Posted by: electime 6th May 2021
Chief Technical Officer at NAPIT, Frank Bertie, investigates the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations and the application of them against BS 7671:2018.
From campaigning for mandatory electrical safety checks in the Private Rented Sector (PRS), to the introduction of the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, known as the PRS Regulations, on the 1st June 2020, there has since been a learning process for all organisations involved in electrical safety in this area.
It is important to remind ourselves of the two principal dates:
1st July 2020 which brought in the requirement for all new specified tenancies.
1st April 2021 which brought in the requirements for all existing specified tenancies. Landlords and letting agents have had to come to terms with the requirements since the introduction on the PRS Regulations for new tenancies, and have worked hard to bring the remaining properties into line with the 1st April 2021 deadline.
The introduction of the PRS Regulations was a much-welcomed step to increase the electrical safety of England’s private tenants, especially with the ever increasing demand for properties in this sector.
Electrical Safety in the Private Rented Sector
The reason for the introduction of the Regulations is well understood and accepted. Tenants should be safe from risks caused by the electrical installation in their home. Previous requirements on how landlords should demonstrate the safety of the electrical installation within their property were unclear.
Part 2 of the PRS Regulations lays out the duties of the private landlords in relation to the electrical installations and places the following requirements on the landlord:
- Ensure the electrical safety standards are met during a tenancy.
- Ensure every electrical installation is inspected and tested at regular intervals by a qualified person.
- Ensure the first inspection and test is carried out before new specified tenancies from the 1st July 2020 and by the 1st April 2021 for existing specified tenancies.
Looking at the first item regarding the electrical safety standards, this means the standards for electrical installations in the BS 7671:2018 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the British Standards Institution.
This brings several issues to light regarding the application of the PRS Regulations which we will explore here.
BS 7671 Wiring Regulations
There are several areas that have been widely debated since the introduction of the PRS Regulations, many of them are in relation to the “Electrical Safety Standard (ESS)” being met during the tenancy period.
The ESS is defined in the PRS Regulations as the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations, published by the IET/BSI (BS 7671:2018). This has led to the incorrect assumption that the electrical installation must comply to this version of the Wiring Regulations.
BS 7671:2018 has two areas where the implications of a new version of the standard does not enforce upgrading to the current standard in the case of existing installations.
There is a note from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which includes the wording: “Existing installations may have been designed and installed to conform to the standards set by earlier editions of BS 7671 or the IET Wiring Regulations. This does not mean they fail to achieve conformity with the relevant parts of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989”.
This is further clarified within Part 6 of BS 7671:2018 under Periodic Inspection and Testing, where Regulation 651.2 states: “Existing installations may have been designed and installed to conform to previous editions of BS 7671, applicable at the time of their design and erection. This does not necessarily mean they are unsafe”.
Therefore, anyone undertaking a periodic inspection and test to meet the Electrical Safety Standard defined in the PRS Regulations must look for non-compliances with BS 7671:2018 which give rise to danger. If an installation which had been installed in line with an earlier edition was certified as compliant, as all electrical work is required to be, then it should only be items which have safety issues that should be identified for remedial work, for example:
- Suffered deterioration
- Been subject to excessive wear and tear
- Been damaged
- Failed testing parameters
- Materially changed from the original design
Consumer Unit Replacement
Where a consumer unit (CU), as shown in Fig 1 has been replaced within a rented property without the entire installation being subject to a rewire, then the procedure is to provide an Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC) for the CU change. What is not often clear is that this EIC does not, and cannot, certify the existing electrical installation as being Satisfactory for continued use.
The EIC only permits the work that fully complies with the requirements of BS 7671:2018 to be issued for the Consumer Unit change. The existing parts of the installation would have been installed to previous editions and while compliant at the time of installation, cannot be certified as complying with the current edition.
The additional issue with an EIC is that responsibility for the entire installation would then be placed on the installer who had issued that EIC and so a full EICR would need to be carried out to meet the requirements under the PRS Regulations. An EIC is only acceptable where a full re-wire has taken place.
Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)
The PRS Regulations require that an ‘Electrical Safety Check’ is carried out. For the purpose of this Legislation, a safety check is an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) as defined by BS 7671:2018, example shown in Fig 2.
The observations and coding system described in BS 7671 are also used to describe when more serious issues need to be dealt with by the Landlord, within the Legislation. For the first time, EICRs will be subject to time scales, which will be applied to the observations and codes where they lead to unsatisfactory outcomes, with C1, C2 and F1 codes requiring action to be completed within 28 days. Any findings which arise from an F1, receiving a further 28 days to complete.
Where serious safety infringements warrant a C1, steps shall be taken to remove the danger, then the Inspector can record a period of up to 28 days for the remedial work to be undertaken. Due to the increased dangers from C1 codes, the time scale issued would have to take into account the likelihood of possible injury to the tenant and also the Landlord’s ability to engage a tradesman to repair within the timescales.
Frequency of Electrical Safety Checks
Within the PRS Regulations, Part 2 Regulation 3-1(b) states: “ensure every electrical installation in the residential premises is inspected and tested at regular intervals”.
Regulation 3-2 then lays out what these regular intervals mean:
(a) At intervals of no more than 5 years
(b) If the most recent report, requires intervals of less than 5 years, specified in that report
The PRS Regulations therefore requires the maximum period between the inspection and testing to be set at 5 years. BS 7671:2018 Regulation 653.4 states: “the report shall indicate a recommended date for the next inspection, supported by an explanation for the recommendation”.
In most cases, we would expect the next inspection date to be set for 5 years from the date of current inspection, with the explanation that this date is in line with the requirements of the PRS Regulations. With regards to the option of less than 5 years as described in 3-2(b) this would only be applied in cases where there has been:
- An increased risk due to the condition of the property
- A major deterioration since the last inspection, where adequate safety, maintenance and repairs are not effectively applied to an installation by the Landlord
- High turnover of tenants subjecting the installation to increased damage, wear and tear
A detailed explanation must be provided to justify a more frequent inspection period, failure to include a justifiable reason for less than 5 years can be challenged by the landlord. In certain cases, the landlord may instigate more frequent inspections if they view the risk to the safety of tenant(s) or to the property as increased.
It is not correct to note ‘Change of Occupancy’ as a trigger for the next inspection and test. A time interval with an explanation must be given in line with the requirements set out in the Wiring Regulations.
The PRS Regulations places requirements on landlords to have any remedial work or further investigative work completed within 28 days or less. Failure to do so may incur investigation from the Local Housing Authority, who have a duty under the PRS Regulations to impose fines of up to £30,000 on any landlord who has not fulfilled their legal requirements and obligations to maintain the electrical installation in a safe condition. In all cases, the completed reports must be received by the landlord and provided to the tenant(s) within 28 days from the date the inspection was carried out.
The PRS Regulations places requirement for the inspection and testing to be carried out by a qualified and competent person, examples shown in Table 1. The Regulations further states that any remedial or rectification work also needs to be completed by a qualified and competent person. For this work, written confirmation is required to be issued in the form of an Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC) or Minor Electrical Installation Works Certificate (MEIWC) to the landlord, who then submits this to the tenant and the Local Authority.
The PRS Regulations are very detailed and lay out what steps the landlord is required to take to verify the safety of the electrical installations in their homes. Failure to comply can result in action from the Local Housing Authority who, as already mentioned, can bestow a fine of up to £30,000. The Local Housing Authority may also instruct remedial or further investigative work to be undertaken and recover the monies from the landlord for the works carried out.
Given the complexities of the Legislation, dates for existing tenancies, and the requirements placed on both landlords and electrical inspectors to comply, NAPIT has produced a publication; written specifically to help both parties understand their obligations, it covers all the aspects required to comply with the PRS Regulations.
To purchase your copy of NAPIT’s ‘Landlords and Electrical Inspectors Guidance for the Private Rented Sector (PRS),’ in print or digital E-book format visit www.napitdirect.co.uk