This is a question which a Landlord Law member asked me on our member’s forum recently. I thought I would share my answer with you and get your comments.
Obviously, these inspections are a legal requirement and will need to be done.
For example, electrical safety regulations will need to be obtained for all tenancies by 1 April 2021 (they are already a requirement for new tenancies as from 1 July 2020). Gas inspections need to be carried out every 12 months.
However, at the time of writing (January 2021), we are in lockdown. We are all told to stay at home so as to reduce the risk of infection – something that is very necessary as the hospitals are on the point of being overwhelmed.
My Landlord Law member (who is also an electrician) posting on the forum told me that he was over 60 and was concerned that he would be at risk by doing tests as would the tenants. He told me
Carrying out an EICR is extremely intrusive. It requires the “tester” to disconnect every circuit in the “Fusebox” and test/inspect EVERY electrical fitting in the building. This means going into every room – behind / over / under every bed (in many cases), behind furniture in fact – everywhere.
Even if the Tenants and children are “at work”, “at school” (unlikely at present!), there is high risk of “Contamination” both “to” and “from” the Electrician.
A proper inspection takes 2-3 hours – more if a difficult fault is found as we have to try to identify the extent of the problem.
Speak to your tenants
My advice to him, as a landlord, was to speak to the tenants about it and see what they thought.
If the tenants ask you not to carry out the inspection (whether it is EICR or a gas inspection) you cannot go in and will have a defence to any prosecution. It would be entirely reasonable for tenants to object at this time – landlords could even have a pro forma letter for tenants to use.
So far as gas safety inspections are concerned, if you have three attempts to carry out the inspection but are refused access by tenants you will have a defence to any prosecution. I suspect the same will probably apply to EICR inspections.
Consider the options and keep a record of your decision
However, it may not be necessary to go this far.
For example, if you keep a property diary as I suggested here, it may be sufficient just to record that you have considered the situation, and taking into account the extreme transmissibility of the virus and the current government advice to stay at home, you do not consider an inspection to be appropriate at this time.
I would hope that any court, in the unlikely event that a prosecution was brought, would accept that the landlord was acting reasonably.
Particularly as in a few months time, not only will (hopefully) the crisis will have eased somewhat due to the vaccines, it will also be less problematic keeping all the windows open.
Keeping all the doors and windows open to improve ventilation is one of the best ways to prevent infection but obviously, during the cold of winter, this is not something that tenants will want! Very cold hands are also probably not conducive to carrying out a delicate inspection.
However, if you and the tenants come to the decision that you must delay the inspection, it is essential that you keep proper records of your decision and the reasons why. And you will need to review the situation regularly and ensure that the inspections are done as soon as you can.
If you do carry out the inspection
You should follow the government guidance on working on people’s homes which is here.
Extending the deadline?
My man on the forum also suggested that the test date deadline should be extended. This sounds like a good idea to me – if you agree the best thing to do is write to your MP, tell them about the problems and ask them to agitate for an extension of time.
But what do you think?