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New EICR "unsatisfactory" - complete rewire required?!?
JPCoetzee
17 Posts
Question
The lighting circuit has no CPC (earth), this is not uncommon in older houses. For that reason all light fittings are Class 2 i.e. plastic with no metal, and there is a clause in the tenancy agreement which forbids tampering with the light fittings (this is a house we own and rent out).

Previous EICRs did not even mention the lighting circuit because of the Class 2 fittings. I have just got a new EICR with an observation "lighting circuits have little or no earth" and classification code C1 ("Danger present, risk of injury, immediate remedial action required"). The overall assessment says "Unsatisfactory" with the comment "Needs updating to current regs". This can only be fixed by a complete rewire of the whole lighting circuit.

This is pointless, there are no earth connections in the plastic fittings.

Any thoughts? Many thanks.
91 Replies
Jaymack
153 Posts
Not excusable, report the "Inspector" to body (If  registered). 

Jaymack 
I see no reason to rewire the lighting completely if everything is class 2, and the wiring is otherwise satisfactory. It is not compliant with BS7671 (18th) but is not in any way "Dangerous".A competent electrician would simply not fir a class 1 light fitting, or would add an Earth wire to that point. I assume that all the switches etc are also plastic and everything is mechanically protected correctly? I would code this as a C3 (improvement suggested) and so the install would be satisfactory.
In an earlier post on this subject, one of the replies even included chapter and verse from the book of rules to back up that this is C3.
Definitely needs to be reported.
mapj1
2352 Posts
Niciec best practice guide (here) has a section 10 on fitting a new CU to an existing building without earth, which strongly recommends against it but then goes on to say it can be done if certain conditions are met.


Edit They also have a guide to the use of codes in reports  here  and that suggests that
Absence of circuit protective conductors in circuits having only Class II (or all insulated)luminaires and switches3

 would warrent a C3, improvement recommended.
This code should be used to indicate that, whilst an observed deficiency is not considered to be a source of immediate or potential danger, improvement would contribute to a significant enhancement of
the safety of the electrical installation.

This you should have had for the last several inspections.



To be fair to the inspector , it cannot comply with 18th edition regs (or indeed any regs since the 14th ), and arguably the new The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020
here

can be read in a way that does now require that for rented properties. (read it yourself and see what you think it is asking for exactly )
The wiring presumably predates the 1966 regs change that brought in compulsory earthing for all circuits, so cannot be exactly brand new, so I presume rewiring is on the radar, but you are not intending to do it just yet. (are all the sockets. and  fittings and lampholders also pre 1966 or has new stuff been tacked onto the old installation ?).
I agree it is probably safe for continued use, unless there are other problems, but the legal position is not as clear cut as it would be for an owner occupier , or for one that was rented last year.
Actually I'd go further and say that the The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 may be well intentioned, but are written in a way that leaves open a large can of worms for many people, not just those with 50 year old wiring.

As an aside it is not totally pointless to add an earth core to the cable once you have RCD protection even if it is not needed at the far end, - in the event cables or junction boxes being subject to  flood,  fire or even attack by mice, it greatly increases the chances of a safe automatic disconnection with the RCD firing before the fault becomes significant.

regards Mike.
Chris Pearson
1661 Posts
C1 would only apply if it were possible to touch live conductors.

C2 would apply if there were any Class 1 fitting in the circuit (switches or lamp fittings) because if the line conductor came into contact with the exposed conductive parts there would be no automatic disconnection of the supply.

So in this case C3 seems to apply and under BS 7671 18th Edn the installation has been inspected and tested and found to be safe for continued use.

Another possible non-compliance would be the absence of additional protection (RCD) in the lighting circuit - this became mandatory in the 18th Edn. Given that a tenant may disregard the clause about lamp fittings, if there is no additional protection, a C2 could be justified. I certainly think that it would lie within the reasonable range of opinion.

