Comment

Confusion over electrical safety regulations leads to threat of enforcement action

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 - By Richard Tacagni, Managing Director at London Property Licensing

Richard

I was recently asked for advice by a long standing client who operates a small portfolio of private rented properties.

The landlord’s query related to a small HMO in a London Borough. I was familiar with the property as I had inspected it several years earlier. A property licence had been granted by the council in 2019 and the licence remained in force.

The landlord had recently received a formal letter from the council. Marked “PLEASE DO NOT IGNORE” in red, it referenced three sets of legislation – the Housing Act 2004, the HMO Management Regulations 2006 and the Electrical Safety Standards Regulations 2020.

The letter acknowledged that a licence had been issued for the property in 2019. Having checked the Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) held on file, the council noted that the certificate contained four C3 recommendations.

The letter explained that these four electrical items must be rectified within 28 days and on completion, an updated EICR must be provided to the council. It advised that unless the work was completed within 28 days, the landlord may be prosecuted or issued with a civil financial penalty.

Receiving a letter like this caused the landlord considerable distress. To his knowledge, he was doing everything required of him. He had not thought any electrical work was needed as the EICR was ‘satisfactory’. Of course, he would arrange the work immediately if it was needed.

Before doing so, the landlord asked me for a second opinion. Having examined the letter and the three pieces of legislation referred by the council, I was somewhat confused about why the letter had been sent.

The property licence contained no conditions requiring recommendations on a satisfactory EICR to be addressed. The electrical safety clause in the HMO Management Regulations 2006 had been superseded by the Electrical Safety Standards Regulations 2020, and the Electrical Safety Standards Regulations 2020 imposed no such requirement.

Under the Electrical Safety Standards Regulations 2020, there is a requirement to complete remedial work within 28 days if an EICR is unsatisfactory i.e., it lists items coded C1, C2 or FI. Under the regulations, there is no requirement to complete items coded C3 on a satisfactory EICR. These are purely recommendations.

To ensure compliance and give my client peace of mind, I wrote to the council on his behalf. I explained the issue and gave my opinion there was no legal requirement to undertake C3 recommendations on a satisfactory EICR.

A more senior officer responded to me. They acknowledged that the letter had been sent in error and that there was no requirement to complete the work. The officer explained the letter was no longer being sent to landlords with a satisfactory EICR.
  
Clearly, the letter was issued in error by someone unfamiliar with the current electrical safety regulations. Had my client not sought advice, he would have incurred hundreds of pounds to complete the work and obtain an updated EICR to avoid the perceived risk of prosecution. That cost was fortunately avoided and the matter was quickly resolved. 
 
For readers who want to know more, a free guide to electrical safety in private rented homes is published on the London Property Licensing website, available here.

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