New Electrical Safety Rules for Landlords
April 1 2021, is the day when all landlords in England must have electrical installations in private rented homes inspected and tested.
The rules changed on June 1, 2020 for new tenancies as part of a drive to improve safety and living standards for private tenants. From April, the rules apply to current tenancies as well.
Electrical installations deteriorate over time and become a potential fire hazard or risk of electric shock. Fire statistics show that 750 fatal accidents and 12,500 fires are reported every year. Out of these, half the fires are caused by electrical faults, while 70 people die and 350,000 are seriously injured due to electrical accidents in the home.
The statistics also show people renting homes are more likely to die or suffer injuries in electrical related fires than anyone else. To reduce this risk, the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 require landlords to check out the electrics in rented homes at least every five years.
The new electrical installation rules apply to all landlords (in England)
The new regulations have applied to new tenants of all private rented homes, including shared houses (houses in multiple occupation) since July 1, 2020 – a month after they came into force. From April 1, 2021, they will extend to tenants with existing rental agreements. A few tenancies are not included in the scope of the regulations, including:
- Private social housing providers
- When a lodger shares the landlord’s home – most of these arrangements come under the Rent-A-Room scheme
- If a lease lasts more than 7 years
- Student halls of residence
- Hostels, refuges and care homes
- Hospitals, hospices and clinics
Breaking the rules comes at a cost
Local councils have the power to issue civil penalties of up to £30,000 and serve notices demanding remedial works. If the improvements are not completed within 28 days, the council can send an electrician to do the remedial work and claim the cost back from the landlord. If the home is an HMO, the licence can be revoked for breaching the regulations.
What do the electrical safety rules require of landlords?
To comply with the regulations, a landlord must commission a competent and qualified person to carry out an electrical inspection. The electrician produces an Electrical Inspection Condition Report (EICR). If a property fails the inspection, landlords have up to 28 days – the exact time is noted in the EICR – to correct any faults.
Who can inspect a property?
A competent and qualified person is a professional electrician, which includes one accredited with the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) for example.
The NICEIC web site maintains a list of appropriately accredited electricians. Elecsa, another accreditation body for electricians, also maintains a list of qualified contractors, but is merging with the NICEIC from April 1.
From then, the NICEIC database is the go-to place to find a qualified electrician. See also Electrical Safety Round Table and the Registered Competent Person Electrical single mark and register. Energy providers like British Gas offer landlords home maintenance services that include EICR and gas safety certificates.
Their electricians are accredited by the NICEIC. If you pay a letting agent or other firm to manage your rental properties, make sure they are aware of the rule change and that any electrician they send out to make an EICR check is properly accredited. The government guidance on these regulations offer further guidance on who may carry out the test and inspection.
Understanding your EICR
The EICR is an in-depth assessment of the electrical installation at your rented property. Each property has a separate EICR. The report grades the electrics into three categories:
- C1 – this means the electrics are dangerous and need immediate attention.
- C2 – this shows the electrics are potentially dangerous and need urgent attention.
- C3 – this is a pass confirming the electrics pose no danger but recommends improvements.
The EICR covers all the electrical installations in a home. The electrician will test that they all work as expected and are not a fire risk. If any improvements are needed, the report will indicate what to do. The EICR covers:
- Fuse board or consumer unit.
- Switches, sockets, light fittings and other fittings.
- Installation polarity checks.
- Testing protective devices to ensure they work properly.
The EICR details any work needed to get a property to the required standard, to identify non-compliant electrical installations, and to check for any part of the electrics in a home which present a risk of high temperatures or electric shocks.
What do you do with an EICR?
The aim is for electricians to issue an electronic compliance certificate within a few days of their visit to a home. Hard copies may come at an extra cost, although you can print off your own certificate. Besides using the EICR to carry out any necessary electrical improvements, landlords must give a copy of the current report to tenants or include one in the viewing pack for prospective tenants together with the gas safety certificate and Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). If the local authority requests a copy of the EICR in writing, a landlord must supply one within seven days.
How much will an EICR cost?
Like gas safety checks, there is no fixed price for an EICR – the cost depends on several factors, like the size, age and location of a property. For instance, a buy to let landlord can expect to pay less than a shared house landlord. To give an idea of the cost, an EICR in London is around £220 for the first six circuits and £30 for each additional circuit.
What about appliances?
Testing electrical appliances is not a legal requirement for landlords but is considered good practice. Government guidance says any appliances they supply must be safe. It’s also a good idea to register them with the manufacturer or supplier to keep up-to-date with recalls for safety reasons. Tell tenants to do the same with their personal appliances. You can look up if any appliances are subject of a recall or safety notice on the Electrical Safety First web site.
Find out more…
You can find out more about EICR checks and electrical safety on these websites:
Guide for landlords: electrical safety standards in the private rented sector
National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC)
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View Related Handbook Page
Electrical Safety and Electrical Goods
Landlords should have a clear understanding of their responsibilities in relation to electrical installations and appliances