Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector

As we emerge from lockdown and the property sector begins to show positive signs of movement, landlords must make themselves familiar with changes which have taken effect during the past few weeks.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the current continual changes in guidance and easing of restrictions, the introduction of the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, which took effect on June 1, may easily have been overlooked.

The regulations cover electrical safety standards in the private rental sector, and apply to both short and long-term lettings, including those to farm workers, cottages on estates and residential investment portfolios.

For any tenancy agreement signed on or since June 1, the new regulations will be enforced from July 1. For existing tenancies, so those signed before June 1, they become affected by the new standards from April 1, 2021.

For landlords and tenants who have been in a tenancy for some time, there are several months to get up to speed, but for new tenancies, the need becomes more urgent – and despite everything else that may be going on in the world, ignorance will be no defence.

As of when the rules take effect, it will become a landlord’s duty to find a ‘qualified and competent’ person to inspect the property at least every five years, to ensure all electrical installations in the property they are letting are safe. A report must be written by the person conducting the inspection which sets out the results, and a copy must be given to any existing tenants within 28 days of the inspection.

New tenants must be given a copy of the report before they occupy the premises, and the report must also be shared with prospective tenants within 28 days of them requesting this information. If requested by a local authority, the report must be supplied within seven days.

For tenants, they now have additional assurance the home they rent will be safe, and they will be given written evidence of this. The powers of the local authorities are also clearly stated, and tenants have the protection of them being able to enforce necessary action or repairs if the landlord does not undertake this work.

If remedial work is required, the inspection will set out how urgent this is, and local authorities can intervene to request this is done within 28 days, or in the most serious of cases, carry out work themselves with costs recoverable against the landlord. However, a landlord will not be in breach of their duty if they can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with their obligations, such as if they have been unable to gain access to the property or the tenants prevented work taking place.

While many landlords will complete such inspections anyway, it has now become a legal requirement to do so. Failure to comply carries a fine of up to £30,000, so it is important these new regulations are adhered to and that necessary action is taken.

The full requirements of the regulations can be found at gov.uk, but for any uncertainties or clarification, specialist advice must be sought to ensure compliance with the rules.

  • Tom Wills is head of agriculture and estates at Sintons. The specialist team works from its offices in Newcastle and York to support families and businesses across Northumberland, County Durham, North Yorkshire and Cumbria. To speak to Tom about this or any other matter, please contact him on wills@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 3796

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