Lisa Simon, Partner and Head of National Residential Lettings, offers a practical view on residential letting issues currently in the news.

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Last month James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, announced plans for the introduction of a mandatory requirement on landlords to ensure electrical installations in their property are inspected every five years.

The new requirement for landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) is one of a number of regulations confirmed by the Government in relation to fire safety. The announcement follows the recommendations of a Government working group looking at electrical safety in the sector.

The working group was established after MPs and peers from across the political divide, through the passage of the Housing and Planning Act, raised the issue in the sector as a matter of real concern. These calls were supported by tenant representative and electrical safety lobby groups in recognition of the fact that safety features in the PRS lag behind those of the social rented sector.

Tenants in the PRS face a higher risk of incidents from electrical faults in their homes compared to tenants in social housing. In 2014, 72% of local authority homes and 77% of housing association homes had all five recommended electrical safety features installed, compared with only 59% in the PRS. In November last year the working group, having considered a variety of non-legislative options, concluded that the use of robust regulatory measures should be introduced to ensure necessary improvements in the PRS.

The introduction of an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) would confirm that the electrical installation is satisfactory for continued use and detail any remedial works required, with corrective work to be funded by the landlord. On completion, a confirmation certificate should be issued to the landlord, and the tenant provided with a copy. The certificate should also be made available to local authorities. The working group suggested that this would provide clarity for landlords and tenants on their rights and responsibilities. It was estimated that a normal inspection and test would take around four hours with an average cost of £250, taking account of local variances in the costs of an electrician’s time.

The working group also recommended that:
•    Legislative requirements should be phased in, beginning with new tenancies, followed by all existing tenancies
•    A private rented sector electrical testing competent person scheme should be set up which would be separate from existing Building Regulations competent person schemes
•    Visual checks of the safety of the electrical installation by landlords at a change in tenancy should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance
•    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
•    The installation of residual current devices (RCDs) by landlords should be encouraged as good practice and set out in guidance

A consultation seeking views on the recommendations of the working group, further clarity on penalties for non-compliance and how monies generated from levies should be used was published in February.

This most recent announcement on 19 July 2018 was made alongside the launch of a separate consultation on building regulations. Whilst no start date for the introduction of the new regulations was provided, the development has been broadly welcomed by those in the industry. However, some warn that the costs involved will be higher than those estimated by the working group and could place an upward pressure on rents as landlords seek to recover expenses. Others have suggested that the PRS is already overregulated and these new measures place even more restrictions on private landlords.

We have certainly witnessed many reforms to the PRS over the last few years, however any regulations that place electrical safety at the front and centre can only be seen as a positive. Whilst we await confirmation of the introduction date, we urge landlords to keep abreast of timings and start planning to ensure that they are fully compliant with this new requirement.

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Lisa Simon
MARLA
Partner - Head of Residential Division
0207 518 3234 email me about Lisa
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Lisa Simon heads up our Residential Division, which includes sales, new homes, lettings and property management across our National network. She joined Carter Jonas in 2011. Her twenty years plus experience has been largely in London and the Home Counties working with Landlords and Tenants. Lisa oversees the day to day running of our residential branches and acts as a key contact for some of our portfolio clients. She also runs our corporate services department liaising and promoting our properties to companies and their relocation agents. Lisa resides in West London with her husband and two daughters.

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