Leeds & Yorkshire Housing Association (LYHA) has recently been downgraded by the Regulator of Social Housing from a governance rating of G1 to G2, following the discovery of a failure to evidence checks on health and safety matters in properties- primarily electricity safety testing.
LYHA made the regulator aware of these issues and have subsequently taken steps to improve its performance in reporting and monitoring key risks throughout the organisation to ensure the safety of its tenants.
The LYHA governance downgrade, from G1 to G2, as explained below, was predominantly because of the discovery that a number of its domestic properties did not have a valid Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) dated within the past 10 years and thus the Board did not have assurance that tenants were safe.
G1: The provider meets our governance requirements.
G2: The provider meets our governance requirements but needs to improve some aspects of its governance arrangements to support continued compliance.
The LYHA governance downgrade has re-engaged the debate within the sector about how the lack of enforcement of periodic electrical testing could result in tenants being put at risk of harm. The downgrading brings about the question of whether there needs to be stricter laws regarding the requirement to undertake electrical installation condition reports (EICRs) and the frequency these are undertaken or whether the non-enforced current guidelines are sufficient to minimise risk to tenants.
Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICRs)
Every electrical installation will degrade over time due to age and usage, and therefore it is essential that properties should be inspected and tested at regular intervals to check that they are in satisfactory condition for usage. Once any potential problems have been identified and resolved, an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) will be issued to ensure electrical appliances are safe to use.
Some organisations argue that legislation does not specify time periods in which EICRs have to be conducted and rather states that they should be conducted “from time to time where required having regard to the nature, location and use of the installation.” Stated in Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Regulations,2007.
However an increasing majority of sector leaders, technical experts, and consultants, including Pennington Choices, recommend a periodic testing regime that follows the guidelines set out by Electrical Safety First, ELECSA and NICEIC. This is to ensure tenant safety, and actively promote the best practice recommendations made by these trade bodies. They advocate for 5-year re-inspection cycles or earlier if recommended by the competent person. We believe that despite EICR frequencies not being enshrined within statute law, that they are completely necessary to ensure full health and safety compliance and, importantly provide assurance to Board that tenants are safe.
The EICR Debate
Some registered providers still question whether Landlords have an actual responsibility to undertake an EICR whilst a tenant is in a property because currently there is no enforcement process that makes this a legal requirement. Pennington Choices stands by the views of organisations such as Electrical Safety First that state that Landlords should complete periodic testing within a maximum of a 5-year period (see Landlords Guide to Electrical Safety England and Wales). This ensures that electrical installation is in a safe and serviceable condition and that the safety of tenants is prioritised and attained. Despite uncertainty existing within the sector regarding the legal requirements for electrical testing the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 outlines that electrical installations in rented properties must be:
- Safe when a tenancy begins, Section 8 (1a)
- Maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy, Section 11 (1b)
Additionally, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is another relevant framework that must be followed, since homes are also workplaces for operatives. Therefore, “promoting and developing measures to ensure the health and safety of employees”, as outlined in the act, can be achieved through the provision of regular electrical installations to ensure that they meet the standard.
As a result of these duties, our recommendations for electricity testing ensure that electricity installations are periodically inspected and tested with intervals of no longer than 5 years to ensure health and safety compliance and that all of the duties of Landlords are attained.
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