The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 1 June 2020. These regulations apply to existing tenancies (i.e. tenancies entered into before 1 June 2020) from 1 April 2021. For new tenancies (i.e. tenancies entered into on or after 1 June 2020), the regulations will apply from 1 July 2020. Landlords should be aware of their obligations under these regulations to avoid fines of up to £30,000 for non-compliance.

What do the regulations stipulate?

  • Landlords must ensure that an electrical safety test has been carried out in order to ascertain whether their electrical installations meet the current safety standards. This must be completed by a person who is qualified and competent.
  • For new tenancies, the test must be carried out before the tenancy begins. For existing tenancies, the first test must be carried out by 1 April 2021 at the latest.
  • Testing must be repeated at least once every five years.
  • Copies of the test report must be provided to each tenant and must also be provided to any prospective tenant.
  • If the local authority requests a copy, this must be provided within seven days.
  • If the test reveals work is required to bring the installation up to standard, the landlord must carry out the works within 28 days of the date of inspection (or less if the report stipulates). Written confirmation that the work has been carried out is required and must be sent to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days.

Statutory/contractual periodic tenancies

  • Contractual periodic tenancies, i.e. tenancies which roll over into periodic tenancies due to a term in the tenancy agreement, will not be considered new tenancies; after the fixed term ends, they will continue to be considered existing tenancies. Therefore, if the fixed term ends on or after 1 June 2020, the first test does not have to take place immediately; it must be carried out before 1 April 2021.
  • Tenancies which roll over into statutory periodic tenancies will be considered new tenancies for the purposes of these regulations. Therefore, where the fixed term ends between 1 July 2020 and 1 April 2021, an inspection will be required at this point under the Regulations. If the fixed term ends on or after 1 June 2020 but before 1 July 2020, the inspection needs to be carried out by 1 July 2020.

Excluded tenancies

  • The regulations do not apply to:
    • long leases or leases that permit occupation for seven years or longer
    • tenancies where accommodation is shared with the landlord (i.e. lodger type arrangements are excluded)
    • student lettings in halls of residence
    • tenancies granted to occupiers of hostels, refuges, care homes, hospitals or hospices

Sanctions for non-compliance

  • The local housing authority can serve a remedial notice for failure to carry out the testing or failure to carry out the remedial work.
  • If ignored, the local housing authority may carry out the works, recovering costs from the landlord.
  • The defaulting landlord may face a fine of up to £30,000
  • Defence: a landlord is not in breach of their duty if they can show that they have carried out all reasonable steps to comply. A landlord might show this by keeping copies of all communication they have had with electricians and tenants which shows the landlord has tried to arrange an inspection or the necessary remedial work.

Section 21 Notices

  • Unlike with energy performance certificates and gas safety certificates, a failure to provide the electrical test report does not invalidate any Section 21 Housing Act 1988 Notice.

Landlords who have had inspections in the last five years

  • The latest edition of the Wiring Regulations came into effect 1 January 2019. If landlords have had an inspection since then, they will not have to have another inspection for 5 years from the inspection date (or sooner if stipulated by the test report) as long as they meet all other obligations of the regulations (e.g. giving copies of the report to all tenants).
  • If they have had an inspection in the last five years but before the latest edition of the Wiring Regulations, the safest option is to carry out a new inspection, as the electrical installations might not comply with the latest edition in every respect. Even if the installations are perfectly safe, the inspection would have been performed against an outdated standard and therefore be non-compliant with the regulations.
  • The Government issued guidance on the regulations (published 1 June – linked below) acknowledges this and advises landlords to check these previous inspection reports to decide whether the electrical installation complies with the safety standards, possibly by contacting the inspector who provided the report.

The regulations impose requirements which some landlords will find onerous to comply with, particularly in these times of restricted movement and social distancing. It remains to be seen whether the regulations will be strictly enforced and, as is often the case, the approach to enforcement is likely to vary significantly across the country. Undoubtedly, any landlord who is uncertain as to whether their property or previously obtained electrical testing report complies with the regulations should investigate this as a matter of priority.

Published Government guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities can be found here. These regulations apply to landlords in England only. This note is a non-exhaustive resource and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.