Responsibility for electrical safety in rented homes

The law on electrical safety in rented homes, landlords responsibilities and local authority action under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

This content applies to England & Wales

Landlords' responsibilities under the tenancy agreement

Certain obligations in relation to electrical safety are implied into every tenancy agreement.

Under these terms landlords must:

  • keep installations for the supply of electricity in repair and proper working order throughout the tenancy[1]

  • ensure the property is fit for human habitation and free from electrical hazards when the tenancy is granted and throughout the tenant's occupation[2]

Housing, Health and Safety Rating System

Electrical hazards are covered by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) introduced under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and the local authority could take enforcement action against the landlord.

The HHSRS regulations define electrical hazards as exposure to:[3]

  • electricity

  • flames, hot surfaces

  • fire

  • explosions

They can also render accommodation unfit for human habitation.

Unlike implied tenancy terms, the HHSRS applies to both tenancy and licence agreements.

Regulations in the private rented sector

Sections 122 and 123 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 give the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government powers to make regulations to ensure that properties let by private landlords meet electrical safety standards and to enforce compliance.

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312 came into force on 1 June 2020.

Tenancies covered

From 1 April 2021 the Regulations apply to all tenancies in the private rented sector, including tenancies that started before 1 June 2020.[4]

Between 1 July 2020 and 31 March 2021, the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations applied only to tenancies that started on or after 1 June 2020. The government guidance clarifies that statutory periodic tenancies arising on or after 1 June 2020 were to be treated as 'new tenancies'.

The regulations apply to tenancy and licence agreements.[5]

Tenancies not covered 

The electrical safety regulations do not apply to the following:[6]

  • tenancies where the landlord is a Private Registered Provider of Social Housing, even if the landlord is not acting in the capacity of a public body

  • tenancies where the tenant shares facilities, such as a toilet, bathroom, kitchen or living room, with a resident landlord or a member of the resident landlord’s family

  • long leases and tenancies for a fixed-term of 7 years or more

  • student halls of residence

  • hostels and refuges

  • care homes, hospices and other accommodation relating to healthcare provision

Landlords' obligations

From 1 July 2020 private landlords have the following additional obligations:[7]

  • arrange for a qualified person to carry out an electrical safety check before the tenancy commences

  • ensure that the electrical safety standards are met throughout the tenancy

  • carry out electrical safety checks at regular intervals

  • retain a copy of the report until the next test is due and supply it to the person carrying out the next check and to tenants, including prospective tenants

The electrical safety report is known as the Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). More information is available from Electrical Safety First.

Electrical installation is defined as ‘fixed electrical cables or fixed electrical equipment located on the consumer’s side of the electricity supply meter’.[8]

Pre-tenancy checks

As part of their duties under the new regulations, landlords must arrange for an electrical safety check before the tenancy commences.

The requirement to carry out pre-tenancy checks applies:[9]

  • from 1 July 2020

  • to tenancies that started or were renewed on or after 1 June 2020

There may be circumstances in which the landlord should have arranged for the pre-tenancy check to be carried out before 1 June 2020.

For tenancies that started before 1 June 2020 and have not been renewed since, the landlord had until 1 April 2021 to carry out the first check.[10]

There is no requirement to carry out a new check each time before a new tenant moves in, as long as the previous electrical safety report is valid. For example, a report obtained on 15 June 2020 is usually valid for up to 5 years and can be shown to prospective tenants during this period to satisfy the pre-tenancy check requirement.

Checks and reports

All electrical safety checks must be carried out by a qualified person, for example a qualified electrical engineer.

The landlord must give a copy of the most recent electrical safety report to:[11]

  • any existing tenant – within 28 days from when the safety check is carried out

  • any prospective tenant – within 28 days from receiving a written request from them

  • any new tenant before the tenant moves in

  • the local authority if the authority requests a copy

An electrical safety check must be completed every 5 years, unless the most recent report indicates a shorter interval.[12]

Report indicating the need for repairs

If the electrical report indicates that the electrical installation is unsafe and that further investigation or repairs are needed, the landlord must arrange for a qualified person to carry out the necessary investigation or repairs within:[13]

  • 28 days from when the inspection or test took place

  • before 28 days if the electrical report indicates a shorter timescale

The landlord is required to:[14]

  • obtain a written confirmation from the qualified person that the necessary repairs or further investigative work have been carried out

  • provide a copy of the written confirmation and the original report to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days of completion

It is the landlord's responsibility to ensure that the person carrying out the safety checks has the necessary qualifications. The guidance for landlords contains advice on how to do this.

