New electrical safety regulations explained

Landlords of agricultural tenancies and business tenancies where there is an element of residential occupation will need to be aware that the new electrical safety regulations may also apply to them, writes CLA Housing Adviser Hermione Warmington. These regulations apply to existing tenancies from 1st April 2020 so landlords need to start planning now.

The new electrical safety regulations came into force last month and compliance is required from 1st July 2020. These regulations place an obligation on landlords to check compliance with the relevant electrical safety standards in order to ensure that electrical installations in the private rented sector are safe for continued use and to have evidence of this. Landlords should be aware that penalties for failing to comply are severe – with fines of up to £30,000 per breach. More information on these regulations can be found here.

Although the regulations apply to residential premises, they will not be limited to residential tenancies. Landlords must be aware of the scope of these regulations and assess their let properties appropriately.

Whereas understanding the responsibility for repairing obligations under a residential tenancy is relatively straight forward, this might not be the case for agricultural or commercial tenancies, where the landlord may be responsible for complying with the regulations but the tenant responsible for carrying out the associated works. Good communication is key between landlord and tenant to ensure compliance.

Agricultural tenancies

Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies and Farm Business Tenancies are often let with a residential element, most commonly a farmhouse and/or farm cottage and if the three criteria above are met, will need to comply with the regulations.

The legislation is clear that it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the regulations are complied with. For farmhouses, this means that the landlord needs to ensure compliance although the tenant may be responsible for undertaking the required work or some of it.

It is important to read the tenancy agreement carefully to understand where the repairing obligations lie and this may require identifying if a version of the model clauses applies and if so which one.

For farm cottages, it is the responsibility of the direct landlord, the farm tenant, to comply. Again, close attention needs to be given to the tenancy agreement as it may be that the landlord is responsible for some repairing work, although not directly responsible for ensuring compliance.

Commercial tenancies

There may be a residential element to a commercial lease, for example, a flat above a shop or pub. If the residential element meets the three criteria: let for a term of less then seven years, as the tenant’s main residence and for a payment of rent, then the regulations will apply.

As with agricultural tenancies, it is important to read the lease carefully to understand who is responsible for undertaking the remedial work. Again, the onus falls with the direct landlord to ensure the regulations are complied with.

Take action now

Although the regulations do not come into force for existing tenancies until 1st April next year, it is important to take action now. Planning early will allow you to spread the time and cost of complying with these regulations.

These regulations are not easily applied to agricultural and commercial tenancies and each tenancy agreement will need to be looked at on an individual basis. It is also important to remember that access to electricians may be limited, due to an increased workload as a result of these changes.

Further advice

For technical guidance on the regulations, please see the CLA’s guidance note here (although this is due to be reviewed and updated).

If you are still unsure about how these regulations apply to your property, please contact:

Helen Shipsey, helen.shipsey@cla.org.uk – agricultural tenancies Roger Tetlow, roger.tetlow@cla.org.uk – commercial tenancies