New government legislation pertaining to electrical safety comes into force in July. With non-compliance penalties of up to £30k, this is not something landlords can afford to ignore.
The majority of landlords fully appreciate the dangers of dodgy wiring and wouldn’t dream of allowing a tenant to live in a property with sockets hanging off the walls, bare wires peeking out of light fittings, and ancient wiring. The legislation is primarily aimed at rogue landlords who happily snap up a derelict Edwardian property at auction and shove 35 tenants in there, despite the holes in the roof and no running water.
However, since much of the housing stock in the UK is old, it’s likely the new electrical safety checks will uncover a lot of problems that need fixing. You may not need to have the whole house rewired, but you could end up with a hefty repair bill nevertheless.
Since cash flow issues are a big problem for landlords right now, thanks to the chaos caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, landlords should take a good look at their finances and put measures in place to ensure they can afford to carry out the required checks and pay for remedial work (if necessary).
Do Landlords Currently Carry out Electrical Safety Checks?
The current regulations state that HMO landlords must carry out inspections every five years. Non-HMO landlords must ensure the electrics in a rental property are safe, but periodic Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICRs) are not yet a mandatory requirement, but they soon will be.
The regulations have been widened to cover the majority of new tenancies in the private rental sector from July 1st and existing tenancies from 1 April 2021. There are some key exclusions, as noted below:
- Landlords with lodgers
- Rentals where the landlord occupies the same building
- Students in halls of residence, hostels, hospices, hospitals, and refugee care homes
- Tenancies that guarantee a right of occupation of 7+ years
- Registered social housing providers
Landlord Electrical Safety Responsibilities
Properties must comply with the 2018 edition of the Institute of Engineering and Technology wiring regulations. Landlords must hire a qualified electrician to carry out an inspection of the rental property. The electrician should prepare an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), which will need to be repeated every five years.
An EICR looks at the property’s consumer unit, wiring and outlets, earthing and bonding. The electrician will be looking for live wires and damaged electrical fittings. If the property’s circuits are safe, a certificate will be issued.
If any electrical installation is in breach of the above regulations, the electrician must carry out further investigative work within 28-days, followed by the required remedial work. A report of the works carried out, along with a completion certificate, must be given to new tenants within 28-days and to existing tenants no more than 28-days after they ask to see it. Another copy should be sent to the local authority if one is requested.
If further work is required, further reports detailing the work followed by completion reports must be given to the tenant and local authority until the electrical installation is fully compliant.
Electrical Safety Compliance
Local authorities have been granted extra powers to enforce landlord compliance. They can demand sight of a report within seven days of a request. They can serve remedial notices if a landlord is believed to be in breach of the regulations. Remedial notices must be served to the landlord within 21 days of the local authority concluding they have reasonable grounds to act.
If a landlord is served with a remedial notice, they must carry out remedial works within 28-days. Landlords can make a written representation if they feel the remedial notice is unwarranted, but this must be done within 21-days. The local authority must then suspend the remedial action until they have responded – they have seven days to do this. Once the local authority confirms the remedial works must go ahead, the landlord has a further 21 days to have the work done.
When a landlord fails to sort out urgent electrical problems detailed on the remedial notice, the local authority can arrange to do the work and recover reasonable costs from the landlord. The local authority must give notice of their intention and if the landlord isn’t happy, they can launch an appeal with the First-tier Tribunal.
Landlords who do not comply with the regulations may incur a civil penalty of up to £30k. Repeated breaches of the regulations could lead to multiple fines.
What Happens if a Tenant Refuses Access?
If tenants refuse access to the property, the landlord won’t be held accountable.
Electrical Safety Regulations and Section 21 Notices
Whereas failing to provide a gas safety certificate or EPC invalidates a Section 21 notice, failing to provide an electrical safety report will not affect a Section 21 notice. However, the regulations are mandatory and the penalties severe, so it’s wise to comply. In addition, the government may abolish Section 21 notices, in which case the issue will become irrelevant.
New Tenancies Must Have an EICR
From July 1st, Landlords must give new tenants a copy of the electrical inspection report before they move into the property. Prospective tenants can also request a copy of the report, which must be handed over within 28-days.
Electrical Safety and Existing Tenancies
Once an electrical safety report has been produced, landlords must give any tenant living in the property a copy of the report within 28 days. A further copy of the report must be kept for five years and given to the next electrician that carries out an inspection.
The Impact of Electrical Safety Regulations on Landlords
Professional portfolio landlords in many cases already carry out periodic electrical checks, so the new legislation is unlikely to have a huge effect. The new rules are more likely to impact accidental landlords and smaller landlords with less than five properties. These landlords may struggle to find a qualified electrician able to do the work in time.
Costs of Electrical Safety Checks
An EICR typically costs between £150 for a small property to £300+ for larger properties, but if remedial work is needed, costs will soon escalate. Electricians charge between £83 and £138 per hour.
If an older property needs a full rewire, which is very likely if it’s more than 30 years old and has had very little electrical work done in the past, it will cost an average of £2,750 for a two-bed property, with the work taking approximately 5-8 days. Because electrical work is often invasive, there will be a considerable mess, as well as additional costs, such as re-plastering, decorating, and replacement flooring.
Will EICR Happen During the Covid-19 Pandemic?
There is a chance that the start date for mandatory electrical safety checks will be delayed. However, do not rely on this, as even if there is a delay, the checks will come in sooner rather than later.
As we are still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will likely be difficult to find an electrician to do the work, therefore, it’s a good idea to start looking for a suitably qualified person as soon as possible. If your property is empty, there is no reason why an electrician can’t go in and do the work, but if you have tenants living there, you may need to make special arrangements.
Contact your tenants to check whether they are self-isolating. If they are, then you have no choice but to delay the work. If not, see if they are willing to allow an electrician into the property. It should be possible to practice social distancing as long as all parties have enough space to stay more than two metres apart at all times. Otherwise, you will again need to delay the work.
Given the constraints in place, it’s unlikely that local authorities will be cracking down on landlords who fail to adhere to the new regulations, but it would be wise to give your housing department a call and let them know you can’t organise an EICR until lockdown measures are relaxed or your tenants are no longer self-isolating.
Even once life returns to some semblance of normal, it may still be difficult to find a qualified electrician, as in many areas, they are in short supply. Once you do find someone reliable and trustworthy, treat them well, and keep their number in your records.
Landlord regulation is increasing with each year that passes. Unfortunately, landlords can’t ignore every new regulatory change that comes into effect, including this one. Without an EICR report in your hand, you won’t be able to take on a new tenant or find a letting agent willing to deal with you. Unless your property is empty and currently up for sale, now is a good time to review your obligations and start taking the necessary steps to achieve compliance.
To the best of our knowledge, the information contained in this report is accurate, but if you need specialist advice, speak to your local housing office or call a landlord helpline, such as the one offered by the National Residential Landlords Association.
Contact us on social media if you have any feedback or would like to tell us more about your experiences of life as a landlord. In the meantime, stay safe!
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