As for re-wiring the circuit, it may not be too difficult if (a) the floorboards may be taken up; and (b) the switch drops are under capping or some form of conduit.
Simon Barker
711 Posts
There is official government guidance on the new regulations.  They advise that a C3 is acceptable and not a "fail", while C2 and C1 faults must be fixed.

Of course the guidance isn't the law, but it's unlikely that anyone would be prosecuted if they were following the guidance (in the same was as for building regulations, which are also very vague in places).
I am glad that we all agree on this one. This is again an attempt at extortion, or the inspector is not competent and should be reported to his certifying body. There is far too much of this kind of thing going on, see another thread here.
John Peckham
471 Posts
Sorry to be a party pooper but.

I do not believe you can use Double or Reinforced insulation in rented premises as "effective measures" for example "adequate supervision" can be ensured and writing this in to a rental agreement is not an effective measure. See Regulation 412.1.2.

I have previously said on this forum one of my  clients has 70 warden controlled rental flats with tenancy agreements hat forbid any changes or alterations to the electrical installations. That does not stop the elderly tenants from replacing Class 1 light fittings and installing metal dimmer switches on the lighting circuit even though the circuits have a CPC I find un-earthed light fittings and dimmer switches. 

A CPC has been required on lighting circuits since 1966 so these un -earthed lighting installations are some 54 years old so overdue  for being bought up to current standards.

So if I found this in rented premises I would report it and code it C2 as adequate protective measures are not in place meeting the requirements of Chapter 41.

 
JPCoetzee
17 Posts
mapj1:
arguably the new The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 here can be read in a way that does now require that for rented properties. (read it yourself and see what you think it is asking for exactly )

I can't see anything in that that changes the interpretation of classifications.
 
mapj1:
Actually I'd go further and say that the The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 may be well intentioned, but are written in a way that leaves open a large can of worms for many people, not just those with 50 year old wiring.

Quite. If it DOES change the interpretation of classifications there are going to be millions of houses that require immediate rewiring come April 2021!
 
John Peckham:
tenants from replacing Class 1 light fittings and installing metal dimmer switches on the lighting circuit

Tenants should not be touching electrical installations, Class 1 or otherwise. If they do, you really cannot prevent them harming themselves. They may well be exposing live conductors.
John Peckham
471 Posts
JPC

"Tenants should not be touching electrical installations, Class 1 or otherwise. If they do, you really cannot prevent them harming themselves"

So clearly you cannot use double insulation as a method of protection as the installation is not under effective supervision?
JPCoetzee
17 Posts
John Peckham:
JPC

"Tenants should not be touching electrical installations, Class 1 or otherwise. If they do, you really cannot prevent them harming themselves"

So clearly you cannot use double insulation as a method of protection as the installation is not under effective supervision?


Nothing is effective as a method of protection if tenants start fiddling with electrical installations. You said as much yourself really, in your post: "even though the circuits have a CPC I find un-earthed light fittings and dimmer switches ". Those fiddled-with metal Class 1 light fittings and dimmer switches are even more dangerous than a Class 2 fixture.

mapj1
2352 Posts
To clarify, I do not think the new legislation changes coding levels for particular faults. It does however seem to require that landlords must
"ensure that the electrical safety standards are met during any period when the residential premises(8) are occupied under a specified tenancy;"
And that for the purposes of the legislation,
“electrical safety standards” means the standards for electrical installations in the eighteenth edition of the Wiring Regulations, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the British Standards Institution as BS 7671: 2018(5);
Now any sparks worth his or her salt knows that at least half the installations in the land do not meet every aspect of the latest regs, including quite a few new ones, and indeed BS7671 acknowledges that installations to previous versions may be suitable for continued use itself so this is an unusually stringent requirement, however as drafted there is no such wiggle room in the legislation , which is probably not the intention,
"BS7671 acknowledges that installations to previous versions may be suitable for continued use"
That is the wiggle room
Sparkingchip
2930 Posts
Has any upgrading work been carried out at all? Are the lighting circuits protected by 30 mA RCD?

