What are the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020?
Between 17 February and 16 April 2018, the government invited comments on the Electrical Safety Standards Working Group’s decision to make a recommendation to introduce mandatory inspection and testing for private rented properties.
The full response to the consultation can be found on the government website. There was strong support for the recommendation, and on 19 July 2018 it was announced that electrical inspection and testing in the private rented sector would become mandatory.
On 29 January 2019 it was announced by the then Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler MP, that legislation would be brought in to provide enhanced safety for people living in rented accommodation.
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 place an obligation on private landlords to ensure that electrical installations in the private rented sector are safe for continued use by checking compliance with the relevant electrical safety standards.
On 12 January 2020 the government laid in Parliament (hereafter referred to as the Electrical Safety Regulations 2020). The draft legislation still requires approval from the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but it is intended that the new regulations will come into force on 1 June 2020 and will apply to England only.
To whom do these regulations apply?
The regulations apply to private landlords for all new specified tenancies from 1 July 2020 and all existing tenancies from 1 April 2021. An ‘existing specified tenancy’ means a tenancy for a specified period of time that was granted before the regulations come into force, whereas a ‘new specified tenancy’ means a tenancy specified for a period of time granted on or after these regulations come into force.
In the UK, any property that is privately owned and being rented out as housing is classified as Private Rented Sector housing and the owner is considered to be the landlord. This includes houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), with the new regulations replacing the existing requirements for electrical testing of HMOs. A house is considered to be an HMO when it has at least three tenants forming more than one household, with the tenants sharing a toilet, bathroom or kitchen with the other tenants.
Do the Electrical Safety Regulations 2020 apply to all tenancies?
There are some tenancies that are excluded from the scope of the new regulations.
- private registered providers of social housing
- shared accommodation with the landlord or landlord’s family
- long leases, i.e. longer than seven years
- student halls of residence
- care homes
- other accommodation relating to healthcare provision.
What is required under the new legislation?
Under the new regulations, private landlords are required to ensure that:
- the electrical safety standards are met during any period when the residential premises are occupied under a specified tenancy, and
- every electrical installation is inspected and tested at regular intervals by a suitably qualified person (regular intervals means at intervals of no more than five years).
What is electrical safety?
Throughout the new regulations, the term ‘electrical safety standards’ is cited. This means the standards for electrical installations and, more specifically, refers to the 18th Edition of the IET Wiring Regulations, BS 7671:2018.
BS 7671:2018 – in particular, Chapter 65 – sets out the requirements for periodic inspection and testing. The purpose of inspection and testing is to determine if the electrical installation is safe for continued use.
Who can carry out inspection and testing?
It’s important that the person carrying out the inspection and testing is competent to do so. The term ’qualified person’ is used throughout the new regulations to define a person who is competent to undertake the inspection and testing and any subsequent remedial works.
Carrying out an inspection of electrical installations is a complex task that requires an extra level of qualification and competency, beyond the standard four-year vocational route commonly followed by qualified inspectors and testers. The government, in conjunction with industry experts, will develop new guidance for landlords stipulating who can carry out the mandatory electrical installation checks.
What is the extent of the inspection and testing?
Regulation 3(1)(b) of the Electrical Safety Regulations 2020 states that every electrical installation in the residential premises is to be inspected and tested at regular intervals. But what is covered by the term ‘electrical installation’?
While the term is not defined within the new regulations, it refers to the definition within the Building Regulations 2010 for England and Wales, which defines an ‘electrical installation’ as ‘fixed electrical cables or fixed electrical equipment located on the consumer’s side of the electricity supply meter.’
The wording suggests that the distributors and supplier’s equipment is not part of the inspection and testing. However, this does not align with BS 7671:2018+A1:2020.
The equipment at the intake position is owned by the distributor, with the meter, meter tails and isolator (where present) belonging to the supplier. However, as part of the inspection process, BS 7671:2018+A1:2020 requires the inspector to carry out a visual inspection of the external condition of the distributor’s equipment.
Examples of distributor’s equipment requiring inspection include:
- service cable
- service head
- earthing arrangements
- meter tails
- metering equipment, and
- isolators (where present).
The equipment should be inspected for signs of exposed live parts, damage or evidence of overheating. If a defect is observed, the person ordering the report should be informed immediately, as well as in writing. It is the responsibility of the person ordering the report to inform the distribution network operator (DNO) or supplier.
What is electrical equipment?
In a domestic installation, permanently connected fixed current-using equipment, such as hobs, ovens, showers, extractor fans and luminaires, is covered by the inspection and testing process.
Portable appliances that are typically supplied by a plug and socket are not part of the fixed wiring inspection and testing process. However, this does not mean that they do not require user checks or inspection and testing.
If the inspector cannot carry out all necessary inspection and testing, for example, permission to switch off the entire installation to facilitate the measurement of external earth fault loop impedance (Ze) was not granted, will be recorded on the report as a limitation. It should be remembered that any recorded limitation will dilute the report. Inspection and testing will be incomplete, and deficiencies may be not be discovered if access to certain areas or the ability to carry out particular tests is prevented.
When does the inspection and testing need to be carried out?
The electrical installation must be deemed safe for continued use before the tenancy commences, from 1 July 2020. If the installation is already covered by an existing Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC) or an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) that was issued before the new Regulations came into force, there is no need for it to be inspected and tested again. The next re-test date will be stated on the certificate or report.
When will the electrical installation need inspection and testing again?
