrical safety standards are met; or further investigative or remedial work is required.
You must then supply that written confirmation, together with a copy of the report which required the further investigative or remedial work, to each existing tenant of your rental homes within 28 days of completion of the further investigative or remedial work. You must also provide this to your local housing authority within 28 days of completion of the further investigative or remedial work.
Local authorities will be responsible for enforcing the new regulations and can impose financial penalties of up to £30,000 if they find a landlord is in breach of their duty. While some leeway has now been given by the government, you and your agent will still need to show you have taken reasonable steps to comply with the regulations even if, for one reason or another, you are unable to by July 1. If not, the financial hit could be very damaging.
Local authorities have the power to serve remedial notices on you. If the remedial notice is ignored and no action is taken with 28 days, the local authority can arrange for remedial work to be carried out, with consent from the tenant, and recover the costs from the landlord.
A quick history of the new regulations
The mandatory five-year electrical safety check regulations in England had been talked about for a long while, but were only actually laid before Parliament in mid-January this year.
The idea for mandatory electrical checks in rental properties was originally announced by former Housing Secretary James Brokenshire in the summer of 2018, before being confirmed by the Theresa May government in January 2019.
However, a tumultuous year, which saw May replaced by current PM Boris Johnson, endless Brexit wrangling in Parliament and a December general election, meant any other business went on the backburner.
It was only when the Tories had their large majority that legislation could start to be brought before Parliament again. Despite the huge, unprecedented challenges brought about by Covid-19, the government is remaining determined to introduce new legislation as planned, so this something you as a landlord need to be aware of.
Work closely with your letting agent if you’re unsure about any of the new measures being introduced this year.
Here at Centrick, we will do all we can to help our landlords through the minefield of private rented sector regulation. In fact, if you swap your lettings management to us, we’ll provide you with a FREE EICR!
While the property market has now been given the green light to reopen, there are a number of major caveats in place, and we will continue to work alongside the government guidance to offer our clients the best and safest possible service.
We were elated at the news of the property market being allowed back to work, but we are also keenly aware that the safety of our team, our contractors and our customers is paramount.
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