All you need to know about the new electrical safety laws

We’ve been expecting electrical safety checks in the private rented sector to become mandatory since the recommendation to introduce them was published for consultation in February of 2018. Finally, on 29th January 2019, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Minister Heather Wheeler announced that tougher rules, which include mandatory electrical installation, are to be phased in, as Mike Hollamby outlined in his one-a-day video posted on 30th January.

In this article, I’ll add a little more meat to the bones and you’ll learn more detail of the minister’s announcement – including what it means for all buy-to-let landlords, investment property managers and letting agents.

Why the new law was needed

We have always thought it an anomaly that the standards for electrical safety for buy-to-let landlords fell so short of gas safety standards.

Gas appliances must be checked at least once a year, by a Gas Safe registered contractor, with records provided to tenants within 28 days of the check being made.

Up to now, and until the new electric safety law comes into force, the question of ensuring electric appliances and the electric supply in buy-to-let property has been answered by some confusing laws. It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that electrical goods comply with safety regulations because the landlord is considered to be the supplier of those goods, but it is not mandatory to carry out electrical safety checks (except for landlords of HMOs).

Clearly, just as with gas appliances and supply, electrical appliances can become faulty and dangerous, and electrical supply can also become hazardous.

A case in point was the death of a young mother a decade ago. 33-year-old Thirza Whitall was killed after suffering an electric shock when taking a bath. It was found that her rented property had no earth connection and that a full electrical safety check had not been carried out on the home since 1981. In giving his verdict of accidental death at the inquest, Coroner Andrew Cox said that he found it inexplicable that the law did not require electrical checks in rented homes. The new law should ensure that such an accident is less likely to happen in the future.

What are the buy-to-let landlord’s new obligations for electrical safety?

Buy-to-let properties will require a valid Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). Landlords or their agents will be required to have an electrical safety check carried out at least every five years on their properties.

The electrical safety check can only be carried out by a competent and qualified inspector. It is the responsibility of the landlord or their agent to ensure that the inspector they use has the right qualifications, and there will be harsh financial penalties for those who don’t.

The government will soon publish guidance to confirm the minimum level of competence and qualification that will be necessary for carrying out EICR checks.

What are the penalties if you don’t get an EICR?

Penalties for non-compliance will be imposed by local authorities. They have recently been given new powers to combat rogue landlords who rent out their properties in unfit and unsafe conditions. The penalties that local authorities can hand out under these powers include fines of up to £30,000 and banning orders on landlords.

When will the new law come into force?

Here comes the difficult bit… we don’t know! The government has said that the implementation date is yet to be confirmed. However, what we do know is that there will be a two-year transition period, during which:

  • In the first year, all new tenancies must have an EICR
  • In the second year, all existing tenancies must have an EICR

In addition, any property that already has an EICR will not need a new one until five years have passed since the EICR was issued.

What we recommend

We have always recommended that buy-to-let landlords take the safety-first approach and have regular electrical inspections and EICR checks.

The closer we come to the new law being implemented, the more demand there will be for EICR checks. It has been pointed out that there is probably a large shortage of qualified and competent inspectors available to carry out the work.

Combine rising demand with a last-minute rush to get EICR checks done and a shortage of competent inspectors to do the work, and we expect that EICR checks will become more expensive and more difficult to organise.

Therefore, our recommendation is that landlords should get EICR inspections done sooner rather than later. The buy-to-let landlord can then sleep without the worry that they may be in breach of the law when it is implemented, and get slapped with a £30,000 fine or a banning order. Remember, too, that this peace of mind lasts five years until the next EICR inspection is due.

For more information, and to discover how you could benefit from effortless property management, all you need to do is contact one of our team today at +44 0 1522 503 717.

Live with Passion,

Brett Alegre-Wood