Andy B.
JPCoetzee
17 Posts
Sparkingchip:
Has any upgrading work been carried out at all? Are the lighting circuits protected by 30 mA RCD?

Andy B.


On other circuits, yes, about 15 years ago but not on this lighting circuit except for changing the fittings to Class 2. Yes the lighting circuit is protected by 30mA RCD.

Chris Pearson
1661 Posts
JPC, it sounds as if you are not getting the answer that you wanted!

Is there RCD protection for the lighting circuit(s)? How difficult is it to get under the floorboards?

412.1.2 concerns use of double insulation as the sole protective measure, which seems to be the case here. Adequate supervision is given as an example of a method of ensuring the effectiveness of this protective measure, but it also rules it out: "... where a user may change items of equipment without authorization." So that would be at the core of my case if I were Counsel for the estate of the deceased. (A tenant may have changed a lamp fitting, but it might be a visitor who gets electrocuted.)

Against that, my argument as Counsel for the Landlord would be that the installation is inspected and tested as is and not what it might be if it has been changed, especially if it has been done unlawfully. So if there is no present danger, C3 is appropriate.

ETA: I note your answer above to the question of the RCD.

The real question is what do you do about the C1? Unfortunately, there appears to be no independent right of appeal. On the basis of the C1 (or a C2) the local authority may serve a remedial notice and only at that stage is there a right of appeal (to the Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal). The problem now is presenting evidence to show that the C1 was inappropriate.

You could get another EICR and hope for a C3, but by now your tenant should have a copy of the existing report and would be perfectly entitled to seek the assistance of the local authority.

So the least bad solution might be to rewire the circuit.
JPCoetzee
17 Posts
Chris Pearson:
So the least bad solution might be to rewire the circuit.

The tenant does NOT want that. I have talked to her and she is happy that the electrics are safe (it passed EICR five years ago and nothing has changed). She works from home and has children. Re-wiring would be very disruptive and very dusty because wires are buried in the wall and not conduited. The house is full of furniture which would have to be removed. It would be a nightmare for her.

If the house was between tenants and empty I might agree.

 

Chris Pearson
1661 Posts
JPCoetzee:
Chris Pearson:
So the least bad solution might be to rewire the circuit.

The tenant does NOT want that. I have talked to her and she is happy that the electrics are safe (it passed EICR five years ago and nothing has changed). She works from home and has children. Re-wiring would be very disruptive and very dusty because wires are buried in the wall and not conduited. The house is full of furniture which would have to be removed. It would be a nightmare for her.

If the house was between tenants and empty I might agree.

So you're happy; the tenant is happy and won't dob you in to the Council: all you need now is a happy electrician. Perhaps call back the one who did the last EICR?

Chris Pearson
1661 Posts
John Peckham:
JPC

"Tenants should not be touching electrical installations, Class 1 or otherwise. If they do, you really cannot prevent them harming themselves"

So clearly you cannot use double insulation as a method of protection as the installation is not under effective supervision?

John, I also note 411.3.1.1 - CPC required at every point in wiring with the exception of the two-core between a ceiling rose and a pendant lamp holder.

Would your code be influenced by the presence of RCD protection? (I realize that it wouldn't stop a class I light fitting being live until somebody provided a pathway to Earth.)

Owain
13 Posts
JPCoetzee:
Re-wiring would be very disruptive and very dusty because wires are buried in the wall and not conduited.

Then the new stuff goes in plastic minitrunking on the surface (with sufficient fire-resisting retaining clips).
Or if the ceiling voids are reasonably accessible*, and the only chasing required is switch drops, leave spare cable in the void and use a ceiling-mounted pull switch, or one of the wireless switch systems. *If bedroom carpets have to be lifted, put the tenant in a hotel for a night and tell the sparkies to work a night shift, including moving stuff.

Alcomax
214 Posts
Another few question for JPCoetzee:

To Quote [in respect of the last EICR]

"it passed five years ago and nothing has changed". 
It would be very unusual that the last Report did not code the absence of CPC. On face value this could be C3. If there was no mention of no CPC in that report it does call into question the veracity of it.
You also say that sometime in the last 15 years " the fittings were changed to class II ".

