I have just spent the last few days fixing all the faults in a house that my clients have just purchased. During the sale negotiation the estate agent gave my clients an Electrical Installation Condition Report from last September that said everything in the house was fine. Only one item was mentioned on the report, the fact that the consumer unit (fuse box) was made of plastic and that was classed as requiring improvement, known in the trade as a C3.
Personally I did believe it needed improvement but not because it was plastic (which is not a problem in itself as long as the consumer unit is not under a wooden staircase or in a main exit route) but because it did not have lifesaving RCD protection on some of the circuits, a fact that the report in question neglected to mention.
In Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICR's) each observation relating to a concern about the safety of the installation should be attributed an appropriate Classification Code selected from the standard codes C1, C2 and C3.
Each code has a particular meaning:
Code C1 ‘Danger present’. Risk of injury. Immediate remedial action required.
Code C2 ‘Potentially dangerous’. Urgent remedial action required
Code C3 ‘Improvement recommended’.
It was a good thing that my clients got a second opinion from me when they moved into their new house.
None of the kitchen down lighters were connected properly, earths not connected together (so the whole circuit had no earth) and no junction boxes, just connector blocks stuffed in to the ceiling.
The socket ring circuit in the kitchen was not a complete ring (which is a fire risk) with wires loose in the back of nearly every accessory that I inspected (as soon as I saw this I inspected them all).
In the lounge and dining room there were light fittings with loose connections in the ceiling roses which were themselves not screwed to the ceilings properly.
All these faults plus a host of other faults too numerous to mention had most likely been in this state for some years and should have been discovered last September when the EICR had been conducted.
The worst fault however was an electric shower where the cable feeding it was too small so could have melted and caused a fire and the main switch for the shower and a 230 volt extractor fan were fitted inside the shower cubical where they would have been sprayed with water and could have delivered a fatal electric shock to the shower user.
You do not even need test equipment to know that is not safe, just a quick look in the shower room should have been enough for any competent person to know it was not safe.
All this was signed off as a satisfactory installation last September.
The lesson to take from this story is not to believe any report given to you that you did not order, get your own one done and make sure the test is a thorough one and not just a quick look.
Be concerned by an EICR that is done too fast or too cheep. To do a test properly on an average 3 bed house should take most of the day. I certainly don’t book any other jobs in for that day when I do one so I know I will have enough time to do it right.