To help control the spread of coronavirus, safeagent, the UK’s leading not-for-profit accreditation scheme for lettings and management agents, is calling for a pause in the implementation of new electrical safety regulations, and new property licensing schemes.
Although visiting rented properties to prepare licence applications and undertake routine electrical testing is permitted under the coronavirus regulations, safeagent believes neither can be a priority while the pandemic continues with extremely high levels of infection across the country.
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 require all occupied private rented homes in England to have an Electrical Inspection Condition Report (EICR) by 1 April 2021 – an estimated 4.5 million households. This will involve electricians visiting many thousands of properties over the coming weeks, spending a couple of hours inside each one. Despite safety measures, this clearly risks adding to community spread of the virus.
In April last year, following safeagent’s calls for a six month delay to licensing schemes not already in force, government advised there should be a pause on new additional and selective licensing schemes. Since then, some Councils have resumed new schemes – in London, new licensing schemes start in Havering on 25 January and Islington on 1 February, requiring thousands of licence applications to be prepared. safeagent believes there must be a further pause on new schemes to avoid the spread of coronavirus and allow resources to be focused on core services.
safeagent, along with London Property Licensing, has three key asks for local and central government:
- The Secretary of State to impose a further six-month moratorium on approving any new selective licensing schemes (*1).
- Local authorities to impose a further six-month moratorium on making any new additional and/or selective licensing schemes designations. To also review whether scheme designations made, but not yet in force, should be withdrawn or the implementation date paused (*2).
- Extension of the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 to existing tenancies should be delayed by six months, until 1 October 2021.
Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive, safeagent, explains:
“Now is not the right time to implement any new licensing schemes or electrical safety regulations. Not only do they add pressure to much needed resource, they necessitate thousands of extra property inspections, which create too much risk of transmission, even with precautions. We believe there should be a blanket delay of both across England. This needs to happen response to the latest stage of the outbreak. If the date for evictions can be delayed, surely the implementation date for electrical checks can also be put back?.”
Richard Tacagni, Managing Director, London Property Licensing, added:
“We are facing the biggest public health crisis of my lifetime. As a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner, our number one priority should be to stop community spread of the virus, avoid our hospitals being overwhelmed and save lives.
“This calls for tough action. Now is not the time for electricians to inspect electrical installations in every private rented home in England, yet it is a legal requirement for landlords to do so by 1 April. Even with the best safety measures, electricians must enter every room, touch sockets, switches and other electrical fittings before moving onto the next occupied property.
‘Likewise, pausing new licensing schemes will avoid people having to enter private rented properties to prepare floorplans, measure room sizes and collect the information needed to apply. Undertaking these inspections will place tenants at increased risk of infection.
“Together, we must all help to control this virus, avoid all unnecessary contact and focus resources where they are needed most – protecting public health.”
*1 Under the Housing Act 2004: Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Selective Licensing of other Residential Accommodation (England) General Approval 2015, local authorities need permission from the Secretary of State to implement larger selective licensing schemes covering over 20% of the borough and/or 20% of privately rented homes in the borough.
*2 A licensing designation must be made at least three months before a new scheme starts.