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Electrics

Planning Permission

Planning permission is not generally required for installing or replacing electrical circuits. However, if you live in a listed building you are advised to contact your Local Planning Authority before carrying our any work.

Building Regulations

If you are carrying out electrical installation work in your home or garden in England and Wales, you must comply with the rules in the Building Regulations. It is best to use an installer registered with a competent person scheme (a ‘registered competent person’) who can self-certify compliance with the Building Regulations.
If an installer is not registered, then certain riskier jobs (identified as ‘notifiable’ in the Building Regulations) will need to be inspected, approved and certificated by:

  • a building control body (your local authority or a private approved inspector), or
  • in England only, an electrician registered with a third-party certification scheme (a ‘registered third-party certifier’).

The building control body or registered third-party certifier must be notified before work starts.

Notifiable jobs include:

  • the installation of a new consumer unit or fuse box
  • the installation of a complete new circuit – for example a ring or lighting circuit, or a new circuit for a cooker, shower or immersion heater
  • alterations to existing circuits – such as adding an extra power point or lighting point – but only in ‘special locations’. In England, special locations are the spaces around baths and showers. In Wales, special locations include also kitchens and outdoors.

Most repairs, replacements and maintenance jobs, and alterations or additions to existing circuits outside special locations, are not notifiable.
The Building Regulations set out overall criteria and requirements to ensure electrical safety. Approved Document P provides further practical guidance for undertaking this type of work. You should bear in mind that any electrical work you carry out within your home, garden, garage, shed or other storage building must comply with the requirements of the Building Regulations. If you are unsure about the requirements, you should contact your local authority’s building control department.

All electrical work should follow the safety standards in BS 7671 (the 'wiring regulations'), which can be found on the British Standards Institute (BSI) website.

These rules have been introduced to help reduce the number of deaths, injuries and fires caused by faulty installations.

The Building Regulations set standards for electrical installation work only in relation to dwellings (houses, flats etc). If the work is carried out in industrial or commercial buildings it is covered by the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for making sure that electrical installation work in these kinds of buildings is safe and if you have any queries about work in these buildings you should contact the HSE.

The Building Regulations do not restrict who may carry out electrical installation work. If you want to do the work yourself you should make sure that you know what you need to do before starting any works. There are a number of reputable guides that you can use to help you.
The Building Regulations do not set standards for the safety of electrical appliances but they do require that fixed connections of appliances are safe.


Checking for safety

Where the electrical installation work is notifiable it should be checked to make sure that it is safe. This checking can be done by:

  • the electrician who carries out the work, provided the electrician is registered with a competent person self-certification scheme, or
  • a building control body – either the building control department of your local authority or a private approved inspector, or
  • in England only, an electrician registered with a third-party certification scheme.

 

Competent person schemes

An electrician registered with a competent person self-certification scheme authorised by the Secretary of State will self-certify that notifiable work is safe and complies with the Building Regulations. When using a registered electrician, you do not need to notify a building control body.

Once the works are complete the electrician will arrange for you to receive a Building Regulations compliance certificate within 30 days, and for your local authority to be notified about the work for its own records. If you do not receive this certificate, please contact your electrician’s registration body.

The registered electrician should also provide you with a completed Electrical Installation Certificate to show that the work has been tested for safety.
It is advisable to ask the electrician to provide information about which scheme they belong to and their membership number. You will then be able to check the electrical competent person register at www.electricalcompetentperson.co.uk to make sure they are registered. You can find a list of organisations that run competent person schemes for electrical installation work on the Gov.uk website.


Local authority building control

You may make a Building Regulations application to your local authority building control department if the electrician you employ to carry out notifiable work is not registered with one of the relevant competent person schemes, or if you do the work yourself. You should contact the local authority before you start the work and they will explain the requisite procedures to you.

It is also best to discuss with the local authority how they wish to inspect and check the works you are carrying out.

Approved inspector building control

An approved inspector is a body which carries out the same functions as local authority building control. If you use an approved inspector they will explain how the approved inspector system works. If at the end of the work the approved inspector is satisfied that the work is safe, you will be given a copy of the final notice.


Third-party certification schemes

Building control bodies will generally employ a qualified electrician to inspect notifiable electrical work on their behalf.

In England only, it has been possible since April 2014 for you to go directly to an electrician to certify work, without involving a building control body, provided the electrician is registered with an authorised third-party certification scheme.

You can find a list of organisations that run third-party certification schemes for electrical installation work on the Gov.uk website.
Minor works

The Building Regulations allow certain minor works (known as non-notifiable work) to be carried out without having to notify building control or use a registered electrician.

In England, the rules were simplified in April 2013, so that now regulation 12(6A) of the Building Regulations 2010 identifies notifiable work as comprising the installation of a new or replacement consumer unit, the installation of a complete new circuit connected to the consumer unit, or alteration work in and around a bath or shower.

All other work is non-notifiable although, like notifiable work, it should be designed and installed, and inspected, tested and certificated in accordance with BS 7671. If local authorities find that non-notifiable work is unsafe and non-compliant, they can take enforcement action.

For Wales, the Building Regulations still identify non-notifiable work as including:

  • any repair or maintenance work or like-for like replacement
  • any addition or alteration to an existing circuit that is not in a kitchen, bathroom or outdoors
  • installing or upgrading main or supplementary equipotential bonding
  • installing extra low voltage cabling outside bathrooms for telephone, fire alarm,  burglar alarm and heating systems, etc.

If you are not sure whether the work you want to undertake is notifiable, you should contact your local authority building control department for advice.

Non-notifiable electrical work can also present a risk to safety. If qualified electricians carry out the work they should give you a Minor Works Certificate, which means that they have tested the work to make sure it is safe. If you do the work yourself you may wish to engage a qualified electrician to check it for you.

Related links:

Building work, replacements and repairs to your home (PDF 114 Kb)

The Building Act 1984 and the Building Regulations (DCLG) 


Disclaimer

This is an introductory guide and is not a definitive source of legal information. Read the full disclaimer here

This guidance relates to the planning regime for England. Policy in Wales may differ. If in doubt contact your Local Planning Authority.