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What Do You Need To Know About Home Electrical Certificates of Compliance?

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What Do You Need To Know About Home Electrical Certificates of Compliance?

Although the Electrical Certificate has been a legal requirement for a long time already, “misunderstandings” by the seller or buyers occur on a regular basis owing to the complexity of the Electrical Installation Regulations.

Why do you need an Electrical Certificate of Compliance (COC)?

Electricity, just like water and gas, can “leak”. This leakage current is potentially dangerous as it can flow through you when you touch the “leaking” appliance. The earth leakage relay is designed to monitor for leakage current going directly or indirectly to earth and if it exceeds a certain value it will trip and disconnect the current flow. This is why it is so important that all circuits are properly earthed to ensure that the earth leakage relay would operate in an emergency.

The onus has been placed on the homeowner (seller) to ensure that a faulty or non-compliant electrical installation in his / her house does not pose a threat through fire or electrocution to any person, animal or property. Without a valid COC, should an injury or incident occur, the homeowner could be held liable and the insurance on the house could be declared invalid.

When is an Electrical COC required?

A valid electrical certificate is a legal requirement, the owner of an “electrical installation” should be in possession of a valid electrical certificate at all times.

In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) no person may market, sell, let or supply an electrical installation that is unsafe.

The Seller of a property is therefore obligated to obtain a COC before transfer of the property from a legitimate contractible company which complies with all the criteria as stipulated by the authorities and conforms to the latest Code of Practice.

What does an Electrical COC Cost?

The price of the inspection is normally a fixed fee – the total cost is however depended on the work required (or not). The inspector will submit a report stating what work needs to be done to the installation to comply with the Code of Practice.

When accepted by the seller, the transferring attorney will give the inspector the go ahead to complete the work.

Should the electrical installation be 100% compliant the inspector should issue a new certificate at no additional charge over and above the inspection fee.

In the event that rectifications are required in order to make the electrical installation compliant, the inspector will issue a detailed report with a quote to perform the necessary rectifications. At this point the client can decide to either:

A:        Accept the quotation – so the inspector can perform the rectifications after which they will issue a new electrical certificate (COC).

OR

B:        Appoint another qualified electrician to make the rectifications AND issue the COC.

Inspectors cannot issue electrical certificates based on the work of others as the certificate also serves as a guarantee on materials and workmanship. Please note the inspection fee is a consultation fee, NOT a certificate fee, and remain payable irrespective of who ultimately issues the certificate.

What is checked during an Electrical COC Inspection?

The distribution board contains the heart of the electrical installation. From here the mains incoming supply is split to the various plug, light and other circuits. The circuit breakers protect against overload and short circuit faults, which could cause fires.

The circuit breakers and wire size need to be correctly rated according to the maximum amount of electricity that the connected circuit may be expected to carry.

The earth leakage protects against potential electrocution situations. At least the main switch must be easily accessible in case of emergencies, preferably the entire board should be accessible.

The electrical certificate covers the permanent electrical installation which includes:

  • all the cables from the mains incoming point to the main distribution board;

  • everything in the main distribution board and any sub boards, circuit breakers, earth leakage etc. ;

  • all the cabling from the distribution boards to switches and plugs, including the wall plugs and light switches, through to the connection at the lights;

  • all circuits and wiring to any fixed appliances, even if they are plugged into a wall socket, but it does not include the actual appliance itself;

  • the earthing system and connectivity throughout the installation;

  • positioning of electrical equipment, e.g. light switches and plugs may not be within a certain distance of taps, shower, baths etc.;

  • mains switch must be accessible and a within a certain height from the floor in case of emergencies;

  •  all electrical equipment in the installation must be approved, SABS or other relevant approvals, and be of the correct type and rating for the application;

  • all electrical equipment must be installed in an approved manner, must be securely attached in place and suitably protected from little fingers gaining access;

  • all parts of the permanent electrical installation must be in good working order, including safety features;

  • the electrician will also take various readings to ensure that Voltages, insulation, earthing and other values are within requirements.

What is NOT covered by the Electrical COC?

An electrical certificate is very similar to the roadworthy test on a car. The issuing electrician is not servicing or upgrading the electrical installation – he or she just need to ensure that what does exist is operational, complies with regulations and is deemed safe.

  • No upgrades to the electrical installation of older homes. According to regulations each room only requires at least one operational light. There are no regulations stating that a home must have a certain minimum number of socket outlets per room or a number of plug circuits. In some cases even the old fuse boards are still perfectly legal;

  • fixed home appliances are ONLY checked to ensure they are connected to the installation via approved means – not whether they are in working condition. This includes items such as ovens, stoves, hobs, air-con units, swimming pool pumps, bore hole pumps, pool lights, garage and gate motors, pond pumps, HVAC system, alarms, wall heaters and any other fixed appliances.

  • temporary installations are not included, defined as something that can simply be unplugged and removed by hand that was clearly intended for temporary use only. If however you have performed the installation in such a manner as to indicate that it is intended for permanent usage, then it will need to be done according to regulation.

What are the legal requirements of the Electrical COC?

Only a Qualified Electrician with a Wireman’s License, accredited by the Department of Labour and who is registered with the Electrical Contracting Board of South Africa (E.C.B) can issue an electrical COC.

The SANS10142-1 electrical installation regulations comprises of an entire book of complicated regulations - and then there is also the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations to consider from time to time. The Code of Practice is amended regularly by a working group of technical experts in the industry who meet on a regular basis at the SA Bureau of Standards. The inspector works strictly according to the Code and cannot issue a C.O.C if the installation is not safe as determined by the Code.

What is the validity period of the Electrical COC?

For a long time the electrical certificate was valid for as long as the electrical installation was not amended or worked on in any way.

Two shortcomings in this practice:

1: Wear and Tear, everything eventually breaks or wears out, including electrical equipment. There is simply no way an Electrical Certificate can be valid forever.

2: The new owner was simply expected to take the sellers word for it that he had not amended or worked on the electrical installation in any way in all the years he had lived in the premises.

At present the electrical certificate can only be valid for an absolute maximum of two years, subject to no alterations or work being done during that period. Sometimes an affidavit needs to be signed to this effect.

What is the procedure in obtaining an Electrical COC?

The seller, estate agent or transferring attorney can make the request for an Electrical Certificate.

As there is a fee involved the seller always need to familiarise themselves with the fees and payment options and permit the electrician (inspector) to proceed with the inspection.

The inspector will then make an appointment with the current occupant (owner or tenant) of the property and will require access to every part of the electrical installation - the main distribution board, every plug, light switch, light fitting etc. on the premises - not just inside the main dwelling, but garage, out buildings and even roof spaces etc.

It is necessary that all socket outlets, plugs, be tested so all appliances will be unplugged during the inspection, readings will be taken once all appliances have been unplugged. Power will be switched off for a short period during the inspection.

Although inspectors normally plug all the occupant’s appliances in again at the completion of the inspection, occupants should be warned to ensure and confirm that they have done this - especially essential appliances like fridges, freezers, koi pond pumps etc.

What recourse does the Seller or Purchaser have where they are dissatisfied with the quote or the work done or not done?

The Western Cape Approved Electrical Inspection Authority act as watch dog and investigate complaints at an hourly fee. When necessary they will take action against the guilty party. Contact them at 021 987 3010 Fax 021 987 3083 or Email info@wcaeia.co.za

Author The Techno Group
Published 22 Jun 2017 / Views -
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