Why is an electrical Inspection so important for Cardiff homebuyers?
There are a lot of houses in Cardiff with old wiring, DIY bodges, and, to be completely blunt with you: downright dangerous. Anyone can install a new light, socket, or power supply to the garage. However, an electrical item that works isn’t necessarily safe.
Don’t risk buying a property in Cardiff without getting the electrics checked. If you do, it’s going to be a gamble if it comes back to haunt you. Imagine being told it’s best to move out to rewire not long after moving in! And you are right if you think the sellers, their agents, or lender (unless willing to lend you more) will help you now.
I see many first-time buyers so happy to get their foot on the property ladder they don’t stop to think about the electrical installation in their home. And why would they? There was nothing glaringly obvious when they viewed the house, and the seller didn’t mention anything (did you mention the time your car broke down when you sold it?). A typical valuation survey will not check things like the fuse board, circuit protection, wiring, or accessories.
Sometimes there isn’t anything unsafe found, although the buyer is not made aware additional work is necessary if they want to alter the installation (add more sockets, for example).
Often the installation needs to be brought up to date before the work (like more sockets or an EV charge point) is completed. That work can be costly and disruptive. Unless you are buying a new build, it’s wise to have a thorough eicr to provide you with a complete picture of the installation.
What is checked on an electrical report?
An eicr should tell the person requesting it if the electrical installation (the wiring, circuit protection, and accessories) is safe for continued use and compare it with the latest electrical safety standards. An eicr (sometimes called a periodic Inspection) comprises a visual inspection and a series of tests. The idea is to get an overall picture of the Electrical Installation. A typical process would include:
- Check the earthing and bonding are in working order and up to date.
- Check the polarity is correct.
- Identify the circuits and check the wiring and overload protection are correct.
- Check the circuit protection would disconnect in the necessary timeframe to reduce the risk of electrocution and fire.
- Check the wiring hasn’t gone past its serviceable life (cable insulation breaks down over time).
- Check accessories like light fittings, switches and socket outlets are functional and safe for use.
How long should a domestic electrical testing report take?
The amount of time an eicr will take depends on many things, including:
- The number of circuits and consumer units to be tested. A three-bedroom house may have ten circuits, although a two-bedroom apartment might have sixteen because of electric heating.
- If there is any certification for the installation. This can save time because someone has already identified the circuits and the number of accessories connected to them. It’s also useful because the test readings can be compared with the last inspection to see if things have deteriorated.
- The size of the property. A small house is quicker to walk around than a 3 storey office block with no lifts.
- If dangerous items are found the inspector will do their best to make items safe which can add time to the job.
What are the limitations?
An electrical safety report (eicr) cannot cover every aspect of an electrical installation. For example, cables are buried inside walls and run under floors. The inspector can check the start of the circuit inside the fuse board and parts of it along the way at its accessories – like socket outlets, light fittings and switches. Some of the common limitations I have experienced include:
- Restricted access. An inspector can only comment, visually inspect and test what they can get to on the day. It’s common for some socket outlets to be blocked by furniture or beds. I carried out an EICR recently where the seller was waiting to move out and had most of their belongings boxed floor to ceiling in the kitchen. I was unable to check anything in their kitchen (where most of the electrical circuits are) due to this.
- Tread with caution. The electrician carrying out the inspection will not want to risk causing damage to anything. I had an inspection close to Cardiff’s City Centre where someone had made a lovely cabinet over the fuse board but hadn’t allowed any room for the cover to be removed. I was unable to remove the cover and carry out the series of tests that should be done.
- Time. When you take your car for an MOT, you either wait in the seating area or go to work and wait for a call when it’s ready for collection. With a house purchase, it’s not uncommon for the seller to give the electrician an amount of time before they need to leave (and the electrician needs to leave at the same time!), or the agent is only available for a certain period for access.
- If I was being completely honest with you, it’s not usually a welcoming feeling for the person carrying out the eicr. Sellers and their agents know it’s unlikely to go in their favour. Even when there is nothing wrong, it’s not nice having someone come into your home knowing whatever they say could mean the buyer might want to haggle over the asking price, or even walk away.
Do I definitely need one?
Unless you are buying a brand new home with the certification, then I would say, yes you should.
However, before you hire someone to carry out an EICR for you: ask the seller about the electrics in their home.
The best result for any buyer would be that the house has been recently rewired and they have the certification to prove it. Certification is important. It proves the rewire has been carried out professionally and not DIY.
The seller may have already had an EICR carried out. If so, they might be able to send it to you (some are done in pdf format) and you could forward to me for review for no charge, whatsoever.
With all that being said, some lenders insist on an EICR around the time contracts are due to be signed making it a condition of lending.
Who can carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report?
An EICR is usually carried out by an electrician familiar with the installation methods for the building to be tested and up to date with the wiring regulations (BS7671). The wiring regulations change over time to help reduce electrical-related injury so what might have been up to date ten years ago might not apply today. Some lenders state they want a report from an electrician belonging to a specific scheme – such as NICEIC, Elecsa, NAPIT, Stroma etc so check this before hiring someone, should their report not be accepted by the lender or the solicitor dealing with the house purchase.
How much does it cost?
Eicr cost will vary from one electrician to another. My fee for an EICR will depend on …
- The location.
- The number of consumer units and circuits to be tested.
- If the premises is domestic or commercial.
- If there is existing paperwork. Previous reports or installation certificates will help reduce time by confirming what has been done/tested.
- If you want my layman’s report or video.