Does my motorhome need a habitation check?

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Many people have an annual motorhome habitation check carried out on their campervans and RVs. Many don’t!

So, to allow you to decide for yourself, let’s firstly find out what a habitation check is then explore what’s involved in more detail…

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What is a motorhome habitation check?

Also known as a “hab check”, it is a service for the parts of the motorhome that make it a HOME – the domestic fittings, appliances, coach bodywork. The MOTOR parts – engine, chassis, brakes, driving lights etc. are serviced and subject to MOT requirements. The habitation check tests and services the HOME parts.

What does a hab check cover?

This can vary between engineers and establishments. To discover what your engineer checks you could ask to see a blank certificate showing all the categories for testing prior to booking.

A list of what our engineer checks:

Onboard water and plumbing systems

Your pipes will have a pressure test to check for leaks. Seals and water inlet and outlets are checked along with a wet heating system if applicable. The condition of water tanks is noted. The engineer will turn on taps and shower heads to test the pressure.

Electrical Systems

Internal electrics including light fittings, sockets, appliances, electric steps and bed motors, and fuses are tested for safety and effectiveness. The condition of habitation area batteries is tested.

Gas systems

The engineer will check for leaks. He will also look at safety cut out mechanisms and test appliances which are gas fuelled. The bottle and locker will be checked.

Damp check

The dreaded water ingress! Finding damp patches can indicate a failed seal around the exterior body or a window. It may reveal a crack in the bodywork or a leak in the plumbing. Untreated, water ingress can seriously damage a wooden van frame or cause mould and wall problems – even in more modern vans.

We regularly use this nifty little damp meter just to keep an eye on things.

Damp within the habitation area can ruin the soft furnishings and make the van unpleasant to live in.

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Air vents are also inspected. Poor ventilation can lead to condensation and cause mould damage. It can also allow carbon monoxide build up. Air flow keeps your appliance motors cooler and allows fumes to escape.

Safety equipment

The engineer will test smoke and CO detectors along with fire extinguishers and other safety devices. Warning stickers need to be legible. Our last check noted that our LPG sticker is cracked. But fortunately still readable.

Expiry dates

The engineer will look for the expiry dates on the safety equipment and any other applicable items.

Fixtures and fittings

Fittings such as blinds, fly screens, windows, skylights, doors, walls. The engineer will check seals and effectiveness of hinges, catches, stays and locks.

Internal bodywork

Walls and ceilings are inspected for wear, discoloration and softening. The floor for de-lamination.

External bodywork

The outside of the living area. The engineer will check the outside seals around the bodywork, skylights and windows. Also any further drilled holes – solar panels, roof racks, and bike racks for instance.

He will test the security of the habitation area doors and windows and ensure that fixtures such as grab handles, bicycle racks and roof racks are not loose. Secondly he will make sure that they are fit for purpose.

Awning lighting and applicable electrics form part of the hab check. However, you cannot expect a habitation check to cover driving and brake lighting.

If you cook in your van it makes sense to have a habitation check to keep your family safe
Make sure your appliances are safe to use

Use this list to enquire whether your engineer will complete all these checks.

  • Onboard water and plumbing systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Gas systems
  • Damp check
  • Ventilation
  • Safety equipment
  • Expiry dates
  • Fixtures and fittings
  • Internal bodywork
  • External bodywork

What is NOT covered in a motorhome habitation check?

This can depend upon your engineer! It is best to ask beforehand. Solar panels are an optional extra. Some engineers expect the owner to have carried out their own damp check. So ask the questions on booking the check. However, the hab check is not a vehicle check – it will only cover the living area.

RVs still need engine, electrics and cab bodywork servicing and inspections and a valid MOT.

A hab check is not a legal requirement in Britain, therefore, it may be deemed an unnecessary expense. However, some insurance companies may require you to have one carried out.

There are some legal matters to follow which the engineer will be aware of – warning labels for instance.

If you intend upon selling the vehicle or renting it out, then evidence of regular habitation checks could seal the deal. Prospective buyers obviously like to know that the RV has been cared for.

Must I go to a garage or service centre for the habitation check?

