Charlotte Lee, Head of External Affairs at NAPIT, provides an overview of The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, and how to remain compliant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the April 1st deadline approaching for all homes with an existing specified tenancy required to have in place, or to have carried out, an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) which has been completed by a qualified and competent person, the restrictions faced by many due to COVID-19 have caused some concern for landlords and letting agents regarding compliance.
These concerns have been exacerbated by the latest National Lockdown, which was announced at the beginning of January and, at the time of writing, is still in force.
The Regulations make it clear that every electrical installation in the residential premises must be inspected and tested at intervals not exceeding five years, and if the resulting EICR is found to be ‘Unsatisfactory’ then remedial and further investigative work needs to be completed within 28 days of the report being carried out.
An Unsatisfactory EICR is one which has Observation Codes C1, C2 and/or Further Investigation (FI), which indicate an electrical danger is present, or further work is needed to ascertain whether a danger is present.
A Satisfactory EICR has observation Codes C3 or no other observation codes. A C3 observation is given when the safety of an installation could be improved if an update was made to the electrical installation, but as it stands the electrical installation isn’t unsafe. Landlords aren’t required to take any action to rectify C3 observations, but they may choose to do so.
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 were published in January 2020, when the impact of COVID-19 was unforeseeable. The nationwide restrictions have made complying with these Regulations more challenging than was intended, due to restricted access to homes, shielding, isolating and anxiety.
However, the safety of people in their homes is paramount, with Government making it clear that all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure the electrical safety of privately rented homes. This is set out in Part 3, section 5 of the Regulations.
The Government has also made clear that during the current National Lockdown, those who can’t work from home (including those working in construction) can go to work, meaning that electrical contractors are still able to undertake electrical inspection, testing, installation and remedial work in dwellings.
That being said, the Government has published specific Guidance for Local Authorities on the enforcement of standards in rented properties, which states in relation 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.”
It goes on to say: “A landlord could show reasonable steps by keeping copies of all communications they’ve had with their tenants and with engineers as they tried to arrange the work, including any replies they’ve received. Landlords may also want to provide other evidence they have to prove that the installation is in a good condition while they attempt to arrange works.”
With the aforementioned in mind, landlords and letting agents will need to remain vigilant and focussed on doing all they can to ensure any property with an existing specified tenancy has an electrical inspection and test carried out or in place for compliance with the Regulations before April 1st, but should be comforted by the Government Guidance which provides a reasonability clause to prevent landlords from facing enforcement action when they’ve done all they can to comply.