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Guide to electrical safety checks

Switch On Fuse Box

Nearly all homes in the UK are powered by mains electricity, providing us with everything from light and heat to the ability to cook food, do laundry, and power the devices and appliances that entertain us or help us to earn a living. Electrical installations in our homes are probably not something that we usually think about unless something goes wrong, but electricity has become integral to our daily lives, and we’re used to just flicking a switch to have the power that we need.

Along with all of the positives and convenience that electricity at home brings us, it shouldn’t be ignored that problems with electrics can be extremely dangerous. Research shows that more than 20,000 accidental fires in UK homes each year are started by electrical products in the property, and electrical safety is important for everyone to think about, whether you own your home or rent.

This guide looks at residential electrical safety checks and the various responsibilities that landlords or housing providers, renters and homeowners have in relation to the electrics in their property. 

Jump to:
What is a home electrical safety check?
What does an electrical safety check involve in the UK?
Does an electrical safety check include testing all electrical appliances and devices in the home?
Who can carry out electrical safety checks?
Who is responsible for arranging electrical safety checks?
Are renters responsible for electrical safety in their home?
What to do if electrical safety checks show that there is a problem

What is a home electrical safety check?

An electrical safety check on a home in the UK is officially known as an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) and involves a series of tests and checks that a qualified professional will carry out to determine whether a property’s electrical installation meets the necessary safety standards. 

There can be a number of different reasons why electrical safety checks might be carried out. These can include:

  • As part of landlord/housing provider’s regular duties to their tenants
  • To give peace of mind to the household
  • If there is a suspected problem with the electrics or concerns over electrical safety in the property
  • If a homebuyer wants to check electrical safety before purchasing a property
  • If the electrical installation in the property is old.

The aim of an electrical safety check in a home is to identify any potential hazards or dangers at an early stage, which could potentially deteriorate further and increase the risk of fire or electric shocks if not resolved. 

Once the tests have been completed, an EICR is issued, which will indicate whether individual areas of the electrical installation are ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’ and whether it meets the current British standards for electrical safety. The EICR will list any faults found and include information about the level of risk that these present i.e. whether an issue needs to be fixed immediately or urgently, if improvements are needed or if further investigation is required to find out more about the problem.

EICRs are valid for five years from the date of issue.

What does an electrical safety check involve in the UK?

An electrical safety check in UK homes will involve running some tests on fixed electrical installations in the property. This would usually include:

  • General wiring
  • Fuse boxes (also known as consumer units)
  • Plug sockets
  • Light fittings and switches (doesn’t usually include lamps)
  • Extractor fans (if fitted)
  • Electric showers (if fitted).

These checks are looking for any safety concerns, including any hidden hazards.  This can look slightly different, depending on the age and type of the installation involved, but might include:

  • Checking the polarity on each outlet
  • Checking for any wires with a bad connection
  • Checking that wires are properly insulated

Some of the tests that need to be done require the electricity to be turned off temporarily, and some are ‘live tests’ that need the system to be running as normal to be carried out. 

The amount of time that it takes for electrical safety checks to be done will depend on the size of the property, along with the complexity and age of the installation being tested. It will usually take somewhere between two to four hours to complete all of the necessary checks. 

Does an electrical safety check include testing all electrical appliances and devices in the home?

Any electrical appliances or devices that are considered to be portable/moveable will not usually be checked for safety as standard during regular electrical safety checks in a home. This can include everything from a TV or broadband router to fridge freezers, washing machines, laptops or kettles.

To check that these are safe is known as portable appliance testing (PAT), which is separate from the process of testing a home installation to issue an EICR. While there is no legal requirement for PAT testing in appliances at home, landlords and housing providers will usually ensure that any appliances that they provide are tested for safety. Appliances and electrical devices that are owned or provided by tenants are not usually checked as part of these tests. 

Plug Labelled With Electrical Safety Check Information

Who can carry out electrical safety checks?

Under law, EICRs can only be carried out by those who are ‘qualified and competent’, which essentially means that they should be a qualified residential electrician with experience of carrying out these types of checks and reports. This ensures that they know exactly what they are looking for, the specific checks and tests that need to be done and the information required for the report itself. 

Who is responsible for arranging electrical safety checks? 

If you rent your home, your landlord or housing provider is responsible for arranging electrical safety checks to be done and a new EICR to be issued at least every five years. The landlord is also responsible for making any repairs or improvements noted in the most recent EICR. 
If you are a homeowner, you don’t have to have a valid EICR by law. However, many households like the peace of mind it brings, so homeowners can arrange for an electrician to visit the property and carry out the electrical safety checks. 

If you are considering buying a property that isn’t a new-build home, many homebuyers also choose to instruct for an EICR to be done so that any issues with the electrics are known about before they purchase it. 

Are renters responsible for electrical safety in their home?

While landlords are responsible for arranging for EICRs to be done at least every five years, those that live in the property have their own responsibilities when it comes to electrical safety and helping to minimise the risk of fire or electric shocks. 

Find out more about this in our article on 10 electrical safety tips at home. It’s also essential for renters to report any issues or concerns with electricals in the home to their landlord as soon as possible. 

If you’re a Places for People customer, you can report a repair here.

If your power goes off at home, you might find it useful to read our guide on how to deal with complete electrical failure

What to do if electrical safety checks show that there is a problem

If you rent your home and the electrical safety checks show that there is a problem, it’s your landlord or housing provider’s responsibility to ensure that the necessary work is done to bring the property up to the required safety standard. Your landlord will receive a copy of the EICR once it is issued, so they will know if any work is needed. 

If you’re a homeowner, you can see on the EICR if any faults have been found. The EICR fault codes and what they mean are:

  • FI – Further investigation is needed urgently to determine the severity of an issue found during the checks.
  • C1 – There is danger present that presents a risk of injury, so immediate action is needed to make things safe.
  • C2 – There is an issue that could become a hazard in the future, so urgent action is needed.
  • C3 – There is no immediate danger, but improvements to the electrical installation are recommended to enhance the safety of the home.

If you are responsible for any repairs necessary, ensure that you use a reputable and qualified electrician to carry out the work needed. 

Fixing Plug Socket To Wall