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Motorhome habitation checks: An essential guide

Habitation checks, sometimes known to as ‘hab checks’, ‘hab services’ and ‘habitation services’, are the topic of much debate on social media groups and forums but what is a habitation check, what does it actually check and do you need one? Here Van Life Matters explains all, setting out the facts so you can make your own informed decisions.

What is a habitation check?

A habitation check is a thorough inspection of a campervan, motorhome or caravan living area by a specialist engineer.

It covers common dangers such as fire risk, ventilation and gas systems as well as problem areas like damp, water systems, electrical systems and bodywork.

Upon completion, you’ll get a detailed report/ habitation certificate with observations of any problems identified and actions required.

What is included in a habitation check?

While there’s no standardised habitation service checklist, most basic habitation checks cover around 50 individual ‘checks’ to the electric, gas and water systems, plus ventilation, bodywork and fire safety checks.

Electrics: All internal and external 'camping' lights are assessed for any faults, sockets and appliances tested. A residual current device (RCD) check involves making sure the RCD trips within a set time. In addition, the miniature circuit breakers are checked to ensure that they are correct for the appliances in the vehicle.

Gas: A manometer test gauge is used to check for leaks in the gas supply system. All gas appliances including oven, fridge, heating system and water heater are inspected for correct operation. Appliance vents are checked to ensure they are clear and appliances turned-off at the gas isolator taps. If the flame-failure device cuts-in, it will pass the test. Next, all gas appliances are turned back on and a flue gas analyser runs for a minimum of 15 minutes while all doors and windows are closed for a CO room test.

Water: Taps are individually checked for leaks, and the motorhome’s waste-water outlet is observed for blockages. The toilet is inspected to ensure the valve seal is well lubricated and the battery-operated flush is functioning. If an Alde wet heating system is fitted, the ethylene glycol antifreeze and water must be a 50/50 mix – this is checked using a portable refractometer. The antifreeze mix in the header tank should be 10mm above minimum’, not at maximum.

Bodywork: All doors, windows and blinds are assessed. General observations are made of the bodywork in general, including a visual inspection of the roof. Some inspectors also undertake a damp check on the inside of the motorhome – a reading of 0-15% means there no concerns, but 15-20% requires further investigation and a recheck within three months. If the reading is above 20%, immediate attention is required because this highlights motorhome water ingress. The inspector should give you a separate damp report on completion.

Ventilation: All of the motorhome’s rooflights are opened and closed to ensure that they operate and all fixed vents are checked for obstructions.

Fire and safety: The smoke alarm and CO detector are tested, and checked to see they are not past their replacement date. If you carry a fire extinguisher, the expiry date is checked. If you carry a fire blanket, the housing unit is inspected to ensure that it is secure

What’s not included in a habitation check?

Not all inspectors will include a motorhome damp check in a standard habitation check.

Other checks which could incur additional costs include in-depth appliance servicing, such as the fridge, air conditioning, and solar panel system.

Standard vehicle servicing and MOTs are also completely separate to habitation checks.

You should ensure your vehicle is regularly serviced in accordance to the vehicle manufacturers specifications to ensure any warranty remains valid and the vehicle reliable.

You will also need to MOT your motorhome on every 12 months – there’s detailed information on motorhome MOTs here.

Motorhome, campervan and caravan owners are not legally obliged to have a hab check but some insurance firms may require you to have one.

Why do I need a habitation check?

Other than for insurance purposes, you may also want to consider a habitation check for warranty purposes and to maintain the value of your vehicle.

They can also offer peace-of-mind that your family will be safe and that any potential problems could be identified early.

For all of these reasons, prospective buyers of campervans, motorhomes and caravans will likely pay more for an example that’s recently been checked and has the appropriate habitation certificate and damp report.

How often do you need a habitation check?

While it’s not recommended, because there’s no legal requirement to have a valid habitation certificate, you can enjoy your motorhome without ever getting one if you wish.

Most motorhome owners tend to get a habitation check on an annual basis to maintain safety, warranty and value.

How much does a motorhome habitation check cost?

Prices for motorhome habitation checks vary nationwide but generally start from around £200.

How long does a motorhome habitation check take?

A professional habitation check usually takes around three to four hours.

Can I do my own motorhome habitation check?

There’s nothing to stop you from doing your own habitation check.

Armed with some reading-up on the topic and thorough habitation checklist, you’ll be able to make basic checks yourself, provided that you’re confident enough to be able to find any potential faults.

You may still wish to call in a professional for the damp test though.

Doing your own habitation check won’t suffice for insurance or warranty purposes though – you’ll need a professional habitation check and habitation certificate for these.

How to book a motorhome habitation check

If you’re after a professional hab check, it’s advisable to look for an ‘Approved Workshop‘, a network of independently assessed workshops that’s widely seen as a benchmark for campervan, motorhome and touring caravan servicing in the UK.

Regulated by the National Caravan Council (NCC), The Caravan and Motorhome Club and The Camping and Caravanning Club, there are currently over 500 fixed and mobile Approved Workshops across the UK – the majority of which offer habitation checks and servicing.

The inspector will need easy access throughout your campervan/ motorhome/ caravan, so it’s worth having a good tidy-up and removing anything that could be an obstacle – that includes lockers, under and over-seat storage spaces.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Van Life Matters newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest UK Van Life news, tips and advice.

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