When asking landlords if they have had a recent electrical condition report done (ECR), usually following a call out to a repair or a small alteration to one of the circuits in the property. The answer is usually that it has never been done because it is not a legal requirement, only a recommendation. Well believe it or not, it is also a recommendation that if you were to leap out of an airplane, you have a parachute. This may sound flippant, but it is kind of the same thing. B.S.7671 of the wiring regulations recommends that the an electrical installation is regularly tested and inspected to ensure that it is still safe for continual use. Most electrical wiring is hidden, buried within the building fabric, above ceilings or under floor, encased in trunking or conduit and many things can affect the life span of the cables in any installation. Ambient temperature, thermal insulation, whether the cables are overloaded, been exposed to short circuit currents, to name a few. Without regular monitoring (typically every five years), by carrying out a series of tests on the cables, it is very difficult to assess their condition. Over time electrical terminations can become loose. Not only can this be a shock hazard, but the it also results in a higher resistance, which in tern makes the connection over heat. This often has a knock on effect of melting the insulation, both around the termination housing and the conductor it self. As this melts, the connection will usually get looser, causing the termination to get hotter and so on. During an electrical condition report, all terminations need to be readily accessible for inspection. Now practically, it is not possible to inspect every joint and termination on an electrical installation. However a sample of say 15-20% plus resistance tests, will often highlight problems such as loose terminations.
Good installation and maintenance practices, will ensure safety and longevity of the installation. Without an electrical condition report being done and records of the installation being kept up to date, it will be hard to prove that the installation was safe to use by the occupants of the property , post accident. The government are now looking at making electrical condition reports mandatory for all rented properties and insurance companies are starting to void claims for fire damage, or worse, if there is not a current satisfactory electrical report. So having an up to date electrical condition report is only a recommendation, but like having a parachute, it is a good one.