Following the Housing and Planning Act 2016 which raised concerns over electrical safety in the PRS and pushed forwards by the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017, new, tougher electrical safety standards are being discussed and considered by the government in order to reduce the risk of electric shocks or fires caused by electrical faults. The Government has commissioned an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. The Private Rented Sector Electrical Safety Standards Working Group was established to provide a forum to discuss the current risk posed to private sector tenants in the home from electrical hazards and whether legislative intervention is required to improve standards. Below, we have summarised the Groups findings and recommendations.
The private rented sector has almost doubled in size over the last decade and now houses 4.7 million households (20% of all households). In 2015, 60% of homes in the private rented sector had all five recommended electrical safety features installed. The private rented sector lags behind the social rented sector, where 74% of local authority homes and 76% of housing association homes had all five safety features installed in 2015, ensuring that electrical installations are safe which benefits both landlords and tenants by helping to prevent fires. The Housing and Planning Act in 2016 raised electrical safety in the private rented sector as an important issue, which was supported by the tenant representative groups.
These are the existing regulatory requirements to help protect tenants from electrical hazards in their homes:
- Landords are required to keep installations in the property, including the supply of electricity in good repair and proper working order.
- Five yearly electrical installation checks are mandatory for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
- All circuits in new or rewired homes would need to be protected by the Residual Current Device (RCD) in order to comply with Building Regulations Part P.
Existing Best Practice (Non-Regulatory)
Non-regulatory best practice currently includes:
- RICS and Electrical Safety First PRS Code of practice advises landlords to organise five yearly periodic inspection and testing of the fixed wiring by a competent electrician.
- Private Rented Sector Electrical Safety Standards Working Group are to provide a forum to discuss the current risk posed to private sector tenants in the home from electrical hazards and whether legislative intervention is required to improve electrical safety standards in the sector.
The Working Group made a total of eight agreed recommendations:
- Recommendation 1: 5 yearly mandatory electrical installation checks should be set out in secondary legislation.
- Recommendation 2: 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.
- Recommendation 3: A report should be issued to the landlord, which confirms that an Electrical Installation Condition Report (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.
- Recommendation 4: 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.
- Recommendation 5: The installation of RCDs by landlords should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance.
- Recommendation 6: A private rented sector electrical testing competent person’s scheme should be set up which would be separate from existing Building Regulations competent person’s scheme.
- Recommendation 7: MHCLG should commission the Electro technical Assessment Specification (EAS) management committee to consider the most effective method of recognising ‘competent PRS testers’ to carry out electrical inspections and tests.
- Recommendation 8: Legislative requirements should be phased in, beginning with new tenancies, following by all existing tenancies.
Key recommendations and observations
- Introduce regulations for mandatory electrical installation checks in private rented sector properties. The aim of the recommendations would be to ensure that the electrical installation is safe for continued use. The majority of members favoured regulating for checks every five years.
- The average cost to landlords of an electrical safety check will be around £160 per property every five years.
- Any installations, which were deemed unsafe for continued use, would require remedial work to be funded by the landlord.
- It was discussed whether landlord should be required to arrange for the inspection and testing of electrical installations at a change of tenant but agreed that this would introduce excessive burdens on landlords and did not recommend legislating for this.
The Electrical Safety in the Private Rented Sector consultation will be open for 8 weeks from 17th February 2018 until 16th April 2018. We will keep you updated with any further news on how these recommendations transfer in to new legislation.
Full details can be found here.
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