Frustrated with your electrical installation in your new property?

As a conveyancer one of the most frequently encountered issues I deal with on completion of the transfer of a property other than the leaking roof scenario or the hidden damp, is the complaint by the new owner regarding the electrical installation in the property.

Usually, these complaints arise out of a lack of understanding or appreciation of what an Electrical Certificate of Compliance (COC) is intended to cover. The relevant legislation is the Health and Occupational Safety Act and the regulations relating to this Act.

One needs to consider the intention of the Act and regulations which will hopefully give you a better understanding of the legislation. Its primary objective is to ensure a safe electrical installation and to regulate the process of ensuring that the user of electricity is not exposed to unnecessary injury or risk.

An electrical installation includes the transmission of electricity from a point of supply on your property to the point of consumption including any article forming part of such an installation. Any article would include an appliance such as an oven or hob sold with the property. If this were found to be faulty on inspection and unsafe the seller would have to have it repaired before a Certificate of Compliance can be issued.

The legislation comprehensively deals with the electrical standards for an installation in terms of the regulations published under section 44 of the Act. I recently had to deal with a complaint where the new owner was unhappy with the COC that had been issued because the electricity kept tripping when she used her stove, dishwasher and washing machine. This does not mean that the installation is unsafe and that the COC was incorrectly issued. The fact that the installation had a circuit breaker that tripped under excessive load was in all probability a good safety feature.

There may, however, be instances when the installation falls short of what can be expected when you are issued with a new COC. In these instances, this often results in a dispute with the previous owner who appointed his contractor to issue the certificate and the new owner. In situations like this I would suggest that you approach the seller and point out issues that are apparent and request him to ask his contractor to investigate the complaint.

If he fails to do so you are still not without a remedy. The legislation provides that you can request an “approved inspection authority” to conduct an inspection. (This person may not operate as a contractor and do electrical installation work). If this inspector finds that there is a fault or defect with the installation that may indicate negligence on the part of the registered contractor, the inspector shall report this to the Chief Inspector in which event you would have good grounds to insist on the owner who supplied the COC to provide you with a new COC.

It does not end here. If there is a dispute over the interpretation of the health and safety standard referred to in regulation 5(1) between the supplier of the COC, the new user, the contractor and the inspection authority, you can lodge an appeal with the Chief Inspector. In conclusion a word of warning. If you own property and do not have a valid COC you may vitiate insurance cover should your property be destroyed or damaged by fire caused by an electrical fault .

Peter Bowes

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