The new regulations require the electrical installation to be inspected and tested at intervals not exceeding five years. However, this interval may be reduced by the inspector if he or she has any concerns regarding the installation. As per the requirements of BS 7671:2018+A1:2020, the frequency of periodic inspection and testing of an electrical installation shall be determined with regard to the:
- type of installation and equipment
- use and operation of the installation and equipment
- frequency and quality of maintenance, and
- external influences to which the installation or equipment may be subjected.
Electrical Installation Condition Reports
Following the inspection and testing, the inspector is required to complete an EICR to detail the results of testing and any observations apparent at the time. The report will also indicate the due date for the next inspection.
A copy of the report should be provided to the landlord. The landlord must supply a copy of the report to each existing tenant within 28 days of the inspection.
If the report is requested from a local housing authority, this should be supplied within seven days of receiving a request in writing from that authority.
Any observations noted by the inspector during the inspection and testing will be recorded on the report and a classification code according to the degree of urgency will be attributed.
Guidance on classification codes can be found in the IET On-Site Guide and Best Practice Guide (BPG) 4 on the Electrical Safety First (ESF) website. Some trade associations also provide guidance on the coding of observations made during EICR inspections.
Model EICR forms for reporting on the condition of an existing electrical installation can be found in Appendix 6 of BS 7671:2018+AMD1:2020. These can be downloaded from the IET website. Further guidance on inspection and testing can be found in Guidance on maintaining electrical equipment can be found in the IET Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment.
What is urgent remedial action?
Part 4 of the Electrical Safety Regulations 2020 sets out the requirements for ‘urgent remedial action’. This is defined as ‘action identified in a report under regulation 3(3) as is immediately necessary in order to remove the danger present and risk of injury.’
If an item is discovered that is immediately dangerous, a classification code C1 should be issued.
The person ordering the report is to be advised immediately that immediate action is required (or preferably, has been taken) to remove the danger. This is to be followed up in writing before the report is issued.
What is remedial action?
Part 3 of the Electrical Safety Regulations 2020 sets out the requirements for remedial action, which is generally required for observations that have been attributed a C2 classification code. A C2 classification code means potentially dangerous and urgent action is required. Items with a C2 code are required to be rectified within 28 days.
What is the outcome of inspection and testing?
If any items are identified that have been attributed either a C1 or C2 classification code, the report will result in an Any observations that result in an unsatisfactory outcome will require remedial works to rectify the issue.
Items, where improvement is recommended (C3), will be noted, but will not result in an unsatisfactory outcome on the report. These are items generally considered not to conform with the current edition of the IET Wiring Regulations, but which are not considered to be unsafe. These items do not necessarily require remedial works.
Who is responsible for enforcement of the new regulations?
Local authorities (LAs) are required to enforce the new legislation and can impose a fine of up to £30,000 for a breach of the regulations. Where there are multiple breaches, the LA can impose multiple penalties.
What if remedial action is not completed?
If the LA has reason to believe that a private landlord is in breach of the Regulations, the authority must serve a remedial notice. If the private landlord is considered to have failed to have taken all reasonable steps to complete the remedial works, as required in the new regulations within 28 days, the LA has the power to enter the premises and arrange for an authorized person to complete the remedial works.
For works that are considered urgent, the LA may arrange remedial action at any time, with consent from the tenants. Any costs incurred by the LA will be recovered from the private landlord and will be payable within 21 days of the demand.
What happens when remedial work is completed?
Following the completion of the remedial works, a Minor Electrical Installation Works Certificate (MEIWC) or EIC will be issued, depending on the nature of the remedial works. This should be kept with the EICR and any other documentation to demonstrate compliance with BS 7671:2018 and to provide a history of the electrical installation that will be useful for future inspections.
A new EICR with a ‘satisfactory’ outcome will not be issued by the contractor unless specifically requested, which is likely to incur an additional charge.
The landlord should obtain and issue the certificate for remedial works to each affected tenant within 28 days of completion of the remedial works.
The combination of the original unsatisfactory report and the subsequent installation certificates covering the remedial work is adequate to demonstrate compliance with BS 7671:2018+A1:2020.
What happens when specialists are required to complete remedial work?
In some cases, specialist contractors, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, will be required to complete certain elements of remedial works following inspection and testing. The specialist contractor is responsible for issuing their own relevant report and certification to cover their works, which should be kept with all other documentation for the electrical installation.
The requirements under Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations (ESQCR) for DNOs are different, and it’s unlikely you will receive any documentation from them for their works.
The new regulations require private landlords to ensure that electrical safety standards are met, providing compliance with BS 7671:2018. The new regulations affect all new specified tenancies from 1 July 2020 and all existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.
It is difficult accurately to estimate the number of private rented properties in England. When the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government carried out the English Housing Survey (EHS) in 2018-19, the data released indicated that there were 4.6 million private rented households, accounting for 19 per cent of all households, with this number having almost doubled since 2002.
It is important that the person ordering the work ensures that the person carrying out the inspection, testing and any subsequent remedial work is competent to do so. One way of ensuring this is to use electrical contractors and electricians who are registered members of trade associations and self-certification schemes, as they are subjected to regular inspections to ensure they meet the relevant requirements.
In England and Wales some works in domestic properties will be building control notifiable and will need to meet the requirements of Part P of the Building Regulations. On the recommendation of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC), the government has approved competent person self-certification schemes to be operated by various organizations. Electricians that register with one of these schemes are able to self-certify compliance with Part P. Further information can be found on the IET website.