Agents demand 12 month delay in new electrical safety rules

ARLA Propertymark has written to the government to voice fears that letting agents will not be able to comply with new electrical safety standards.

Under the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 every fixed electrical installation at rental properties must be inspected and tested by April next year.

ARLA is concerned that as 50 per cent of its 8,000 agent members have over 60 tenancies, they will not have the resources to comply.
“This is exasperated further under the Regulations which require remedial work to be carried out within 28-days from when a Remedial Notice is served” adds ARLA.

Now the association’s policy chief Timothy Douglas wants a 12 month extension to the deadline.

Here is his letter to housing minister Chris Pincher in full.

I am writing to express Propertymark’s concerns about anticipated and widespread failure in compliance with the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 and the need to extend for 12 months the requirements for all existing tenancies to comply from 1 April 2021.

Propertymark represents nearly 8,000 letting agents in England and participated in the, then Department for Communities and Local Government, Private Rented Sector Electrical Safety Standards Working Group. We are very supportive of a safe and compliant private rented sector that works for all.

Throughout the pandemic, we are grateful for the support and guidance that the UK Government has provided in allowing the property sector to stay open during local, regional, and national lockdowns. To this end, many agents have adapted their processes for managing tenancies, such as making a greater use of technology to allow inspections to continue or through carrying out more checks on the outside of the properties they manage to maintain roofs and windows and inviting tenants to email photos of the inside.

However, concerns remain about the ability for letting agents to ensure compliance with the Electrical Safety Standards by April next year. From a snap survey of 220 letting agent businesses in September, 50% have more than 60 tenancies signed before the rules came into force that will require every fixed electrical installation at the property to be inspected and tested by April next year. Furthermore, it is not just the test and inspection but the time and expense of arranging remedial work to ensure tenancies are compliant. This is exasperated further under the Regulations which require remedial work to be carried out within 28-days from when a Remedial Notice is served.

Following a second national lock down in November and currently different rules across the country, depending on what tier an area is in, this has added further layers of management and administration for letting agents in arranging access to property to ensure work is carried out. Moreover, the Christmas period further reduces the time for checks and work to be carried out before next year’s deadline.

In practical terms, letting agents obtain more than one quote for a landlord and remediation work often adds up to thousands of pounds. Importantly, the process relies on tenants to allow electricians into the property to complete the work. In many cases, tenants are reluctant to have tradespeople enter the property, some tenants are isolating, and some have coronavirus symptoms. Collectively, these add additional obstacles for compliance with the rules.

Furthermore, we are aware of cases where work can take up to four hours to complete and letting agents are unable to bulk instruct electricians as they need to do the checks and then the remedial work. As I am sure you can appreciate, there is no point getting all the checks done and not having time to get the work completed.

Even before the regulations were passed, we raised concerns about the number of electricians available to undertake inspections and tests by the April 2021 deadline. With the added complications of coronavirus and access to property, the supply chain capacity issues have not improved and therefore, to help the sector comply with the rules, we urge the UK Government to extend the requirement for the inspection and testing of fixed electrical installation on all tenancies by at least twelve months until April 2022.

On behalf of our members, I ask that you consider the benefits to tenants, landlords and letting agents of extending the requirements for existing tenancies in order to ensure that landlords and letting agents can meet their legal obligations.

If you would like to meet to discuss this issue in more detail, then we would be pleased to do so.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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