So 
  1. Are all the light fittings all insulated?
  2. Are all the light switches all insulated?
  3. Importantly to above, are there insulated back boxes, surface plastic boxes or insulated lugs on recessed metal back boxes or maybe nylon fixing screws as a last resort?
  4. Is there a clear durable label on the Con Unit stating the light circuit has no earth provision and so no accessories should be changed for class 1 types?
If the answer to all of the above was yes and the last EICR recorded recorded all of the above, in addition to there being 30mA RCD protection, it cannot be anything other than recommend improve, it cannot be potentially dangerous as far to many things have to go wrong before that happens. Further, if the occupant of the house was a tenant since the last report [ 5 years ago?] and nothing has changed; the lighting being exactly as described in that report, that in itself demonstrates risk is minimal.

Rental does sway the balance of risk, I can understand the sentiment of JP wanting this to be C2, but I cannot see how that can be justified. This re-inforced/ double insulation bit can be a bit of a distraction. The accessories are all insulated, it just happens that the fixed wiring has no cpc. But it is what it is and, if it remains as such for a period and no one has mucked about with it, it remains adequate, surely. For it to be claimed that this lighting circuit is a whole wiring system requiring supervision and control due to claim that protection is by re-inforced/ double insulation it would really need to involve equipment rather than just accessories, though I would concede that a flush metal box with insulating lugs could be viewed as such.

If we are going to worry about supervision and control then we would also need to pay some attention to the new breed of Consumer Unit on TT , with no RCD upstream of it.👻....................

 
Sparkingchip
2930 Posts
JPCoetzee:
Sparkingchip:
Has any upgrading work been carried out at all? Are the lighting circuits protected by 30 mA RCD?

Andy B.


On other circuits, yes, about 15 years ago but not on this lighting circuit except for changing the fittings to Class 2. Yes the lighting circuit is protected by 30mA RCD.


I cannot understand that answer, is the circuit protected by a 30 mA RCD or not?

Sparkingchip
2930 Posts
Owain:
JPCoetzee:
Re-wiring would be very disruptive and very dusty because wires are buried in the wall and not conduited.

Then the new stuff goes in plastic minitrunking on the surface (with sufficient fire-resisting retaining clips).
Or if the ceiling voids are reasonably accessible*, and the only chasing required is switch drops, leave spare cable in the void and use a ceiling-mounted pull switch, or one of the wireless switch systems. *If bedroom carpets have to be lifted, put the tenant in a hotel for a night and tell the sparkies to work a night shift, including moving stuff.

Put the tenants in the hotel and let the electrician work sensible days, bearing in mind that there are gangs of electricians who will rewire the entire house in a day.

UKPN
152 Posts
Its a C3 (at most) everyone knows that. It is neither dangerous or potentially dangerous. There is no risk and nor likely to be. Its only a C3 as a kind gesture, but something like this cant be improved. 1966? For those who dont get out much, there are older homes.

All will be revealed in the forthcoming "Webinar" on earthing. Lets just hope for the hosts sake no one asks embarrassing questions such as why do TT steel fuseboxes now not need earth protection? 

Regards,  UKPN
 
JPCoetzee
17 Posts
Alcomax:
It would be very unusual that the last Report did not code the absence of CPC. 

The last report DID note the lack of CPC which is why all fittings were changed to Class 2. But it passed the installation as satisfactory.
 
1. Are all the light fittings all insulated?
2. Are all the light switches all insulated?
3. Importantly to above, are there insulated back boxes, surface plastic boxes or insulated lugs on recessed metal back boxes or maybe nylon fixing screws as a last resort?
4. Is there a clear durable label on the Con Unit stating the light circuit has no earth provision and so no accessories should be changed for class 1 types?

1. Yes.
2. They are plastic light switches.
3. The back boxes are metal. I'm not sure about the screws, I think they are all nylon.
4. Yes.

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