Important new Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector

England

Summary

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 (“Regulations”) come into force on 1 June 2020 and impose duties on private landlords of certain residential premises in England in respect of electrical safety standards. The duties do not apply to landlords of social housing. The Regulations require local housing authorities to enforce the duties, and include a power to arrange remedial action. There are potentially significant financial penalties for a breach of duty.

To which tenancies do the Regulations apply?

The Regulations apply to all “new specified tenancies” (granted on or after 1 June 2020) from 1 July 2020; and all “existing specified tenancies” (granted before 1 June 2020) from 1 April 2021.

A “specified tenancy” means a tenancy of residential premises in England which:

  • grants one or more persons the right to occupy all or part of the premises as their only or main residence;

  • provides for payment of rent (whether or not a market rent); and

  • is not an excluded tenancy specified in the legislation.

An excluded tenancy is one:

  • where the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing;

  • under the terms of which the occupier shares any accommodation with the landlord or a member of the landlord’s family;

  • that is a “long lease” for the purposes of section 7 of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (a complex definition, the essence of which is a lease granted for a term or series of terms exceeding 21 years); or grants a right of occupation for a term of 7 years or more (which is not the case if the agreement can be terminated at the option of a party before the end of 7 years from the start of the term);
  • that grants a right of occupation in a building which is used wholly or mainly for the accommodation of students, and is a hall of residence;

  • that grants a right of occupation in a hostel or refuge;

  • that grants a right of occupation in a care home;

  • that grants a right of occupation in a hospital or hospice; or

  • for other accommodation relating to healthcare provision.

So the Regulations broadly cover tenancies of a shorter term of residential premises granted by private landlords. This includes houses in multiple occupation.

What are the duties under the Regulations?

The Regulations impose various duties in relation to electrical installations on private landlords who grant or intend to grant a specified tenancy of the type mentioned earlier. The duties include:

  • ensure that the electrical safety standards (the standards for electrical installations in the 18th edition of the Wiring Regulations, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the British Standards Institution as BS 7671: 2018) are met during any period when the residential premises are occupied under a tenancy;

  • every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified person;

  • ensure the first inspection and testing is carried out before the tenancy commences in relation to a new specified tenancy; or by 1 April 2021 in relation to an existing specified tenancy;

  • obtain a report which gives the results of the inspection and test, supply that report to each tenant within 28 days, and to the local housing authority within 7 days of a request, and retain a copy until the next inspection is due;

  • supply a copy of the last report to any new tenant before occupation, or any prospective tenant within 28 days of a request from the prospective tenant;

  • where the report requires the private landlord to carry out further investigative or remedial work, undertake such further investigative or remedial work within 28 days or within such lesser time period as specified in the report;

  • obtain and supply written confirmation of completion of such further investigative or remedial work to the tenant and local housing authority.

Remedies for breach and financial penalties

The Regulations provide for remedial action to remedy any failure by the private landlord to comply with a duty. A local housing authority has a duty to serve a remedial notice on a private landlord where they have reasonable grounds to believe that the private landlord is in breach of certain duties and the private landlord is required to take the remedial action specified in the remedial notice within 28 days of the notice being served. The local housing authority has the power to arrange remedial action and urgent remedial action (immediately necessary to remove the danger present and risk of injury), potentially at the private landlord’s cost. The private landlord has appeal rights. There is dispensation for landlords who are prevented by tenants from gaining entry to the property to carry out the works.

A local housing authority may impose a financial penalty on a private landlord who has breached a duty. The Regulations set out the procedure and there is a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal. The penalty may be of such amount as the authority imposing it determines; but must not exceed £30,000, and there may be more than one penalty in the event of a continuing failure.

Housing Act licences

New mandatory conditions in respect of electrical safety standards must be included in a licence under Part 2 or 3 of the Housing Act 2004 of a house in England.