Government withdraws amended guidance
On June 18, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issued updated guidance which meant that thousands more properties would potentially have been subject to checks from this month, rather than in April 2021.
ARLA Propertymark then raised issue with the government, saying that the dates in the updated guidance contradicted the previous dates provided, leaving the industry unsure of which dates to follow.
The following day, June 19, MHCLG withdrew the updated guidance and reissued the 'old' guidance. It has said it will review the new guidance, so a further update could be issued at some stage. For now, however, the original guidance is what letting agents and landlords must work to.
Current guidance - what is required?
The regulations apply to new tenancies from July 1 2020 and existing tenants from April 1 2021. However, it's important to note that the official guidance - which you can read in full here - states that a new tenancy is one granted on or after June 1 2020.
This means that any new tenancy granted since June 1 will fall under the scope of the regulations now, while any tenancies signed before that date will come under the guidance from next April.
The regulations require landlords - or letting agents working on their behalf - to provide an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) before the start of a new tenancy and ensure that all fixed electrical installations are inspected and tested at least every five years by a qualified professional.
Once the inspection has been carried out, the landlord or agent must obtain a report from the tradesperson 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. Meanwhile, if the reports suggests that repairs or further inspections are needed, the work must be carried out within 28 days or a shorter period if outlined in the report.
Once the work has been completed, written confirmation must be supplied to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days.
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.
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.
Increased efficiency is the key to compliance
With some clarity for now, how can agents and landlords comply with the new rules without too much upheaval and cost?
We previously warned that the rental market's impressive recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown combined with the introduction of the new regulations has the potential to create a perfect storm whereby there is a backlog of electrical checks to be carried out. Consequently, this could delay moves between rental properties and cause issues for property professionals.
Not only do the new regulations add to the workload of agents and landlords, but record demand for EICRs at a time when lots of tenants are moving around could put significant pressure on electricians.
To avoid coming unstuck, agents and landlords need to make sure they have access to multiple electricians in case the one they usually work with is booked up. Here at PropCert, for example, we have a database of over 250 electricians nationwide.
It's also important to think about how you can efficiently incorporate the new requirements into your working practices.
Technology which allows you to place orders online, track with real time updates and store certificates securely can reduce the workload for property professionals, allowing them to provide the best possible service to clients.
As the industry continues to come to terms with the impact of Covid-19, the last thing agents and landlords need is another compliance-related administrative headache.
That's why we want to help the lettings industry to turn around electrical checks quickly and with minimum hassle, all the while ensuring compliance with the new regulations.
*Tom Harrington is managing director of PropCert, a leading national supplier of property certificates for property professionals.