An electrical safety check is a survey of the state of a property’s electrics, including its fuses, wiring, sockets, and switches. You don’t need to do an electrical check, but buyers often get one done before moving in. It can flag up any potentially costly problems before you sign the contracts.
An electrical safety check isn’t typically included in your standard home buyers survey, the general check most buyers do before buying a property.
But, just like a home survey, you would do an electrical inspection after your offer has been accepted and before you exchange contracts to finalise the deal. This gives you space to back out or renegotiate if the inspection reveals something serious.
If you’re buying to let, you’ll have to get an electrical installation condition report (EICR) done before any tenants move in. That doesn’t have to be when you buy the house, but it can be a convenient time to do it.
Here’s all you need to know about doing an electrical safety check when buying a house.
What does a house electrical safety check involve?
An electrical safety check involves a thorough inspection of the electrical system in a property. During the check, an electrician or trained engineer will make sure all of the electrics are safe and working properly.
At the end of the survey, they’ll give you an electrical installation condition report (EICR) summarising everything you need to know. This will tell you whether everything works as it should or if some maintenance is needed.
During the electrical inspection, the electrician will check some of the following:
- The fuse box. They’ll want to make sure it has a circuit breaker or residual current device (RCD), for example, that trips the circuit (cuts the power) if something goes wrong.
- The wiring. If it’s old, worn out, or exposed, it might need to be replaced.
- Any damage to plugs and sockets.
- The condition of light fittings.
- Any installed electrical devices, like electric showers or extractor fans.
Simply, an electrical safety check ensures your electric system is safe and in good condition. But it’s not just for your safety. If problems with your electrics occur in the future – such as dips in power or frequent tripping – they can cost a lot of money to fix.
Do I need to do an electrical safety check when buying a house?
Technically, you don’t need to do an electrical safety check when buying a home if you plan on living in it yourself. With your offer accepted, you may be tempted to save the hassle and just go ahead and move in.
But there are good reasons to think twice:
- Some lenders might ask you to do an official survey of the property’s electrical work before they give you a mortgage.
- Your home surveyor may recommend you do an electrical check on top of the general home buyers survey (especially if the property is an older one).
- If you’re buying to let, you’ll need to have an EICR done before accepting any tenants. More on that in a moment.
If you’re buying a new build, this should come with an electrical installation certificate (EIC). That should be done every time an electrician installs a new electrical system. If you have an EIC, you won’t need an EICR.
A note on electrical safety checks when buying to let
Landlords need to do an EICR before they accept tenants. This has been a legal requirement across the UK since June 2020 to make sure rental properties are safe for tenants.
You don’t need to do this when buying the house, though, it has to happen before renting it out. That said, it can be a good idea to get it done pre-purchase, when you may be doing other checks, too.
As a landlord, whenever you’re renting your property, you’ll need to:
- Provide tenants with an electrical safety report when they move in.
- Update the EICR every five years or whenever you have a new tenant (whichever comes first).
- Give a copy of the EICR to your local authority if they request it.
Should I get an electrical safety check when buying a house? The benefits:
Unless you’re buying a place to rent out, you don’t need to do an electrical safety check. But there are some reasons why it might be a good idea:
- Save cash down the line. According to the charity Electrical Safety First, the average cost of an electrical problem after you’ve moved in is £1,704. An electrical check can flag any issues before they become a serious problem.
- You could renegotiate the house price. If the inspection reveals something serious, you can use the official EICR to renegotiate the price with the seller.
- Make lenders happy. Sometimes mortgage lenders ask that you do an electrical safety check before they offer you a mortgage.
- Satisfy insurers. Similarly, insurers may only cover your property if you’ve checked your electrics. Getting it done now can save you the hassle later on.
- Get peace of mind. You know you’ll have everything sorted and safe before you settle down.
- You have a better sense of what you’re buying. It can be good to get a full picture of the state of a property before you commit. If the worst comes to the worst, you can back out before it’s too late.
Ultimately, though, it’s up to you. If you do decide to get one done, here’s what you need to know:
What to know about getting an electrical safety check
If you want to do any electrical checks before buying a house, you’ll typically do it at the same time as your home survey. That’s after you’ve made an offer but before you’ve exchanged contracts. That means it’s one of the last things you’ll do in the whole home buying adventure.
Here’s how to get one done:
- Find an electrician. An electrical safety check needs to be done by a registered electrician. They should be qualified, competent, and trustworthy.
- How much does an electrical safety check cost? Usually between £100 and £200, depending on your area and the size of the property.
If you have a regular electrician, then great. If not, it can be a good idea to shop around before you commit.
- Arrange the survey. Between house surveys, drainage surveys, and all the rest, it can feel like there’s a lot to do when buying a new home. But you can arrange an electrical safety check for when any other surveys are taking place too, so it all just happens together.
- How long does an electrical safety check take? It depends on the size of the property, but can take anywhere from a few hours to a day.
- Get your EICR. Your report will tell you all you need to know.
If the electrics are all in good condition, then awesome. If some work is needed, the EICR will tell you. The size and cost of the job will help you to decide what to do next. You could decide to cover the cost yourself, renegotiate the price of the property, or walk away from the sale altogether. There’s no right decision here.
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When buying a house, there can be a lot of little things to think about – and it can be tricky to keep on top of them all.
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