As of 1st July 2020, updated regulations are coming into force that introduce new electrical safety standards and legal requirements regarding the service of compliance documentation in the private rented sector. Once these changes take effect all landlords in England will be required to instruct an appropriately qualified person to carry out an EICR inspection on their rental properties every 5 years. They will also have to provide a valid EICR certificate to new renters before they move in. Where there is an existing tenancy, landlords must commission an inspection before 1st April 2021 and provide tenants with a copy of the EICR certificate within 28 days.
We’ve put together the below guide on EICR certificates and the forthcoming regulatory changes to help you ensure that you are compliant with your new legal obligations.
What is an EICR?
An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) is a certificate that details the safety and overall condition of all the electrical installations and fittings in a property. The report is produced following an in-depth assessment carried out by a qualified electrician. The electrician will complete a visual inspection and perform some tests on installations to confirm that everything is functioning safely and is compliant with minimum regulatory standards. Where the electrician identifies any potentially hazardous defects, they will note this in the report with the appropriate recommendation code and advise the landlord of any required remedial work. The certificate will also list the date by which the next inspection is due.
It should be noted that an EICR inspection will not include a PAT test of any portable appliances (anything that can be moved and unplugged) at the property. If you provide appliances, e.g white goods, in the property then there is a legal expectation that these will be safe to use. However, unless specifically required as a condition of a local authority licence, there is no requirement to complete a PAT test or provide any documentation to tenants. Nevertheless, it remains best practice to have appliances checked regularly to ensure that your tenants are safe. Landlords can also be sued for negligence for injury or damage to belongings caused by faulty appliances.
What are the new rules and how are they different?
Landlords have always had a legal responsibility to ensure that their property is safe before and during any tenancy and could be held criminally negligent if a renter is harmed due to faulty electrical installations. However, there hasn’t previously been any legislative requirement for landlords to complete regular EICR assessments or provide any documentation to people living in their property unless they were letting a house in multiple occupation (HMO).
The new rules coming into effect on 1st July will oblige any landlord letting private rented accommodation in England to carry out EICR inspections every 5 years and ensure that tenants are provided with a copy of the certificate. To demonstrate compliance landlords must ensure they do the following:
- Book an inspection with a qualified assessor (an electrician) and obtain a certificate detailing the results of the inspection and the date of the next required inspection. This must be done prior to the start of any new tenancy (including renewals and statutory periodic tenancies created following the end of a fixed term) commencing after 1st July and by 1st April 2021 for existing tenancies.
- Provide incoming occupants with a copy of the EICR before they move into the property.
- When an EICR is replaced, provide a copy to occupants within 28 days of the inspection.
- Provide an EICR to the local authority within 7 days where a copy is requested or face potential penalties.
- Provide an EICR to renters within 28 days if they request a copy in writing.
- Provide an EICR to any prospective occupant (e.g someone in the process of making an offer on the property) within 28 days if this is requested.
What if I already have an EICR?
Further to a request for clarification from the Residential Landlords’ Association, the government has confirmed that existing EICR certificates will be valid under the new legislation if they are less than 5 years old.
Rachel Harris, our Head of Tenancy Operations at Home Made, advises the following:
‘If you have already obtained a satisfactory Electrical Installation Condition Report which is less than five years old, you should review the electrician’s observations in the report and consider how the condition of your property might have changed since the last inspection. If there has been any significant change (such as major building works or extensive wear and tear during a tenancy) then it would be wise to get another check done. Electrical installations can deteriorate due to age, wear and tear, and environmental factors. An updated EICR would guarantee occupier safety and give you peace of mind. If there are no major changes, then the report will remain valid until the next inspection date specified.’
What if my property fails an EICR inspection?
The regulations are clear that any breach of safety standards identified by the attending electrician must be further investigated or remedied by a qualified person within 28 days or sooner if the report recommends complying within a shorter time frame. Once the necessary works have been completed, the landlord must:
- Obtain written confirmation from a qualified person that work has been carried out and that either electrical safety standards have been met or that further investigative or remedial work is required.
- Provide that written confirmation along with a copy of the original report requiring investigative or remedial work to each resident of the property within 28 days of completion of the work.
- Provide the same written confirmation and copy of the original report to the local housing authority with 28 days of works being completed.
If the outcome of any further investigative work is that there is more investigative or remedial work required then the above process must be repeated until electrical safety standards are satisfied.
What enforcement action could I face for any breaches?
The local authority is responsible for regulatory enforcement and they have a number of powers at their disposal to ensure the safety of privately rented properties.
In the first instance, if the local authority inspects the property to investigate a suspected breach and identifies non-urgent remedial work then they must serve notice to the landlord detailing the required work. The landlord then has 28 days to arrange for works to be completed. If the landlord wishes to appeal the remedial notice, they must make representations to the local authority within 21 days of receiving notice. The requirement to perform the work is suspended until the local authority responds to the representations, which it must do within 7 days.
If the local authority is satisfied at the end of the notice period (if the remedial notice has not been withdrawn) that the landlord is in breach of their obligations, the local authority can attend the property to complete remedial work with the permission of the tenants. The local authority will recover costs for the work from the landlord.
Where the local authority is satisfied that the landlord is in breach of regulation and remedial work is required as a matter of urgency, they can undertake immediate emergency remedial work with the permission of tenants and bill the landlord for costs incurred.
The local authority also has the power to issue civil penalties of up to £30,000 per breach of electrical safety regulation.
How can we help?
At Home Made, we can assist landlords with arranging a qualified person to complete and EICR inspection and test at their property. We are also available to discuss the detail of these requirements further if you have any questions.
If you are worried about the difficulty of meeting these requirements as a result of coronavirus, Rachel has some words of reassurance:
‘The UK Government recognises that the restrictions imposed by current measures to control the spread of COVID-19 may make carrying out electrical safety checks more difficult; for example where households or individuals are shielding or temporarily self-isolating. Under such circumstances, provided the landlord can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to comply, they would not be in breach of their legal duties.’
For a comprehensive overview of your legal obligations as a landlord, read our checklist.