UPDATED GUIDANCE FOR ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS UNDERTAKING PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR
ELECTRICAL SAFETY CHECKS DURING COVID-19
With the PRS deadline of April 2021 fast approaching, we have engaged with the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to obtain clear guidance for electrical contractors, landlords and tenants regarding compliance during COVID-19. A summary of our findings can be seen below:
HAS COVID-19 PROMPTED A CHANGE TO THE PRS LEGISLATION?
No, It is important to note that PRS legislation and timings have not changed. Full details on the regulations, including information relating to the steps landlords, can take if they cannot find an inspector or if they are unable to gain access to a property in normal circumstances can be viewed here.
WHAT ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF LANDLORDS AND INSPECTORS ARE UNABLE TO COMPLY DUE TO COVID-19 ACCESS ISSUES?
While the regulation and the schedule hasn’t changed, MHCLG has issued new COVID-19 specific guidance for landlord, tenants and local authorities. Encouraging local authorities to take a pragmatic, risk-based and common-sense approach to enforcement during COVID-19 the advice outlines reasonable steps landlords should take in the interim period.
A topline summary of this updated guidance and how it relates to PRS electrical safety checks is shown below:
A landlord is not in breach of their duty to comply with a remedial notice if they can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply.
A landlord could show reasonable steps by keeping copies of all communications they have had with tenants and electricians as they attempt to make arrangements to carry out the work, including any replies
Landlords may also wish to provide other evidence which shows the electrical installation is in a good condition while they attempt to arrange works. This could include the servicing record and previous condition reports.
A landlord who has been prevented from accessing the premises will not be required to begin legal proceedings against their tenant to show that all reasonable steps have been taken to comply with their duties.
STILL NEED MORE INFORMATION?
To view the full COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities document, please click here. A copy of this and other useful PRS related information can also be found on the NICEIC website.
NICEIC & ELECSA
Guidance for Landlords and Tenants ( Updated 8th January 2021)
2.20 What about my legal obligations to provide regular gas and electrical safety inspections? Will I be prosecuted if I can’t get access because I or my tenants are self-isolating?
Safety in the home remains extremely important and therefore all landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations – and in the private rented sector, the new electrical safety regulations which apply to new tenancies from 1 July 2020 – providing this can be done in line with guidance on working in people’s homes.
Gas safety inspections should not be carried out in homes that are self-isolating until after the isolation period has ended, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household.
Landlords and contractors can now carry out both routine and essential repairs in households with clinically extremely vulnerable occupants. In these cases, landlords and tenants should work together to make prior arrangements to ensure that social distancing is maintained (insofar as possible).
See guidance from the Health and Safety Executive for landlords and Gas Safe engineers and inspectors.
We recognise that the restrictions imposed by current measures to minimise the infection risks from COVID-19 may make this more difficult, for example where households are isolating. Under such circumstances, provided the landlord can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to comply, they would not be in breach of their legal duties. (see below).
Where a tenant is not self-isolating and persistently refuses to allow access to the property, landlords still have the powers and tools available to gain access to their properties during the period affected by coronavirus. This includes access to the courts to obtain an injunction or, in the case of a local authority landlord, a warrant.
Local authorities and other enforcement agencies are aware of guidance for people working in other people’s homes and how this will affect landlords complying with gas and electrical safety requirements. We are encouraging a pragmatic, common-sense approach to enforcement in these unprecedented times.
Landlords are legally required to provide tenants with all necessary gas and electrical safety and any other relevant certification at the beginning of a tenancy (and carry out all scheduled inspections and tests where required). Where inspections have already been carried out, documents can be provided by post or in some circumstances it may be possible to provide digital copies.
For further information about gas safety certificates and possession proceedings during the COVID-19 outbreak, please see the technical guidance.
Electrical and gas safety in privately rented properties
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector Regulations 2020 were made on 18 March and apply to all new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and will apply for existing tenancies on 1 April 2021.
The Electrical Safety Regulations require landlords to:
Have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every 5 years.
Provide a copy of the report (known as the Electrical Safety Condition Report or EICR) to their tenants, and to the local authority if requested.
If the EICR requires investigative or remedial works, landlords will have to carry this out within 28 days or a shorter period if specified in the report. Written confirmation of the completion of the remedial works from the electrician must be supplied to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days of completion of the works.
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 require landlords to have annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue carried out by engineer registered with the Gas Safe Register and to keep a record of each safety check. Further advice can be found on the Gas Safe Register’s website.
Both regulations are clear on the issue of compliance. With regards to the Electrical Safety Regulations, a landlord would not be in breach of the duty to comply with a remedial notice if the landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply. With regards to a landlord’s duties under the Gas Safety Regulations, a landlord would not be liable for an offence if the landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent the contravention.
A landlord could show reasonable steps by keeping copies of all communications they have had with their tenants and with electricians as they tried to arrange the work, including any replies they have had. Landlords may also want to provide other evidence they have that the installation, appliance or flue is in a good condition while they attempt to arrange works.