Action by the local authority

A local authority must take action if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that the landlord has not complied with the requirements to ensure electrical safety or carry out the necessary checks. The level of the authority's involvement depends on the seriousness of the breach.

The guidance for local authorities contains more information about steps local authorities may take.

Non-urgent works

For non-urgent works, the authority must serve a remedial notice on the landlord and specify what action must be taken.[15]

If the landlord fails to comply and the notice is not withdrawn, the local authority may, with the tenants’ consent:[16]

  • arrange for the works to be carried out

  • pass the cost of the works to the landlord

The landlord is not penalised for non-compliance with the remedial notice if they:[17]

  • can show that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply

  • are prevented from entering the premises by the tenant

Urgent works

If urgent remedial action is required, the authority may, with the tenants’ consent, arrange for the works to be carried out straight away.[18]

Before the works commence, the authority must serve a notice on the landlord and the occupiers. The notice must state[19]

  • what urgent remedial action is required

  • the location of the premises

  • power under which urgent remedial action is taken

  • when the remedial action is to take place

  • appeal procedure and time limits

  • the maximum financial penalty for non-compliance

Tenant rights to information

Where the authority has arranged for works to be carried out:[20]

  • tenants have the right to request proof of identification and authority from any engineer attending the premises

  • at least 48 hours’ notice must be given

Financial penalties

Where the authority is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a landlord is in breach of their duties in relation to electrical safety, it may impose a fine of up to £30,000.[21]

Houses in multiple occupation

Parts 6 and 7 of The Electrical Safety Standards amended both mandatory licensing and management of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the following way:

Regulation 14 removed the requirement for an HMO manager to arrange for the electrical installation to be tested and inspected every five years.[22]

Regulation 13 added the following to the mandatory HMO licensing conditions:[23]

  • ensuring that every electrical installation in the house is in proper working order and safe for continued use

  • supplying the authority with a declaration confirming that the installation is safe, if the local authority requests one

Action by electricity suppliers

Electricity suppliers can:

  • refuse to supply electricity to consumers if they believe that the installation is dangerous[24]

  • enter a home to replace, repair or alter mains installations

Before entering the premises, the supplier should give notice.

In an emergency, for example if the occupants cannot be contacted, the supplier can give notice afterwards, provided it is done as soon as possible after entering the premises.[25] If entry is refused in an emergency, the supplier can get a warrant from the magistrates' court.[26]

Other resources

Electrical Safety First has produced advice guides for landlords and tenants to provide information and practical advice on electrical safety in privately rented accommodation.

RICS has produced a cross-industry Private Rented Sector Code intended to promote best practice in the letting and management of private rented sector accommodation in England.

Last updated: 26 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.11(1)(b) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

  • [2]

    s.9A Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, as inserted by s.1(3) Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.

  • [3]

    reg 3(1) and Sch.1 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 SI 2005/3208.

  • [4]

    reg 1(3)(b) The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [5]

    see the definition of a 'specified tenancy' in reg 2 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312 and s. 122(6) Housing and Planning Act 2016.

  • [6]

    Schedule 1 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [7]

    regs 1(2), 1(3)(b) and 3(1)The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312. The 2020/321 Regulations are made under s.122 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

  • [8]

    reg 2 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312; reg 2(1) Building Regulations 2020 SI 2010/2214.

  • [9]

    see regs 1(2), 2(3)(a), 3(1)(c) and the definition of ‘specified tenancy’ in reg 2 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [10]

    regs 3(c)(ii) The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [11]

    regs 3 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [12]

    reg 3(2) The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [13]

    reg 3(4) The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [14]

    reg 3(5) The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [15]

    reg 4 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [16]

    regs 6 and 8(1)(a) The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [17]

    regs 5(2)-(3) The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [18]

    reg 10 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [19]

    reg 10(4) The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [20]

    regs 6(4) and 10(5) The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [21]

    reg 11 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [22]

    reg 14 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/312.

  • [23]

    para 1(3)(c) Schedule 4 Housing Act 2004, as inserted by regulation 13 The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020/312.

  • [24]

    reg 27(1) Electricity Supply Regulations SI 1988/1057.

  • [25]

    para 7(2) Sch.6 Electricity Act 1989.

  • [26]

    s.2(2) Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act 1954.