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by Wayne MacKay, Electrical Safety First
13 March 2024
Associate Feature: Enhancing electrical safety for owner-occupiers ─ and buyers

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Associate Feature: Enhancing electrical safety for owner-occupiers ─ and buyers

Almost three-quarters of fires in Scotland’s homes are caused by electricity, with different levels of electrical protection creating a ‘tenure lottery’ – and potential problems for house buyers. Here, Wayne Mackay, Head of Policy & Public Affairs for campaigning charity Electrical Safety First, explains why a mandatory electrical home ‘MOT’ when selling a property, can reduce this safety inequality.

Electrical Safety First has long campaigned for all Scottish homes to have regular electrical checks, verified by an Electrical Inspection Condition Report (EICR), as they can reveal dangers in the home that would otherwise be undetected. 

While these checks are now required in Scotland’s private and social rented sectors ─ and for the licensing of short-term lets ─ there is no such protection for owner-occupiers. Yet this sector accounts for 60% of Scotland’s housing and is inhabited by 62% of older people, who experience more fatalities and trauma from house fires than any other age group. 

Owner occupiers also tend to live in older buildings where, inevitably, electrical installations will deteriorate with age. There are also concerns regarding electrical safety in mixed tenure buildings, where fire can spread from one household to another. So it is troubling that our research found 43% of Scottish homeowners have either never had an electrical inspection of their home or are unaware if it has ever been checked by an electrician.

This lack of essential maintenance increases the electrical risk facing owner-occupiers and can also have financial ─ and potentially dangerous ─ consequences for home buyers. An EICR can identify any issue with an electrical installation, allowing the buyer to make an informed decision about the property and any remedial work required. Obtaining an EICR is not expensive ─ the estimated average cost is £165 ─ and we believe they should be provided at point of sale. This ‘trigger-point’ allows for a straightforward implementation of the requirement, reducing any potential concerns around enforcing owner-occupier legislation. There is also a precedent, as Energy Performance Certificates are required on the sale of a property and included in the Home Report.

In addition to ensuring the safety of existing housing stock for both current occupants and potential buyers, regular electrical safety checks align with Scottish Government objectives. The Housing to 2040 strategy notes that it: “will take action so that all homes, no matter their tenure, are required to meet the same standards.” 

Regular electrical safety checks can also contribute to the realisation of the net zero future home. This will involve the adoption of various technologies ─ heat pumps, solar PVs, and electric vehicle home-chargers – which will place additional demands on domestic electrical installations. The information gathered via required EICRs could support a comprehensive understanding of retrofit preparedness ─ and help protect us today, and tomorrow.

This article is sponsored by Electrical Safety First (ESF)

For more on Electrical Safety First’s work in Scotland, visit:

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