Landlords already have a fundamental responsibility for ensuring that accommodation provided for tenants is safe and free of hazards to health.
Amongst the list of safety requirements, landlords are currently obliged to carry out annual gas safety inspections, ensure that electrical equipment is safe to use and that they comply with national and local fire regulations.
Until now, however, somewhat different standards have applied to those for gas and electrical installations for rented properties in England and Wales. A publication on the 17th of February 2018 by the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government might change all that.
Central to the proposals in the government’s consultation document is a requirement for landlords with properties in England and Wales to arrange electrical safety certificates for their let property at least once every five years. (In Scotland, different legislation applies, and in Northern Ireland, at the time of writing, it has its own consumer laws and legislation on electrical equipment that can be best followed by doing regular safety checks).
This proposal would bring electrical installations more or less in line with gas. Annual gas safety inspections, conducted by a registered Gas Safe engineer, are already required, and stiff penalties are in place for landlords who fail to comply with there provisions. Although landlords must ensure that electrical equipment is safe to use, there is currently no requirement for it to be inspected, tested or for any certification to be issued.
February’s consultation document includes a proposal that landlords should face fines of up to £30,000 if they fail to maintain safe electrical installations or arrange five-yearly inspections.
As with the current gas safety checks, the proposal is for electrical installations to be inspected, tested, any remedial work carried out and a safety certificate issued. The certificate must then be kept by the landlord, a copy given to tenants at the beginning of any tenancy and a copy also made available to the local authority on request.
Following the current consultation process, advised Government Business on the 20th of February 2018, the new regulations regarding electrical safety will be incorporated into provisions granted by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
Although some landlords and their pressure groups may complain about yet more regulation in an increasingly restricted private rental sector, the proposals are designed to increase safety standards in a way that strikes the appropriate balance between “protecting tenants while being fair for landlords”, said the Housing Minister.
As previously mentioned, the proposals also lend similar weight to the importance of electrical safety as that already given to gas safety – although electrical inspections would be required only once every five years, while gas safety inspections are already required annually.
The charity Electrical Safety First already recommends that landlords carry out an electrical inspection at least every five years or at the beginning of each new tenancy.
Although there may be a growing raft of responsibilities and obligations with which landlords already need to comply, they are critical not only for staying on the right side of the law – and avoiding the fines you might otherwise face – but also for the validity of your landlord's insurance.
If an accident occurs and your tenant is injured or the property damaged, your insurance may be invalidated, or you may be held responsible for contributory negligence and any insurance settlement of a claim reduced accordingly.