Private landlords and their new responsibilities

The government has prepared draft regulations that propose new electrical safety standards in the private rented sector and, if approved by Parliament, these are due to come into force imminently.

What’s new?

As of 1 July 2020, the new legislation mandates private landlords in England arrange for a qualified person to inspect and test all fixed electrical installations at their property every 5 years. A report of the findings must be produced and presented to each tenant within 28 days and a copy of the same must be retained by the Landlord until the next inspection is due. Further, the report must be supplied to local authorities within 7 days, if so requested.

Testing must be conducted before a tenancy commences or before 1 April 2021, if the tenancy is already in place.

Failed Testing

In the event that electrical installations fail to comply with the 2018 edition of the IEEE, landlords must investigate further or repair and they must ensure that any further investigations or repairs are completed within 28 days of the inspection, or within the timeframe set out in the report if this is shorter.

Following these further investigations or repairs, the landlord must ensure they receive written confirmation that these have been carried out and that either the electrical safety standards are met, or further work is required. 

This confirmation must be supplied to each existing tenant and to the local housing authority within 28 days of the work being undertaken, along with the original report identifying further work is required. 

This process must be repeated until the electrical installation is found to be compliant.

Consequences of landlord’s failure to carry out necessary repairs

Make no mistake, this has the potential to be an expensive oversight. Should a landlord breach this requirement, the local authority has a duty to act. Where urgent works are not required, the local authority must serve a ‘remedial notice’ on the landlord. This must be served within 21 days of the local authority deciding it has reasonable grounds to act. The landlord will have 28 days from the date of service of the notice to take the action outlined, or must make written representations within 21 days if they object to the notice.

If the landlord does not undertake the remedial works, the local authority can access the property with the tenant’s permission to carry out the required works, and recoup costs incurred from the landlord. The local authority must serve notice to the landlord informing them of this action but the landlord has the right to appeal to the first-tier tribunal. Local authorities also have the authority to issue a civil penalty of up to £30,000 upon non-compliers.

However, where works are urgent and have not been undertaken, local authorities can arrange for works to be completed, and are only required to inform the landlord within 7 days of works commencing

Comments and concerns

Although we can all appreciate the improved safety element for tenants and the intention to raise electrical standards, there may also be a genuine concern relating to the lack of experienced electricians to carry out such testing and reporting. Landlords may resort to hiring under experienced engineers who have not developed the expertise to complete the extremely technical testing work required, resulting in the absence of increased safety standards which the regulations are seeking to enforce.

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