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Do I really need upgrading the electrical consumer unit?

Do I really need upgrading the electrical consumer unit?

As we all know the Government is committed to bring mandatory electrical safety checks into effect across the private rented sector. And thus the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 has not only been introduced to the Parliament but also started being implemented from July 1 last year. In cases of existing tenancies in England the law came into force since April 1, this year, 2021.

Why has the Government introduced this mandatory check? The reason is very simple. As per stats over 18000 cases of house fires are reported each year across England caused by electricity. Moreover Independent research says PRS properties come under the high risk bracket. In addition to that the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service fore warns that incidents of electrical fires in PRS homes are likely to increase by nearly 17% by the end of 2025.

Considering these grim picture it is obvious for the Government to take necessary measures before it is too late. The legislation is aimed to protect the lives and properties of millions of tenants in one hand, while on the other provides landlords with ample clarity to protect their real estate assets through regular upkeep of the electricity system.

According to the new legislation since July 1, 2020 all new private tenancies in England have to have their electrical installations inspected as well as tested by a qualified and technically sound professional before the commencing of a tenancy. As a follow through the landlord has to ensure the installation is inspected and tested at least once in every 5 years under normal circumstances. The frequency of the inspection and testing will be higher if the recent safety report so demands, add professionals dealing in installation of replacement consumer units.

Rules are also there for existing tenancies; a test for electrical safety is to be conducted by 1 April 2021. It is to be followed by regular tests as already mentioned above. The test has to be conducted by a ‘qualified’ individual. The individual must be competent enough to perform the testing and inspection. He is also authorised to carry out further investigation as well as any remedial work if required. All remedial work related to this mandatory testing and inspection has to comply with the electrical safety standards.

If the regulations are breached your local authorities are empowered to impose a fine of up to £30,000 for each breach of regulation. If there are multiple breaches the fine amount will get multiplied. As per the law landlords have to obtain two copies of the test report; one is to be given to the tenant while the other is to be retained by the landlord until the next round of inspection and testing. The tenant’s copy is to be handed over within 28 days from the date of completion of inspection.

If requested a copy of the test report is to be submitted to the local housing authority within a span of 7 days. Moreover the landlord is supposed to provide a new tenant a copy of the report before the later moves into the property. Even a prospective tenant is entitled to have a copy of the report on request within 28 days the request was made.

The grey areas of the legislation related to EICR inspection on rented premises

According to the Government website electrical installations have to be in compliance to the national standards that was introduced in the 18th Edition of wiring regulations. If that is the case then hardly any property will have satisfactory results. Similarly as and when the 19th Edition comes out, then all the works done before this upgrade comes into implementation will fail as well. Therefore the clause is a serious bone of content that cannot be ignored. This is more of a mistake that reflects on the document. Installations should not be retrospective and rather be pragmatic. Engineers assessing the safety of electrical installations should look into the forward direction and not backward while performing their task.

According to BS 7671 2018 it is not mandatory to upgrade every installation. In other words older installations are likely to be no less safe than new ones. The PRS guidance clarifies or confirms the BS 7671 2018 is the base standard. In the present scenario, EICRs are to be carried out against the latest version of BS 7671. It does not mean that you have to upgrade installations that are not fully compatible with the BS 7671 standards. The PRS legislation is also pretty clear about the matter. According to it there is no need upgrading an installation either to comply with the latest version of BS 7671 if there is no unsafe findings on the EICR report. If there is any unsafe finding in the report then that warrants a C1, C2 or F1.

A fuse board and its function

A fuse box or fuse board is the one and same; it is also called a consumer unit. It basically distributes electricity across a building along with protecting electrical circuits from unexpected power surges. If it detects any condition of power surge the CU or fuse board breaks the circuit. Thus you must have an up to date fuse box installed in your property to ensure you, your family and your property are all safe from electrical hazard.

Qualified and licensed electricians replacing RCDs in consumer units point out it is surprising indeed by the number of households that still rely on old fuse boxes which simply do not comply with the latest regulations. And this definitely makes you along with your family members and property vulnerable to electrical hazards.

In 2008 the electrical wiring standards and regulations was amended by virtue of which it became mandatory for every circuit to have an RCD or residual current device. The latest designs of consumer units include both RCDs and MCBs or mini circuit breakers instead of fuses like those of the old times. These two components are more sensitive and thus more efficient in handling situations related to changes in current. As a result breaking an electrical circuit takes much lesser time these days. The chances of electrocution and electric fires are also pretty less because of these developments.

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