Why testing of electrical equipment may become mandatory in the PRS
After the Housing and Planning Act, 2016 was passed, several working groups were set up to address concerns in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). These included the PRS Electrical Safety Working Group (ESWG). Its remit was to assess the electrical safety standards in the PRS and make recommendations for changes in the law should they be deemed necessary, and its report has just been published.
In light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which is now known to have been caused by an electrical fire, we think that many of the report’s recommendations will become legal requirements. Savvy landlords will put safety one step ahead of the law by taking these measures themselves – the best landlords already do.
In this article, you’ll learn about the ESWG’s main recommendations, allowing you to arrange to put them into practice and keep your property and tenants safer.
Why might changes to electrical safety laws be needed?
There are now approaching 5 million households in the PRS. The sector is growing rapidly, and it is forecast to grow to more than 7 million households within the next decade.
While most buy-to-let landlords are good, the law must account for rogue landlords who fail to understand that safety of property and people is good business. It has always seemed an anomaly to us that buy-to-let landlords must have gas safety certificates, yet there is no such legal requirement for electrical appliances or wiring. Figures from the London Fire Brigade highlight this imbalance – in the last five years, of all the fires the London Fire Brigade investigated, 748 were caused by electrics while gas caused only 97.
Electrical safety standards that Ezytrac already recommend
We’ve written about electrical safety on several occasions. The stress we put on maintaining buy-to-let properties in tip-top condition won’t come as a surprise to our existing landlord clients. For example:
- In our article ‘Seven steps to success as a buy-to-let landlord’, we discuss landlord responsibilities and the need to carry out regular property inspections to ensure that the property is in good repair, including water, gas, electricity, and sanitation.
- We detail such inspections and checks in our article ‘25 property inspection tips a landlord must not ignore’. (If you haven’t read it yet, do so – it’s the essential property inspection guide.) 20% of the tips we recommend is about a property’s electrics:
- Check electrical cables, taps, tiles, showers, etc.
- All electrical installations and appliances (supplied by you): check for frayed cables and cracks in casings. When checking plugs and sockets, look for signs of charring.
- If there are any maintenance issues, always have the work carried out by registered and qualified electricians and gas engineers.
- If any electrical appliances are considered unsafe, they must be removed immediately.
- You are not obliged to have electrical appliances PAT tested, but doing so annually provides that extra peace of mind for you, and proves to the tenant that you are a good landlord.
What does the EWSG recommend for buy-to-let properties?
In compiling its report, the EWSG makes eight recommendations to the government. You’ll notice that many covers what we recommend to our landlord clients:
- Five-yearly mandatory electrical installation checks should be set out in secondary legislation.
- Visual checks of the safety of the electrical installation by landlords at a change of tenancy should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.
- A report should be issued to the landlord which confirms that an EICR has been completed, along with confirmation that any remedial work necessary has been undertaken satisfactorily. A copy should be issued to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy and should be made available to local authorities on request.
- Landlord supplied electrical appliance testing, and visual checks of electrical appliances by landlords at a change of tenancy should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.
- The installation of residual-current devices (RCDs) by landlords should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.
- A PRS Electrical Testing Competent Person Scheme should be set up, which would be separate from the existing Building Regulations Competent Person Scheme.
- DCLG should commission the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS) management committee to consider the most effective method of assessing ‘competent PRS testers’ to carry out electrical inspections and tests.
- Legislative requirements should be phased in, beginning with new tenancies, followed by all existing tenancies.
Will these recommendations come into law?
Currently, these are only recommendations to the government. However, we think that many, if not all, will become legally required activities. Particularly, we think that the government may act quickly to make testing of electrical equipment mandatory.
It’s probable that testing of electrics will be required not only every five years but also for every new tenancy. Of course, there will be costs involved, but the cost of electrical testing is nothing when compared to the cost of the damaged property or lost lives.
Already, the Scottish Government has announced mandatory five-year checks of electrical installation and appliances by a registered electrician. The Welsh Government is considering options for electrical safety in the PRS. In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower, we cannot envision that the government won’t make electrical testing of buy-to-let properties in England a legal requirement.
Are you ready for this? Does your existing property manager have the capacity to arrange electrical tests for you, and ensure they are carried out in compliance with the new law, if and when electrical testing becomes mandatory?
Contact one of the Ezytrac team today on +44 01522 503 717. We’ll help you keep abreast of the rapidly changing law in the PRS, and help keep your properties and tenants safe.