The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 are upon us. This comes as no surprise. We have been waiting for them to appear since the Secretary of State was given power to make electrical safety regulations in the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
What do these regulations apply to?
These regulations only apply to tenancies under which:
- the tenant is occupying the property as their only or main home; and
- some kind of rent is being paid.
There are exemptions, including leases granted for terms of seven years or more, student halls and accommodation shared with the landlord or his/her family.
How do I comply with the regulations?
Every electrical installation at the premises must be inspected by a qualified person at least every five years to make sure that it meets electrical safety standards. An electrical installation is defined as fixed electrical cables or fixed electrical equipment located on the consumer's side of the electricity supply meter. Copies of the inspection report must be given to the tenant within 28 days and supplied to the inspector on the next inspection date. New tenants must be given copies before they move in.
Where the report shows that remedial action is required, this must be carried out within 28 days of the inspection or such shorter time as may be specified in the report.
When do these regulations apply?
From 1 April 2021 the regulations will apply to all relevant tenancies whenever originally granted. The electrical installations will need to be inspected and copies of the report given to the occupying tenants before 1 April 2021.
The regulations also apply to any new tenancy entered into on or after 1 July 2020. New tenants after this date must be given a copy of the relevant report before occupying the premises.
This seems straightforward but there is a trap where a tenancy is due to expire between 1 July 2020 and 1 April 2021. If the contractual term of the tenancy ends but the tenant remains in occupation, a new statutory tenancy on similar terms will have arisen. This is considered to be a new tenancy for the purposes of the regulations and the premises will need to be inspected and a report given to the tenant before the statutory tenancy starts (i.e. before the end of the existing contractual term).
What happens if the regulations are breached?
The local authority is the enforcement authority and must be given a copy of the latest inspection report within seven days of any request. It may serve notice requiring remedial action at any time if it believes that the regulations have been breached. Breaches can result in a financial penalty of up to £30,000.
But what about lockdown restrictions?
There are no exemptions to the regulations just because of lockdown. Where a property is empty prior to occupation, there is no reason why an inspection should not be carried out. Where tenants are currently in situ, the report is not required until April 2021. Landlords should take all reasonable steps to comply with their duties.
Nevertheless, if the lockdown does make it harder to arrange an inspection or carry out remedial work, the landlord has a defence under the regulations if it has taken all reasonable steps. We advise landlords to keep detailed records of attempts to gain access or engage contractors, so they can demonstrate this. The Government is encouraging local authorities to take a common-sense approach to enforcement in the current situation.