A garage will have more equipment and is more likely to be subject to checks themselves. They rely on word-of-mouth recommendations in their local area since they cannot move away. However, there are mobile engineers who will come out to you.

Since the mobile engineer can be out of the area fairly quickly after carrying out the check, it is better to ensure that your choice of engineer has a good track record for reliability and workmanship.

He can only carry as much equipment as his own vehicle allows.

A trusted engineer who drove out to us completed our buyer’s check. He was able to point out some serious defects in our VW T4 Cree. He could also confirm that they were not yet fatal to the habitation area of the motorhome – expensive but fixable. We still use his services.

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What do I need to provide for the mobile engineer?

If you decide to use a mobile engineer, he will need a power supply to enable him to check the electrics and water for the tanks and pipework. If you have gas bottles, those will need some gas in them. Ask what you need to do beforehand.

What do I need to do before the habitation check at a garage?

Ask your engineer what he requires or prefers. They will need gas in the bottles to enable them to test that. He will possibly ask that you drain the water system. They will need access to the back of lockers and cupboards, under beds and seats. However, they will have access to water and power.

Do I need to completely empty the motorhome for a habitation check?

It is not necessary to completely empty it. However, making it easier for the engineer to complete the task does not hurt. He charges by the hour! Consider what he needs to look at and make it accessible. He will need to test for damp inside cupboards for instance.

Having a clear up is never a bad idea. The hab check is an ideal time to move out some of the unnecessary items you may have accumulated over the year – remember that excess weight can be dangerous!

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Use the opportunity to see what is in those cupboards. Half-eaten packets of food hidden in the back of the pantry can attract vermin. Also soft materials such as sheets and towels will retain condensation moisture.

The engineer will need to check the back of lockers for damp when he completes a motorhome habitation check
The engineer will need to check the back of lockers and cupboards for damp

How often do I need a habitation check for my motorhome?

If you have a new vehicle or new appliances, the warranty may require yearly servicing by a qualified engineer.

If your van is an elder of the tribe like ours your equipment will be wearing out. For example, gas and water pipes can corrode or become brittle, seals shrink and fail. Or a tiny hole in a seal may be eating your wooden frame which if left can lead to rot.

Due to previous history, a serious knock down the passenger side, and aging equipment, we usually have a yearly check. Owning a motorhome van is a serious financial outlay; we like to keep on top of issues and prefer that someone qualified and trustworthy looks her over.

How much does a motorhome habitation check cost?

The hab check can cost in the region of £250 upwards. Naturally you pay extra for repairs and corrections.

How long does a habitation check take in a motorhome?

The check can take at least three hours. Set at least half a day aside for it. Put your feet up and relax…

set aside a whole day for a habitation check for your motorhome

Who can carry out RV habitation checks?

So, who is qualified to carry out a hab check on your vehicle? You can do it yourself if you want to – especially if you know what you are looking for.

However, if you want a proper certificate or if you need it for selling or hiring out, make sure you seek out a qualified and approved engineer. You’ll be able to find many online.

Do the habitation check results last a whole year?

No! Like the MOT, you could be pulling away from the garage, new certificate in hand, and something could “pop”. The habitation check tells you that your systems and living space were in the condition described at the time of testing. Remain vigilant! Get a damp meter and do your own checks between official tests.

Don’t ignore any appliance which isn’t working as it should. If you smell gas, don’t glance at your hab check paperwork and think it is safe to use.

Keep an eye on your walls and ceiling. Just recently we noticed a slightly darkened patch on our van ceiling; the damp meter showed a very high level of moisture (over 50%). Pressing on the softened area led to water seeping out. We’ve since re-sealed the solar panel on the roof and it seems to have done the trick.

In summary, we see a hab check as an investment in our van and in ourselves. The check will tell you if your motorhome or campervan is safe for you and your family to use.

Look after it and it will be your companion on the road for many years to come.

Has a habitation check ever uncovered a potentially fatal flaw in your van? Do you complete your own checks? Share your stories (and ask us any questions you might have) in the comments section below…

A hab check will identify problems inside the motorhome. But what else can go wrong with an RV? Here are a few of the problems our VW Cree has thrown at us

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