At a time when landlords are already feeling the pinch with increased taxes and stamp duty, further restrictive regulations could be brought in to squeeze their stretched resources further. A government consultation of electrical safety has been published which could see more regulations brought in for privately-rented properties in England. The consultation recommends bringing in mandatory electrical checks every five years, according to a specialist housing lawyer. Tim Miles, who is a partner with Clarke Willmott LLP, says this consultation will have a massive impact on both private landlords and the rental sector.

The consultation proposes that landlords could face fines from £5,000 to £30,000 if they fail to comply with the regulations. These are similar to existing regulations in Scotland, where landlords have to make sure an electrical safety inspection is carried out by a registered electrician on their property every five years at the very least. This includes electrical fixtures and fittings, as well as any appliances which the landlord provides. The consultation paper for England does not go as far as proposing electrical appliances, such as white goods, are checked. However, Mr Miles warns that private landlords should not see this consultation as a one-off, but as one of a wider package of measures. In addition, the consultation puts forward the proposal that landlords should not be able to evict their tenants using a Section 21 notice, unless the tenant has a copy of the electrical installation safety documents. This would bring it in line with the existing requirements concerning gas safety. Furthermore, Mr Miles says the five-year mandatory requirement is just a suggestion and it could be that annual safety checks are considered more appropriate. Landlords and other interested parties have until April 16 to respond to the electrical safety consultation.

This new suggested scheme comes on top of proposals for a housing ombudsman scheme to be set up, which private landlords would have to register with, and The Homes (Fitness of Human Habitation) Bill also making its way through parliament. With many landlords already leaving the sector because of increased regulations, taxes, stamp duty and selective licensing schemes, this new electrical safety requirement could be the final blow for others. Again, it seems as though professional landlords continue to be penalised by having to fulfil stringent requirements – and these will cost more money as they will have to hire an electrician to carry out the inspections. Rogue landlords will carry on ignoring the law and putting tenants at risk. Professional landlords will bear the brunt of ever-increasing costs which could be passed on to tenants and put rents up even further.

Professional landlords and agents will already be checking their electrical equipment as part of their check-ins, check-outs and inventory inspections. To add another layer of checks on top of this seems an unnecessary burden. As professional landlords will want a good working partnership with their tenants, they will ensure all equipment is in good working order or replace it. They have their reputation to protect as well as knowing full well that a happy tenant is more likely to stay longer in a property, which reduces any void periods.

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