Written by Paul McGee, Rural Chartered Surveyor
Most landlords of properties let on residential tenancies will be aware there is a requirement to ensure the electrical installation in the property is safe.
However, the requirements for houses and farm buildings included in agricultural tenancies – and who is responsible for meeting those requirements – are less well understood and there have been recent changes.
Agricultural Holdings Act Tenancies
For Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) tenancies – tenancies granted before 1 September 1995 – written agreements rarely mention which party is responsible for the maintenance and repair of electrical installations. If this is the case, or if there is no written tenancy agreement, responsibility will be in accordance with the “Model Clauses”.
The Model Clauses are the statutory regulations which set out the obligations of the landlord and tenant in respect of the repair and maintenance of fixed equipment, which includes electrical installations for AHA tenancies. The 1973 regulations were replaced by new Model Clauses in 2015.
The new regulations clarify and modernise the obligations of the parties and generally place more responsibility on the landlord with regard to electrical installations. Where responsibility is in accordance with the Model Clauses, the landlord is responsible for the electrical supply system including consumer boards but excluding sockets, switches and light fittings which are the responsibility of the tenant. The landlord is also responsible for regular inspections of the electrical supply system, maintenance and servicing.
Some tenancy agreements may state the landlord is responsible for the maintenance, repair (and renewal, as necessary) of the main walls and roofs of the buildings. Unfortunately for landlords, this may not mean that they have no responsibility for the electrical installations because the Model Clauses come into play unless an item is specifically referred to as being the responsibility of one of the parties. The situation may be different, however, if the tenancy agreement states the landlord is only responsible for the main walls and roofs with the tenant being responsible for everything else.
Regular inspections of the electrical installation are never mentioned in tenancy agreements and so will usually be the responsibility of the landlord, even if any remedial work arising from the inspection may be shared between the parties.
Farm Business Tenancies
Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) – tenancies agreed after 1 September 1995 – usually set out more clearly which party is responsible for the electrical installation. In common with AHA tenancies, regular inspections are rarely mentioned and so will be the responsibility of the landlord.
Tenant’s improvements and fixtures
Landlords will usually not be responsible for electrical installations in buildings put up by the tenant, irrespective of whether the tenant obtained the landlord’s written consent for the buildings or not. With many AHA tenancies dating back to the 1960s or earlier, it may not be clear which of the buildings belong to the landlord and which belong to the tenant. A review of the tenancy documentation should clarify this. If not, the landlord and tenant can seek to agree which of the buildings are the landlords and which are the tenants.
Landlords may wish to review whether they have any obligations in relation to the electrical installations on the farm and whether they are meeting those obligations.
Landlords will usually, at the very least, be responsible for undertaking inspections of the electrical installations. An inspection by an electrician will reveal whether remedial work is required to make the installation safe. The work can then be allocated to the landlord or the tenant in accordance with the tenancy agreement or the Model Clauses. Usually it will make sense for the parties to jointly instruct an electrician and share the cost.
Landlords of more than one holding may wish to prioritise those where there are known to be issues with the electrical installation.
For more information contact Paul McGee at our Northallerton Office. Call 01609 781 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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