Estate agent Carter Jonas has spoken out about new, proposed electrical regulations in the private rental sector, which it believes will improve fire safety.
Last month, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, announced plans for the introduction of a legal requirement for landlords to ensure that electrical installations in their properties are inspected every five years.
The new requirement for private landlords is one of a number of regulations confirmed by the Government in relation to fire safety. The announcement follows the recommendations of a Government working group looking at electrical safety in the sector.
The working group was established after MPs and peers from across the political divide, through passing the Housing and Planning Act 2016, raised the issue as a matter of real concern. These calls were supported by tenant representative and electrical safety lobby groups, in recognition of the fact that safety features in the private rental sector lag behind those in the social rental sector.
Private tenants face a higher risk of incidents from electrical faults in their homes than tenants in social housing. In 2014, 72% of local authority homes and 77% of housing association properties had all five recommended electrical safety features installed, compared to just 59% in the private rental sector.
In November last year, the working group, having considered a variety of non-legislative options, concluded that the use of robust regulatory measures should be introduced to ensure necessary improvements in the private rental sector.
The introduction of an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) would confirm that the electrical installation is satisfactory for continued use and detail any remedial works required, with this work to be funded by the landlord.
On completion, a confirmation certificate should be issued to the landlord, and the tenant provided with a copy. The certificate should also be made available to local authorities. The working group suggested that this would provide clarity for landlords and tenants on their rights and responsibilities.
It was estimated that a normal inspection and test would take around four hours to complete, with an average cost of £250, taking into account local variances in the costs of an electrician’s time.
The working group also recommended that:
- Legislative requirements should be phased in, beginning with new tenancies, followed by all existing tenancies
- A private rental sector electrical testing competent person scheme should be created, which would be separate from existing building regulations competent person schemes
- Visual checks of the safety of electrical installations by landlords at change of tenancy should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance
- Landlord-supplied electrical appliance testing and visual checks of electrical appliances by landlords at change of tenancy should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance
- The installation of residual current devices (RCDs) by landlords should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance
A consultation seeking views on the recommendations of the working group, further clarity on penalties for non-compliance and how monies generated from levies should be used was published in February.
The most recent announcement, on 19th July 2018, was made alongside the launch of a separate consultation on building regulations. Whilst no start date for the introduction of the new regulations was confirmed, the industry has broadly welcomed the development.
However, some warn that the costs involved will be higher than those estimated by the working group and could place an upward pressure on rent prices, as landlords seek to recover their expenses. Others have suggested that the private rental sector is already over-regulated, and that these new measures place even more restrictions on landlords.
Lisa Simon, the Head of Lettings at Carter Jonas, says: “We have certainly witnessed many reforms to the private rental sector over the last few years, however, any regulations that place electrical safety at the front and centre can only be seen as a positive.
“Whilst we await confirmation of the introduction date, we urge landlords to keep abreast of timings and start planning to ensure that they are fully compliant with this new requirement.”
To help improve the fire safety of your rental properties, make sure that you are sticking to the regulations outlined in our comprehensive guide, compiled with our sister site, Landlord News: https://landlordnews.co.uk/guides/a-landlords-guide-to-fire-safety/