Electrical Safety Checks will become mandatory in 2020. Recommended new safety measures to better protect private tenants by reducing the risk of electric shocks or fires caused by electrical faults were published for consultation on 17 February 2018.

Electrical Safety Checks

The government introduced five yearly mandatory electrical installation safety checks for all private rented properties and safety certificates for tenants. These are to prove that checks and repair work has been completed. And they are part of a wider package of independent recommendations to improve safety.

The government is also consulting on how best to enforce the strengthened safety regime. Landlords who do not comply should face tough penalties of up to £30,000.

As well as making homes safer for tenants, electrical installation improvements benefit the landlord. This is because they constitute a material improvement to their properties. They also help prevent fires, which could cause costly and significant damage. Compared to social housing tenants, those in the private rented sector face a higher risk of electrical shock and fires. These are caused by electrical faults in their homes.

To address this, the government introduced new powers in the Housing and Planning Act 2016. This is to set and enforce tougher electrical safety standards in the private rented sector. The government also established a working group of independent experts from industry and a range of other sectors to develop recommendations.

This builds on other measures already introduced or planned to improve the quality of private rented properties including fines of up to £30,000 for rogue landlords and agents and banning orders for the worst offenders.

Private Member’s Bill

The government is also supporting a Private Member’s Bill which will require all landlords to ensure their properties are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action.

As everyone deserves a safe place to live therefore measures are being put in place to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe properties we need to do more to protect tenants.

The enforcement will enable stronger electrical safety standards to be brought in along with tough penalties for those who don’t comply. This is to strike the right balance between protecting tenants while being fair for landlords.

Independent recommendations

Independent recommendations published for consultation include:

  • 5 yearly mandatory electrical installation safety checks for all private rented properties.
  • Mandatory safety certificates. These confirm the completion of installation checks. But also, they include any necessary repair work provided to both the landlord and tenants at the beginning of the tenancy. Local authorities can request to see safety certificates.
  • A private rented sector electrical testing competent person’s scheme should be established to ensure properly trained experts undertake this work. This would be separate from existing building regulations a competent person.
  • Landlord supplied electrical appliance testing and visual checks of electrical appliances by landlords. These will be promoted at a change of tenancy as good practice and then set out in guidance.

The consultation seeks views on each of the safety recommendations. But also, it is about how best to approach enforcement. And it includes gaining agreement on the penalty for non-compliance. Legislative powers only cover the private rented sector.

Protecting privately-rented homes

The government has also provided UK consumers with the highest ever levels of protection. It invests an extra £12 million each year in the product safety system through the new office for Product Safety and Standards.

Latest data from the English Housing Survey (2015-16) shows 60% of homes in the private rented sector had all 5 recommended electrical safety features installed compared to 74% of local authority homes and 76% of housing association homes. These 5 features are modern PVC wiring, modern earthing, modern consumer units, miniature circuit breakers and Residual Current Devices.

With the Housing and Planning Act 2016 the government introduced powers to set requirements for electrical safety standards in the private rented sector. And their enforcement will follow through secondary legislation. A working group of independent experts will provide recommendations to ministers.

Existing regulatory requirements

There are existing regulatory requirements to help protect tenants:

  • mandatory 5 yearly electrical installation checks for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)
  • the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requires landlords to keep installations in the property, including the supply of electricity, in good repair and proper working order
  • building regulations since 2010 have required all circuits in new or rewired homes to comply with the wiring rules in BS 7671. These include the installation of a Residual Current Device (RCD) covering any new circuits in the consumer unit since July 2008
  • local authorities have powers, through the Housing Act 2004, to take action where there are electrical hazards in a property

The government has announced tough new powers to crack down on bad practices. This will also stamp out overcrowding and improve standards for those renting in the private sector.

Current and proposed powers

Current and proposed powers include:

  • introduction of civil penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution
  • extension of Rent Repayment Orders to cover illegal eviction, breach of a banning order or failure to comply with a statutory notice
  • database of rogue landlords/letting agents convicted of certain offences from April 2018
  • banning orders for the most serious and prolific offenders from April 2018
  • introduced protection for tenants against retaliatory eviction. This is where they have a legitimate complaint and stopped landlords from serving an open-ended eviction notice at the start of a tenancy
  • required landlords to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property. Landlords need to test smoke alarms at the start of every tenancy. They also need to install carbon monoxide alarms in high-risk rooms
  • councils can make a direction to remove permitted development rights to convert properties. This is where local concerns about the change of use exist
  • government supports further measures in protecting tenants in both the social and private rented sectors.

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