Most home buyers exposed to increased fire risk due to inadequate electrical checks before purchasing

21 March 2016

Lack of understanding of property surveys, combined with rush to purchase homes is leaving home buyers vulnerable, says Electrical Safety First

Electrical Safety First, the UK’s leading safety charity, is drawing attention to how few home buyers are properly checking the electrics in their new home before they make the purchase. Two thirds of the homes bought in the last year have not been checked, leaving the new owners at risk of significant bills and even electric shock or fire. The charity believes confusion over what different surveys cover, and a hurry to exchange, is leaving buyers vulnerable. 

There were 2,451,050 residential sales in the last two years[i]. Figures released by Electrical Safety First indicate that only 37%, were checked with an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). This report is the only way to be certain that the electrics in a property are safe. Contrary to what many may think, this is not included as part of a Homebuyers Survey or, typically, as part of a full building survey. 

As buyers rush to purchase homes in a buoyant market, the quality of the boiler, roof, damp and structure are top of people’s check-lists but the quality of the electrics is not being prioritised. Figures indicate that half the population[ii] is unaware there is a check that can help them make a fully informed decision on whether the quality of the electrics needs consideration before final prices are agreed and contracts exchanged. 

Phil Buckle, Director General of Electrical Safety First says:

“It’s easy to bypass checking the electrics when purchasing a property if you think it is included in the recommended home survey report –our research suggests this is the case for around 20% of people. 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.” 

Over a third[iii] of home buyers report finding issues with their electrics after they have moved in, with one in ten saying they experienced injury or fire[iv]. The cost of remedying electrical issues after moving in averages approximately £2000[v]; with some costs rising as high as £10,000.[vi]

Sean Quarmby knows all too well the importance of having an EICR conducted before purchasing a property. After he moved in, he found that his home was deemed to be at risk of fire due to aged wiring and he had to have the property fully rewired and redecorated. 

“I bought my first house last year and was thrilled to get onto the property ladder. However, my excitement was short-lived. A few months after moving in my fuse-box started sparking so once I had managed to switch it off I called an electrician over for some advice. I’ve now had to fork out almost £10k to cover the cost of the damage and to rewire the entire house. I can’t help thinking that all this could have been avoided if I had had an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) done before purchasing my home,” said Sean. 

Martin Roberts, Property Expert and Presenter, Homes Under the Hammer says:

“Buying a property can be stressful and overwhelming as there is so much to think about and checklists to complete. It’s easy to get excited by the look and feel of the property but what goes on under the surface is also incredibly important. Electricity is something we use every day and it should be a priority to check it’s safe before anyone moves in. It’s quick, easy and unless any issue is found, shouldn’t delay you being able to move into your dream purchase”

In addition to deaths and fires, 350,000 people are seriously injured as a result of electricity each year. Electrical Safety First are urging home buyers to visit their website to find out how to ensure your new home is thoroughly checked out.

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[i] Number of residential property transaction completions in the UK with value £40,000 or above between 2014-2015:

[ii] 44% of people were unaware of the check they needed for their property

[iii] 36% of homeowners discovered electrical problems they were not aware of before buying their property

[iv] 12% of homeowners experienced severe injury,  fire or electrical problems in the home due to faulty or old electrics

[v] The average cost homeowners spent on fixing electric problem/s was £1,704

[vi] 2% of homeowners estimated paying up to £10,000 due electric problem/s