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Two-thirds of buyers fail to check electrics before purchasing a property

Many homebuyers mistakenly think a home survey will check for electrical safety. Faulty and old wiring can leave them at risk of high repair bills, electric shock or fire.

Two-thirds of buyers fail to have the homes they want to purchase inspected for electrical safety, a charity has warned. Electrical Safety First is urging buyers to get an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR).

The charity found only 37 per cent of buyers had the property checked by a registered electrician before prices were agreed and contracts exchanged. One in five mistakenly believed the electrical safety checks were included in their home survey report and just under half were unaware that checks were needed at all.

Two-thirds of buyers fail to check electrics before purchasing a property
Two-thirds of buyers fail to check electrics before purchasing a property

Over a third of home buyers then went on to discover electrical problems that they were not aware of before buying – something that could easily have been avoided by getting a registered electrician to inspect the electrics and issue an EICR.

The average cost to fix an electrical problem identified after moving into a property is about £1,704 but a full rewire can be a lot higher.

By comparison, an electrical installation condition report will cost between £100 and £250 for an average two or three-bedroom home, depending on where you live. If anything needs to be fixed, it can help you negotiate the purchase price and save you money in the long term.

Phil Buckle, director general of Electrical Safety First, said: “It’s easy to bypass checking electrics when purchasing a property if you think it’s included in the recommended survey report. However not conducting an EICR significantly increases the risk of additional expense and electric shock or fire to the buyer and their family. We’re encouraging people to use a registered electrician to do a quick and relatively inexpensive check to ensure they know exactly what they’re getting into with the property purchase.”

The poll of more than 2,000 homeowners who purchased a property in 2014-15 also found that electrical safety only came sixth in the top 10 considerations when purchasing a property after neighbourhood, structural work needed, boiler age, risk of subsidence and damp.

In the UK, there is no legal requirement to get an electrical report when buying a home but since 2015 landlords in Scotland have been under a legal obligation to ensure the electrics in their rental properties are safe by providing regular reports or they may face fines. These rules are set to be extended to England. In July 2018, Government backed introducing legally required five-yearly electrical installation safety checks for all privately-rented properties in England. However, it has not provided a starting date.

What is an Electrical Installation Condition Report?

Faulty and old wiring is one of the major causes of house fires in the UK.

An Electrical Installation Condition Report involves the inspection of the state of the wiring, cables, consumer unit (also known as fuse box), power sources, switches and sockets. It will include an overall assessment of its safety and suggest changes to correct problems that may give rise to danger.

The report should record the results of the testing and identify any damage, deterioration or defective electrical work that could be a potential fire hazard or cause electric shocks.  The electrician will check if any electrical circuits are overloaded and lack of earthing or bonding.

Fixed electrical wiring that no longer meets the latest safety standards is not necessarily unsafe or in need of upgrading. However, if dangerous conditions are found, the overall assessment of the electrical installation will be judged ‘unsatisfactory’ until it’s fixed.

Inspection and testing of moveable objects, such as kettles, toasters and microwaves, is not included in these reports. These are covered by separate Portable Appliance Tests (PAT Testing) reports.

Electrical inspections should only be carried by registered electricians. Check if your electrician is registered with a government approved scheme, such as NICEIC, ELECSA, NAPIT, BSI, Benchmark Certificated & Stroma Certificated. Make sure the inspection and testing is in accordance with BS 7671

Electrical Safety First has a free Home Electrical Safety Checks app that allows anyone to do a quick, visual check to ensure their home is electrically safe. It highlights potential dangers in each room and explains how to sort out simple, non-technical problems. People are advised to use a registered electrician to deal with more serious issues flagged.