With a widely reported industry-wide backlog of Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICRS) making the April 2021 deadline look challenging, we wanted to provide an update as to how we’re moving forward.
First of all, how did we get here?
What are EICRs and why are they important?
An EICR is essentially an MOT for the wiring circuits in your property, and for some time the government have been wanting to make these checks mandatory.
Their reasoning for this is that nearly half of all UK accidental house fires are caused by faulty wiring, with 70 people a year killed and over 330,000 people injured due to electrical faults. If we assume that 20% of those are rental properties, that’s 66,000 injuries every single year.
As a result, we’ve always thought mandatory EICRs are a sensible idea, but change was slow until January 2020 when the government officially announced plans.
Government plans dictated that all new tenancies from July 2020 needed a valid EICR, and all existing tenancies need one by April 2021 – and this is the part of the legislation that’s presented the challenge.
Despite our landlords generally being keen to do the right thing, we still had 82% of our properties without a valid EICR. If we apply that proportion to rental properties nationally, that means that potentially there were 3.5 million homes all needing an EICR within a 15-month timeframe.
Why the haste?
We believe this undue haste to get mandatory EICRs implemented was driven by the issues surrounding Grenfell – no Government could realistically delay a fire safety measure in rented properties without coming under enormous pressure and scrutiny, and therefore, the race was on.
What did we do?
We got right to it after the announcement and calculated how many EICRs we would need to have carried out per month, and how many electricians we needed in order to carry them out. We recruited extra electricians, testing them on our properties and getting a commitment from them that they would deliver the number of EICRs we needed.
Despite being ahead of the game, we struggled to recruit new electricians with some having already started to increase their prices. We still believed we could hit the April 2021 deadline, even if it was a bit tight.
But then, COVID-19 happened, effectively losing over 20% of the available time.
What is the impact?
The main issue has been that turnaround times are slow, so landlords who agreed to have an EICR months ago are still waiting, or they’re waiting for the remedial works to be done. Our electricians are working through the lists in order of request, catching up on those properties they hadn’t been able to access due to COVID. Most are booked solidly until the end of January.
We’d expected to make a big dent in carrying out EICRs in the early part of this year, but were unable to due to Covid, and as all new tenancies needed an EICR from July 2020, any property we are remarketing needs to be bumped up the list, otherwise a new tenancy can’t start.
The number of properties needing remedial works is also higher than originally anticipated, those works are eating into the electricians’ availability, and all electricians are also reporting struggles in getting the key components needed for remedial works, especially consumer units (fuse boards).
Some landlords have asked us to delay works until closer to the deadline, but we’re unable to do that, as frankly we think there will be even less capacity in the market as we draw closer to the deadline and landlords risk not taking all reasonable steps to be legally compliant.
What are we doing about it?
- We’re trying to recruit extra electricians but they’re all in high demand, particularly now our competitors are also trying to get all of their properties checked before the deadline
- We’ve increased the capacity of our Property Management team by 30%, just to manage the EICRs – monitoring contractor progress, analysing the EICRs, checking the quotes, discussing issues with landlords and getting agreements to carry out the works.
- We’ve also made representations through our trade associations and other influencers to extend the April 2021 deadline by at least 6 months.
Frequently asked questions: EICR backlog edition
Why are there more remedial works?
If you think of an EICR like an MOT, you sometimes need work done to pass. Also like an MOT, if you don’t change things on your car and were only to MOT things every few years, there would be a bigger list of things to do. Electrical safety standards change every few years, so wiring that was safe 15 years ago, is no longer considered safe.
What do we do with the EICRs?
The EICR is several pages of detail. The important stuff is the list of items with C1, C2, or C3 ratings.
- C1 = danger now, fix now
- C2 = risk of injury, fix in 28 days – these are the ‘remedial works’
- C3 = OK, but may benefit from improvement
We check these before we send to our landlords and try to ensure there is a quote for all C2 items – C1 should have been completed. We cross check costs against similar works elsewhere, and the outline proves we originally agreed with contractors.
We then need to go through the details with our landlords. Understandably they want to know why they have a large quote and check we have checked things. They often need to think things through which takes some repeat conversations before we get approval.
Inevitably landlords want to cross check quotes with their own suppliers, where they have them. Another challenge we have found is many qualified contractors do not wish to do works after someone else has done the EICR, as they are effectively taking responsibility for the accuracy of the EICR.
What happens if there is no EICR in place?
The Legislation places an obligation on the Local Authority to enforce compliance, with increased visibility and reporting. They can fine a landlord up to £30k for non-compliance – obviously we assume that would be for a serious a deliberate non-compliance.
However, the process for evicting a tenant also requires all agreed documentation is in place including a How to Rent guide and EICRs. No EICR may mean you can’t get your property back.
Why can’t landlords get their own electrician to do the work?
About 9% of our landlords are doing that.
We are keen to reduce the pressure on the team and contractors, so we are delighted when they do – to a point!
Provided they use qualified contractors who properly handle access (i.e. they don’t expect us to run around for them) and they understand the timescales needed, we welcome it.
However, we have had some landlords ask to take this route and then coming back when they discover it is currently hard to get this work done cost effectively. Sadly, this also means they have then lost their slot with our contractor.
Phew, that was a lot! But if you’re a landlord and you have any concerns about EICRs, please do get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.