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Published On: April 5, 2020 | Blog | 0 comments

Government Guidance for Landlords in Conducting Gas and Electrical Safety Checks in Private Residential Properties

Due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak, landlords may face difficulties in complying with their obligations to attend the property to carry out gas and electrical inspections and conduct other repairs in the property. This may be due to the tenant self- isolating in the property or the risk that the virus might be transmitted from person-to-person.

Landlords have a continuing obligation to carry out gas safety and electrical inspections in a property which they let. These obligations are set out in the  Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 which are due to come in force on 1 July 2020.

Gas and Electrical Safety Checks

The Government has recently issued the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Guidance for landlords and tenants which aims to clarify landlords’ obligation in maintaining their properties and complying with their legal obligations to complete gas safety checks and, after the relevant regulations come into effect, electrical installation inspections.

The regulations are clear in that landlords are required to conduct safety checks and failure to do so is a criminal offence which can lead to prosecution or a financial penalty.

The current outbreak will make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for landlords to carry out these routine checks. The Government’s guidance states that a landlord should take ‘every reasonable step’ to complete the safety checks. That is good advice, but also potentially misleading since taking ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure the checks are completed is not a defence in the regulations. A landlord would have to try to persuade a prosecutor not to take enforcement action on the basis that it is not in the public interest to do so, but they might not, strictly speaking. have a defence.

What should a landlord do?

The Government does recognise that a tenant can restrict a landlord from entering the property, and where they are self-isolating this will be justified. Therefore, where a landlord is not able to comply with their duties to carry out the safety checks, then the guidance states that a landlord would not be in  breach if they are able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with their duties.

This means that when an electrical and gas safety check falls due, a landlord should not assume that a tenant will restrict access to the property and so, they must continue to try to perform the usual checks. The Health and Safety Executive has recommended that landlords try to arrange annual gas safety checks as early as possible, to protect against the risk that tenants are in self-isolation for a period of 14 days, or gas engineers being unavailable due to illness when the inspections fall due.

Where a tenant is self-isolating in the property, a landlord should wait until the self-isolation is period is over to complete the necessary safety checks. Keeping written record of communication with the tenant is vital as this could be used as evidence in the event a local authority later seeks to take enforcement action for a failure to complete the safety checks.

*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.* 

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