The government has published new Electrical Safety in the Private Rented Sector Consultation that seeks views and comments on recommendations made by the Private Rented Sector Electrical Safety Working Group, a group of independent experts established to provide recommendations to ministers.
The working group was introduced by government in the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which introduced new powers to set and enforce tougher electrical safety standards in the private rented sector. The independent experts were drawn from industry and a range of other sectors, including: the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, British Gas, Electrical Safety First, Chief Fire Officers Association, Association of Residential Letting Agents, Shelter, Residential Landlords Association, National Approved Lettings Scheme, British Property Federation, National Landlords Association, Local Government Association, Chartered Institution of Environmental Health, Institution of Engineering and Technology, NAPIT and Electrical Safety Round Table and the Health and Safety Executive.
The consultation invites views and comments to gather additional evidence on the recommendations made by the working group. As well as encouraging safety measures as good practice, the package of independent recommendations to improve safety includes:
- The introduction of five yearly mandatory electrical installation checks for all private rented property.
- Mandatory safety certificates (to confirm installation checks and any necessary repair work have been completed) provided to both landlord and tenant at the beginning of the tenancy and made available to the local authority on request.
- The establishment of a private rented sector electrical testing competent person’s scheme to ensure properly trained experts undertake the work, separate from existing building regulations ‘competent person’.
- Landlord supplied electrical appliance testing and visual checks of electrical appliances by landlords at a change of tenancy should be promoted as good practice and set out in guidance.
Failure to comply with the new rules may mean landlords of private rented properties could face tougher civil penalties of up to £30,000 for rogue landlords and agents, as an alternative to prosecution.
Other recommendations include:
- Extension of Rent Repayment Orders to cover illegal eviction, breach of a banning order or failure to comply with a statutory notice.
- Database of rogue landlords/letting agents convicted of certain offences from April 2018.
- Banning orders for the most serious and prolific offenders from April 2018.
- Introduced protection for tenants against retaliatory eviction where they have a legitimate complaint and stopped landlords from serving an open-ended eviction notice at the start of a tenancy.
- Requirement for landlords to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property, and test them at the start of every tenancy, and to install carbon monoxide alarms in high risk rooms.
- councils can make a direction to remove permitted development rights to convert properties where there are local concerns about the change of use.
The news isn’t entirely bad for landlords. Making homes safe for tenants by improving electrical installations should be consider a material improvement to the property, which will help prevent fires that might otherwise be the cause of considerable costly damage.
A Private Member’s Bill is also supported by government, which will require all landlords to ensure their properties are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action.
The consultation closes on 16 April 2018.