Gas safety checks for rental property been around for years. Now there’s a similar law for electrical safety checks. Here’s what landlords and letting agents need to know about the new electrical safety checks in the private rented sector regulations.

The new rules on electrical safety for landlords

From 2020-21 all landlords letting out a property in the private rented sector in England will need to make sure their properties are electrically safe by having them inspected by a qualified electrician.

The new rules apply for all new lettings started from 1 July 2020 onwards. Landlords with a property that is already let out will need to make sure their properties have been tested for electrical safety as from 1 April 2021.

HMOs: The new rules also apply to HMOs or houses in multiple occupancy, although HMO licences have generally required electrical safety checks for some time anyway.

Wales and Scotland: For landlords in Scotland electrical safety checks have been needed for several years now. They’re also part of the Code of Practice for landlords in Wales under the Rent Smart Wales scheme.

How to comply with the new rules

The way to comply with these new regulations is to have an Electrical Installation Condition Report or EICR for short conducted on your rental property by a qualified electrician.

The electrician will inspect the fixed wiring and associated equipment and carry out a number of tests. These will check for issues including potential overloading, fire and electric shock hazards, inadequate earthing and other faults. They will then issue an EICR. This will note any faults and indicate serious ones which need immediate attention together with more minor ones where rectification is required but not necessarily immediately.

If any remedial work is recommended the landlord must have the necessary work done within 28 days and supply written confirmation of this to the tenant.

The new rules only apply to fixed wiring in a property. They don’t apply to any portable appliances landlords might provide. However it is good practice to have portable appliances PAT tested periodically in any case. (Usually mandatory anyway for HMOs.)

If the property is new or has been recently rewired it should have an EIC or Electrical Installation Certificate in force anyway. This should stand-in for the EICR so will usually mean the wiring will not need to be tested again for a further five years.

How often do you need an electrical safety check?

An Electrical Installation Condition Report is normally valid for five years, although it can be issued for a shorter period depending on the standard of the fixed wiring at the time it is completed. After that time you’ll need a new electrical safety check or EICR.

Landlords need to keep a copy of the EICR and give it to the electrician who carries out the next EICR.

How to get a landlord’s electrical safety check and costs

Not all electricians and electrical contractors necessarily offer EICRs for landlords so landlords and lettings agents will need to look for one who does. The Registered Competent Person Electrical website’s search facility can help you find one who does.

There is no fixed cost for having an EICR carried out as it depends on the size of the property, the number of circuits it has, the time taken to check everything and the electrician’s rates. So landlords should ask for quotes before going ahead and shop around to find the best price. Landlords with a portfolio of properties to check might be able to negotiate a discount.

A good rule of thumb would be to allow around £80 to £200 depending on the property.

What else landlords and letting agents need to do

Much the same as with a gas safety check, landlords and letting agents need to give a copy of the electrical safety check report to a new tenant when they sign their tenancy and move in. It would be a good idea to ask the tenant to sign to say that they have received it. A new check is not needed for each new tenancy as long as a previous EICR or similar is still valid.

When an electrical safety check is carried out when a tenant is already in residence then they need to be given a copy of the report within 28 days of it having been carried out.

Local councils can ask to see the electrical safety report if they wish and in this case it has to be produced within seven days.

Penalties for breaking the new electrical safety rules

Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the new electrical safety rules. They can issue landlords with a civil penalty of up to £30,000 for each breach of the law. They can also make enforcement orders requiring landlords to carry out any necessary repair work immediately. They also have the power to arrange necessary repairs themselves and charge landlords for the costs of doing it.

While the new electrical safety checks will add to a landlord’s work and costs most landlords will understand the importance of electrical safety and this new system will formalise an issue that has been something of a grey area for landlords and letting agents for many years.