What are the Regulations?
The Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”) came into force on 1st June 2020 following a consultation exercise in 2018:
The Regulations are designed to ensure that all electrical installations in rented residential properties are safe and can be found here:
Which landlords will be affected by the Regulations and when?
Subject to a limited number of exclusions, all private landlords letting residential properties (whether by means of a tenancy or license to occupy) will need to comply with the Regulations.
The Regulations apply to new tenancies/licenses commencing on or after 1st July 2020 (including written renewals) and to all existing tenancies/licences from 1st April 2021.
The exceptions, which are set out in Schedule 1 to the Regulations currently include:
- Properties let by Private Registered Providers of social housing
- Accommodation shared with the landlord or their family
- Long leases
- Student accommodation
- Hostel and refuge accommodation
- Care homes
- Hospitals and hospices
- Other accommodation relating to healthcare provision
Some commentators have questioned the rationale behind some of these exceptions, given the risks involved in poor electrical installations or maintenance. Nevertheless, they remain beyond the scope of the Regulations at the present time.
What must landlords do?
For conscientious landlords who are already undertaking regular inspections etc of electrical installations, the changes really relate to the provision of documentation to evidence these checks. The Regulations require landlords to do the following:
- Inspect electrical installations at least once every five years.
- Provide occupiers with a copy of the inspection report within 28 days of the inspection (and/or within 28 days of the occupier requesting a copy)
- Provide a copy of the electrical inspection report before an occupier moves into a property.
- Carry out any remedial work an inspector deems necessary, with a timescale stated by the inspector (up to 28 days)
- Inform the local authority that remedial works have been completed.
How can the Regulations be enforced?
Local authorities can issue defaulting landlords with remedial notices to carry out necessary work and have the power to issue fines of up to £30,000.
Unlike Gas Safety Certificates (the relevance of which was recently tested in the case of Trecarrell House Limited v Rouncefield) the failure to comply with the Regulations will not affect a landlord’s ability to serve or rely on a (“no fault”) notice served under S21 of the Housing act 1988. This may reflect the government’s ultimate intention to end the use of S21 and/or an intention to punish gas safety defects with financial penalties once S21 notices have gone.
Given the ambiguities and contradictions surrounding the Gas Safety provisions, there are those who will welcome this change in emphasis. However, this does mean that a tenant’s direct remedies against a defaulting landlord are limited. Aside from liaising with the local authority, a tenant might be able to rely on the following provisions instead:
- S11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, where the landlord has failed to comply with their repairing obligations
- S9A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (as inserted by the Homes (Fitness for Habitation Act) 2018) where the failure(s) cause the property to be unfit for human habitation
What if the occupier refuses to allow access to my electrician to carry out the check(s)?
Start trying to obtain access well in advance of the 5-year statutory deadline and keep detailed records of your attempts to arrange access. If you are still unable to gain access, then you may need to consider obtaining an urgent injunction for the safety of the occupier and their neighbours (as well as to comply with your statutory obligations). We can help you with this.
In the longer term, make sure that your tenancy/license agreements provide specific authority for the landlord to access the property to carry out inspections, maintenance and repairs. Such contractual provisions do not allow a landlord to simply let themselves into a property (never do that, except in the case of a genuine emergency!) but they may be useful if you need to take legal action of any kind. A defaulting occupier will then not only be acting unreasonably but will also be in breach of the tenancy agreement.
Should you have any queries regarding any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact Kathryn Dale on 01582 466152 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org