One of the main causes of electrical fires in the home is faulty and/or old wiring. Landlords can directly reduce the risk of a fire damaging or even destroying their property by regularly checking the condition of the wiring, fuse board, etc. This is where an electrical condition report (EICR) comes in.
Part of HMO and Scottish landlord’s safety checklist for years, EICRs are nothing new, however a recent change in legislation has now switched on the legal requirement for all landlords in England too, no matter the size of your property.
What is an EICR?
An EICR is the document issued, following an in-depth inspection and test to check the condition of the electrical installations (electrical outlets, wiring and consumer units) in a property against the national safety standard for electrical installations. It also picks up any potential safety issues. Think of it as a MOT for the electrics, if you will.
The checks must be carried out by a professional electrician, and the EICR issued by them. If passed, an EICR gives the green light to keep using the electrics in the property as they are. Which explains why they’re often asked for at the start of a new rental tenancy.
Any faults will be listed on the report, along with an explanation of why that electrical system failed the EICR. The faults will also be graded:
- Code 1 or C1 means ‘Danger is present’, risk of injury is likely and IMMEDIATE action is required. The electrician will fix these there and then or at least make them safe before arranging to return to correct them.
- C2 means ‘potentially dangerous’ and remedial action is needed urgently, which the electrician can quote for.
- C3 means improvement to your electrical system is recommended, but not required because they see it’s safe. It’s the only code that can appear on a report that’s passed the EICR test.
Make sure your electrician is correctly qualified. They should be NIC EIC-accredited at approved contractor level. Or approved by another electrical regulatory body at a similar or higher level, which you can easily check on the Electrical Safety Register.
How much do they cost?
The cost of an electrical safety check depends very much on the size of your property – there is no simple one-price-fits-all answer. You can expect to pay anywhere from £160 for a one bedroom flat, rising to around £250 for a five-bedroom property. Of course, the larger the property, the higher the price tag. Your engineer will have to closely examine the safety of cover all electrical outlets, wiring and consumer units, so the price reflects the hard work that goes in to producing this important safety document.
What is tested?
In general, your electrician will check that:
- your fuse board is safe and compliant with the current regulations.
- Everything is correctly earthed – to prevent potentially fatal electric shock.
- The wiring in your sockets, lights, switches and accessories is installed correctly.
What if there’s an issue?
If your engineer’s report flags up any issues with the electrical condition of your property, you are duty bound to act immediately, to guarantee the safety of your tenants, and other residents in the property’s surrounding yours.
Work should be carried out quickly, by a qualified electrician to bring the property up to standard. The engineer should provide written evidence on completion, detailing the work that has been carried out, and that the required standards have now been met. Once you have this evidence in writing, you should provide it to your tenants as proof that the property is now safe, and meeting all of the appropriate requirements.
Local authorities have the power to arrange remedial action is repairs and improvements are not acted on swiftly, you have up to 28 days to get work underway. Failure to do this can lead to the council carrying out emergency remedial work on the property on the landlord’s behalf, and presenting the landlord with the bill!
Is an EICR a legal requirement?
Landlords in Scotland, and HMO landlords across the UK will already be familiar with the requirements to carry out EICR checks. However. Following a change to the law this month, the new Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 states that it is now a legal requirement for all rented properties in England to have a valid Electrical Condition report in place from July 1st 2020 at the start of a new tenancy.
Just as you would a gas safety check, you must ensure that your property has undergone a complete inspection, by a compliant engineer, and the relevant paperwork is supplied to all of your new tenants before they occupy the property. Subsequent checks must be supplied to all tenants within 28 days of completion. Once complete, the check is valid for five years, and can be supplied to subsequent tenants. There is no need to have a new check at the start of each new tenancy (within the five years validity window).
By April 1st 2021, the rules will apply to all tenancies, new or existing. If you have tenants in situ, you must still ensure that you carry our an EICR check, and supply the documentation to them within 28 days of the check being completed.
It is worth noting that if a prospective tenant requests a copy of the EICR, you must also provide this within 28 days. Additionally, if your local authority requests a copy, you only have a seven day window in which to provide them with the relevant documentation.
What are the penalties for failing to comply?
Failing to comply with the new regulations could hit landlords hard.
After 1st July, if you do not carry out an EICR before a tenancy commences, you could find yourself facing a hefty fine of up to £30,000, issued by your local Housing Authority.
How often does it need to be done?
There are no strict guidelines. Both campaigning charity Electrical Safety First and the Institution of Electrical Engineers recommend that private landlords get a new EICR done with every change of occupancy, or every five years, whichever is soonest.