In just eight weeks’ time, landlords in the private rented sector will see the start of new Electrical Safety Standards that they will need to abide by. The new rules come into effect in England as of 1st July 2020.
In the first instance, rules will only apply to new tenancies, so there is no immediate hurry to update existing tenants. However, by 1st April 2021, all existing letting agreements will also be included. Properties will require a satisfactory report for testing and inspection at least every five years, which much be completed by a suitably qualified tradesperson.
At the time of writing, there is no plan to delay the introduction of the new regulations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Electricians are being allowed to carry out emergency work, provided that they abide by the social distancing restrictions and are showing no symptoms of Coronavirus.
The government’s position has not changed; landlords or property agents remain responsible for ensuring the safety of the homes they are letting, even during a public health crisis.
If they can prove due diligence – that they have taken reasonable steps to comply – they will not be considered to be in breach of that responsibility if compliance is not met. For example, a test or inspection cannot be carried out if the tenant is self-isolating, but records would need to prove contact had been made.
Having the right property management or customer relationship management software, such as the solution on offer from InventoryBase, is a good way to log all contacts with a tenant. Having all call notes or emails available to all members of your team is good practice from a customer service perspective too.
A statement from the National Association of Professional Inspectors (NAPI) highlighted that the new guidance has been written in a way so as to be easily understood by all landlords, especially given the importance of electrical safety.
Once the inspections have taken place and any testing conducted, landlords must seek a report from the engineer who carried out the work. This should give the date of the inspection – and the date of the next one – as well as the results.
There is a search facility on the NAPI website where landlords can find qualified, competent electricians who can carry out the inspections and required testing. The tenant can also expect to see the report, within 28 days of it being carried out. The local housing authority may also request a copy of the report, which should be supplied within seven days of receiving the request.
The landlord should keep a copy of the report for as long as it is live, until such time as the next inspection is carried out. Your property management software can support this. Once the new inspection is scheduled, the existing report should be shared with the electrical engineer appointed to conduct the inspection.
If a property fails a test, the private landlord must ensure that the remedial work required to pass the retest is booked and completed as a matter of urgency, and within 28 days unless the report specifies another timescale.
On completion, the landlord should obtain written confirmation that the work has been completed to a standard to pass the test. The person who completed the work should sign that off.
The programme of Electrical Safety Standards is to be enforced by local authorities around the country who can impose penalties of up £30,000 for landlords found to be breaching their obligations. They may also serve remedial notices. If ignored for longer than 28 days, the authority may make arrangements for the work to be completed and then take steps to recover all costs directly from the landlord.