Electrical Safety for tenanted properties

Many people, including myself, thought it strange that an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP L8) was introduced to address the risk of Legionnaires disease in tenanted property before mandatory electrical checks became law. This conundrum has now been resolved as the Electrical Regulations 2020 now apply to all new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and for all existing tenancies from 1 April 2021. These rules require landlords to obtain an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) from a qualified electrical inspector.

Landlords should be aware that the requirement to provide a valid certificate applies not simply where a property is first offered to let from 1 July 2020 but also where there is an existing tenant and, after the 1st of July 2020, you agree to them remaining following the expiry of a fixed term and you agree a further fixed term tenancy (renewal). Additionally, if you have an existing tenant and, after the 1st of July 2020, you agree to them remaining on a periodic tenancy following the expiry of a fixed term (the tenancy becomes a Statutory Periodic Tenancy) then the rules will apply as, following the Superstrike Ltd v Marino Rodrigues case, this is viewed as a “new” tenancy.

The EICR and any remedial works information must be provided to the tenant within 28 days of completing the check, to tenants when they are renewing their fixed term tenancy, or where their tenancy is continuing on a statutory period basis. For new tenancies the electrical check certificate must be presented to the tenant at the outset to the tenancy in a similar way that you currently provide a copy of the EPC, Gas Safety Certificate, Prescribed Information regarding deposits and the “How to Rent” Guide. Get into the habit of getting the Tenant to sign a checklist to confirm receipt of all these documents prior to the start of the tenancy and you will have fewer issues should you ever need to bring the tenancy to an end.

The requirement for a safe electrical installation should not pose a problem to the responsible Landlord given that the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act provides obligations to ensure that the electrical installation remains safe throughout a tenancy. Furthermore, electricians are likely to have visited your properties reasonably recently to comply with the 2015 requirements to ensure that smoke detection is provided on each floor of your properties.

Personally, when forwarding your tenant their EICR I would also forward them a leaflet regarding electrical safety reminding them of the maintenance and care which is required when dealing with their own electrical appliances as well as the electrical installation at the property. I do this with Fire Risk Assessments and so it seems sensible to adopt a similar approach here. A reminder is always helpful to focus the mind besides which, for some of your tenants, your property may be their first experience of living independently.

Overall, my view is that these new requirements should be welcomed. Electrical safety is clearly important and Landlords should take it seriously. I am hopeful that it could prompt landlords to take a more holistic view of the safety of their premises and consider using the requirement for any adaptions to try and futureproof their properties.

Fire precaution is becoming more stringent and some electrical adaptations could improve your property in that regard.  If you have a block of flats then the electrician could install some additional emergency lighting, call points or magnetic locks during their visit or alternatively advise on the feasibility of installing an automatic smoke vent to the communal landing roof. For those mindful of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards and the drive to get EPC ratings ultimately to a Band C, you may wish to consider the installation of a dual rate electrical supply if your tenants have to use electric heating or the alterations required to benefit from solar heated water, photovoltaic panels and the like.

Similarly, if you have your eyes on the new permitted development legislation then any electrical adaptation to your premises could be done with your future development plans in mind.

Presently there appears to be a huge demand for rented accommodation and therefore many landlords may be reluctant to spend money on a property which will let regardless. My view is that by providing some additional measures, not only will you have safer premises but you will also have the ability to perhaps take advantage of future grant initiatives and legislative change as well as promoting the longevity of the tenancy and preserving the marketability and value of your property.