It has long been a bit of an anomaly in landlord and tenant law, that there are strict regulations for gas appliances but not for electricity.
‘Where can I find the electricity regulations?’ is something people have been asking me for years.
Well, now there is a proper answer. They are here.
As is now traditional with new landlord regulations, landlords have a very limited time to comply before the rules become effective and non-compliance will make you subject to penalties.
Compliance is particularly difficult at this time as we are in the middle of a health pandemic. However, this alone is no excuse. If you are not compliant you need a proper excuse – and the means to prove it.
The regulations will apply to new tenancies created after 1 July 2020 and to all existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.
Happily, I do not need to go through this in detail as there is a very helpful and unusually clear government guide which you will find here.
There are also guides for tenants and local authorities all linked from here.
Basically you need to get properties inspected and tested by a ‘qualified and competent’ person at least every five years and ensure that copies of their report are given to tenants, incoming new tenants, the person who carries out the next inspection and (if they ask for it) the Local Authority.
Interestingly the frequency of inspections is set by the inspector whose report should set out the date of the next inspection and test.
Landlords are no doubt worried that inspectors will use this as an income-generating opportunity by specifying more frequent tests. I wonder if this will be a real issue – what do you think?
As I understand it from people who know more about electrical wiring issues than I do, one of the problems is that the required standard is set out in the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations which are, I understand, more onerous than earlier standards.
So there may be issues if wiring in properties predates these regulations – which came into force in 2019.
The guidance though, states:
Existing installations that have been installed in accordance with earlier editions of the Wiring Regulations may not comply with the 18th edition in every respect. This does not necessarily mean that they are unsafe for continued use or require upgrading.
So I suppose it will be down to what your inspector thinks about it and puts in his or her report.
There are four classifications which will be used by the inspectors:
If any of the first three are identified in the report – you have to do the work or the further investigation.
You don’t have to do Code 3 work (although the government guidance hints that it would probably be better if you did). It does not look therefore as if Councils will be able to carry out enforcement work if you ignore the Code 3 recommendations.
Or maybe, even gain access to the property to carry out the inspection?
Well, the key thing here is to keep proper records. If the Local Authority comes down on you, you will need to be able to prove that you have tried to comply but have been unable to do so.
Jumping over quickly to the Local Authority Guidance, this is what it says about landlords who are not able to comply with a remedial notice:
A landlord is not in breach of the duty to comply with a remedial notice if the landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply.
A landlord could show reasonable steps by keeping copies of all communications they have had with their tenants and with electricians as they tried to arrange to carry out the work, including any replies they have had. Landlords may also want to provide other evidence they have that the electrical installation is in a good condition while they attempt to arrange works. This could include the servicing record and previous condition reports.
A landlord who has been prevented from accessing the premises will not be required to begin legal proceedings against their tenant in order to show that all reasonable steps have been taken to comply with their duties.
So that’s a relief!
As always, if for any reason you can’t do the inspection or the works, keeping proper records is essential.
Interestingly the regulations provide that once remedial work has been done, landlords need to send written confirmation, together with a copy of the report to ‘the local housing authority’ within 28 days of completion.
During our recent Landlord Law members training on these regulations, members asked where they were supposed to send this – which is not an easy question to answer.
Presumably, if it is sent to the main Local Authority office the staff there will not know what to do with it – or will they? Can any Local Authority readers give us a steer on this?
The regulations do not apply to all rented properties and exceptions include
social housing, lodgers, those on a long lease of 7 years or more, student halls of residence, hostels and refuges, care homes, hospitals and hospices, and other accommodation relating to healthcare provisions.
So that means, essentially, just private landlords.
Local Authorities have pretty swinging enforcement powers which include penalty charges of up to £30,000 per offence and prosecution in the Magistrates Courts (and potentially a banning order) – so do not ignore this issue!
It is possible to appeal but the whole process will be time-consuming and expensive so definitely something to avoid.
If you have an empty property and are looking to re-let – you need to make sure that the property is compliant before you let the tenants in. Hopefully, you will be able to find an electrician who is willing to do the work – if not, keep a record.
And for landlords of existing tenancies – these regulations will apply to you from 1 April next year, 2021.