Call for five year electrical checks in private rented sector to be mandatory

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New legislation is needed in England to improve electrical safety in homes in the private rented sector and make a five yearly inspection mandatory, a new report says.

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector Working Group report recommends that enabling powers in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 should be used to set electrical safety standards.

The report explains that tenants in the PRS face a higher risk of incidents from electrical faults in their homes compared to tenants in social housing. In 2014, for example, some 59% of homes in the PRS had all five recommended electrical safety features installed, considerably less than 72% of local authority homes and 77% of housing association homes.

The working group report says that the inspection and testing of a property’s electrical installation at five year intervals should be set out in the regulations. ‘The aim of the regulations would be to ensure that the electrical installation is safe for continued use and reduce the risk of death, injury and damage to property from electrical hazards in the private rented sector,’ the document says.

Mandatory five yearly electrical checks, carried out by a registered electrician, of the electrical installation and electrical appliances supplied with privately rented homes was introduced in Scotland in December 2016 and the Welsh Government is currently considering options to introduce duties on electrical safety standards in Wales.

The report said policy change should be mindful of cost burdens for landlords and agents whilst maintaining adequate protections for tenants. It does not support mandatory inspections and tests at the change of tenancy, nor mandatory testing of electrical appliances supplied by the landlord or the tenant as the costs to landlords and agents would be disproportionate to the more limited benefit.

All working group members agreed on the need to design and publish comprehensive guidance notes for landlords, agents and tenants to explain the requirements of the recommended regulations. This should be prepared in advance of the regulations coming into force to help increase awareness and compliance. Guidance in advance would also help to reduce landlord and agent cost burdens overall.

It suggests that an electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) would confirm that the electrical installation is satisfactory for continued use and where identified would detail any remedial works required. Any properties which were deemed to be unsafe for continued use would require remedial work to be funded by the landlord.

The group agreed that an EICR and associated electrical installation certification confirming that remedial work had been undertaken in compliance with relevant standards should be issued to the landlord. The group proposed that a copy should also be issued to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy and should be made available to local authorities on request.

Working group members reported that the cost of carrying out a periodic inspection and test of an average PRS property varies based on its size and regional location. However, the average inspection and test is likely to take around four hours, with an average cost of £250, taking account of regional variances in the costs of an electrician’s time.

Meanwhile, the Department of Communities and Local Government has launched a consultation, open until 09 January 2018 on the effectiveness of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 which came into force on 01 October 2015.

However the consultation document says it does not mean that there will be any change to the current regulations as the move is to access the effectiveness of the current situation and any legislation brought forward as a result of the consultation would be subject to appropriate assessment.