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By Tom Harrington

Managing Director, PropCert

OTHER FEATURES

Electrical checks: rules for new tenancies vs existing tenancies explained

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 have been in place for several months now.

While letting agents and landlords will be familiar with organising electrical testing for new tenancies, the regulations will be extended to all existing tenancies from next April.

With this in mind, how do you work out which tenancies come under the scope of the regulations next year and how can property professionals work towards the new deadline effectively?

What is the difference between new and existing tenancies?

From July 1, the regulations have applied to new tenancies granted on or after June 1 2020. From April 1 2021, the regulations will be extended to cover all existing tenancies.

If you are letting social housing, accommodation shared with a landlord or landlord's family, student halls, holiday lets, hostels, long leases, care homes, hospices or hospitals, you will not be required to comply with the regulations.

However, all other types of let fall within the scope of the regulations. If a tenancy was granted on or after June 1, it counts as a new tenancy and therefore the regulations must be complied with immediately.

Any tenancy granted before June 1 counts as an existing tenancy and will not come under the regulations until next April - here's what you need to know:

  • If the tenancy doesn't have a fixed-term ending between June 1 2020 and April 1 2021, it will fall within the scope of the regulations on April 1 2021 or upon renewal, whichever is sooner.

  • If it does have a fixed-term ending between June this year and April next year, you need to check if the original agreement states that the fixed-term will become periodic.

  • If it does, then the tenancy is a contractual periodic tenancy and no new tenancy would need to be created. The existing tenancy would fall within the scope of the regulations on April 1 2021 or upon renewal, whichever is sooner.

  • If the agreement doesn't state that the fixed-term will become periodic, a new statutory periodic tenancy would be created under Section 5 of the Housing Act 1988. This means the new tenancy would fall within the scope of the regulations on April 1 2021 or upon renewal, whichever is sooner.

The above guidance means that the vast majority of existing tenancies granted before June this year will need to be brought in line with the electrical safety regulations by next year's April deadline.

How should electrical checks be carried out?

To comply with the regulations, letting agents and landlords are required to provide an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) before the start of a new tenancy. They must also ensure that all fixed electrical installations are inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified professional.

The contractor that you employ to carry out the checks must be a member of a competent scheme. If not, they will need to sign a checklist certifying that they have the competence to carry out the checks. 

The inspection, which will check 'fixed' electrics such as wiring, sockets, light fittings and fuse boxes, will check if installations are overloaded or if there are any potential electric shock risks or fire hazards.

They will also need to look at permanent connected equipment such as showers and extractor fans.

The electrician will also be checking for a lack of earthing or bonding or whether there is any defective electrical work in the rental property.

They will need to ensure that the installations and standards in the rented property meet the 18th Edition of the Wiring regulations to British Standard 7671.

Following the inspection, the landlord or agent must obtain a report which provides the results and sets a date for the next inspection. This report must be supplied to new tenants before they move in or to existing tenants within 28 days of the inspection.

If prospective tenants or the local authority request a copy of the report, it must be provided in 28 days and seven days respectively. If the report suggests that further inspections or repairs are needed, the work must be carried out within 28 days or a shorter period if deemed necessary.

Once the work has been completed, written confirmation must be supplied to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days.

Working towards the April 2021 deadline

With the regulations applying to all new tenancies since June and existing tenancies from next April, property professionals have a window to make sure checks for existing tenancies are completed in line with the 2021 deadline.

Compliance is extremely important – not only to ensure tenants’ safety and the upkeep of landlords’ properties, but those in breach of the regulations could be hit with a fine of up to £30,000.

Over recent months, demand in the rental market has been higher than usual as more tenants have been moving between properties post-lockdown. This means agents will have to juggle completing electrical checks for a higher number of new tenancies than usual, alongside preparing to get them sorted for all existing tenancies.

To avoid facing a backlog of outstanding checks and risking non-compliance, having access to multiple electricians is crucial. Here at PropCert, for example, we have a database of over 250 electricians nationwide.

Meanwhile, technology which allows property professionals to place orders online, track with real time updates and store certificates securely can reduce your workload, allowing you to remain compliant with changing legislation while providing an outstanding service for landlords and tenants.

*Tom Harrington is managing director of PropCert, a leading national supplier of property certificates for property professionals.

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