The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 will come into effect from 1 July 2020.
All private landlords will be required to:
Subject to specific exclusions, the new regulations will apply to all new tenancies commencing after 1 July 2020 and, from 1 April 2021, to all existing tenancies granted before 1 July 2020.
There are exclusions for private registered providers of social housing, lodgers, tenants sharing accommodation with landlords, long leases (more than 7 years), student halls of residence, hostels and refuges, care homes, hospitals and hospices and other NHS provided accommodation.
Local authorities will be responsible for enforcing regulations. Where they have reasonable grounds to believe that a private landlord is in breach of the Regulations, the authority must, within 21 days of arriving at this belief, serve a remedial notice on the landlord setting out the breaches and actions required to remedy them. That action must then be taken within 28 days of the notice being served.
A landlord can make written representations against a notice, in which case a notice will be suspended until the local authority has considered those representations and reached a conclusion.
If a landlord fails to carry out the required works, the local authority may, with the tenant’s consent, carry them out itself and charge the cost back to the landlord to pay within 21 days. This takes control of how the works are undertaken and the cost of those works away from the landlord. The local authority also only has to ensure the electrical works are done and does not need to deal with any potential redecoration that may be required once those works have been completed.
Landlords do have a right of appeal against the local authority to the First-Tier Tribunal and there is dispensation for Landlords who are prevented by tenants from granting entry to their property to carry out works.
It is also possible for a local authority to impose a Civil Penalty up to a maximum of £30,000 if they are satisfied the Landlord has breached the Regulations. Those penalties can also be appealed at First Tier Tribunal.
It is notable that the Regulations do not contain a prohibition against Landlords serving Section 21 Notices to terminate tenancies, where there is a breach of the Regulations. This may be because the Government has suggested an intention to discontinue the use of these notices in future.
The timescales that have been imposed by the new Regulations are tight. These were estimated at 4.5 million private rented dwellings in England in 2017 according to the Office of National Statistics. This equates to approximately 230,000 checks needing to be done for each of the next 19 months. It is unclear whether thought has been given as to if there are sufficient number of qualified persons to undertake these checks. Further, if Landlords are unable to arrange for the checks to be undertaken, it is unclear whether the local authorities will have the resources to deal with such high levels of enforcement.
Landlords are recommended to book in electrical checks sooner rather than later, to avoid being caught out by the inevitable rush before the deadline in July.