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Zinsco Panels


Ponyboy
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I am in a moral dilemma and need the TIJ's help. I recently inspected a 12 unit apartment building. The building has all Zinsco sub-panels, meters panels and main disconnects. I stated this:

Sub-Panels - 1) Zinsco electrical panels are installed as sub-panels in each apartment and as the main service equipment in the utility room of this building. Serious electrical hazards may be present in the electrical panels due to poor quality components used to build the panels and equipment. These conditions could result in overheating, fire, or inability to turn off the electrical power in the building. A licensed electrician, who is familiar with this equipment, should be retained to inspect the panels for immediate fire and shock hazards. (see photo EL2).

In another section of my electrical page the panels are also rated as defective and a safety hazard. I am being told be the agents that all inspection reports for commercial buildings are submitted to the lender and my descriptions of these panels will kill the deal. I am further being told that my client is aware of the problems and wants to buy the building. I am also being told I am acting like a "home" inspector and not a "commercial building" inspector. My moral compass tells me I should tell them to take a hike, but is their any truth to writing reports differently for commercial buildings.

I have been inspecting apartment buildings for several years and have not had this problem before.

Does anybody change their wording in their reports about Zinsco panels if they are doing commercial building verses a home inspection? Or is their a better way to describe this problem and not use the words; Fire, defect, safety hazard?

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Brad,

I have always stated what the issue is no matter the building being inspected. You just never know what could happen if one of the subs fail and there is a lawsuit. Honestly, I wouldn't have the RE telling me anything, has your client called and talked with you? I have this type of issue with investor's over the years.

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They're handing you complete bullshit. I've inspected thousands of commercial, industrial and apartment buildings and the agents are generally more professional and business-like than residential agents.

Tell 'em their scam ain't gonna work. I'd have a hard time resisting the urge to shove Zinsco panels up their butts.

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Stick to your guns,

There are twelve units in that building. That means there are twelve times as many chances that one of those could fail. He now knows that it would be prudent for him to spend $X per unit to upgrade to a more reliable and safer panel. That's the kind of information a commercial client needs.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I have spoke with my client and they want the building and they are locked into a low interest rate and do not want to loose their financing. They are also asking me to tone the report down on the electrical so they can close the deal. I have made it clear that the report has to state these panels are potential fire hazards. I think I will have to sleep on it.

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I have spoke with my client and they want the building and they are locked into a low interest rate and do not want to loose their financing. They are also asking me to tone the report down on the electrical so they can close the deal. I have made it clear that the report has to state these panels are potential fire hazards. I think I will have to sleep on it.

Brad

What's there to sleep on?

Changing the report to something that would pass the lender would be considered an act of fraud.

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Tell them to do what you told them - get an electrician out there. If the electrician says the panels are fine, it's the electrician's conscience and liability. If the electrician says they have to be replaced, then your point is proven. I agree with everyone else, it doesn't matter where the panel is installed, I have called out FPE Stab-lok panels in condos, gotten a boatload of stuff about it, but it ended with the condo association, after having three different electrical contractors tell them I was right, change out all the panels, including the main service equipment.

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Tell them to pound sand. If there is a potential issue with something and you are aware of it, you should report it. Who cares what the Realtor says. They are not the one who gets sued should something happen. I would report what you did and recommend that a licensed and qualified electrician evaluate each panel.

Just because the client said verbally he's aware of it, document it anyway. People seem to forget things they earlier said once in court.

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I have spoke with my client and they want the building and they are locked into a low interest rate and do not want to loose their financing. They are also asking me to tone the report down on the electrical so they can close the deal. I have made it clear that the report has to state these panels are potential fire hazards. I think I will have to sleep on it.

I'd tell them that my report stands. I'd further advise them not to show it to the lender. If the lender wants a report then they can damn well pay for one themselves.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Hi Brad,

Another thing to point out is that, though this was a commercial inspection, you hold a home inspector's license and are bound by the code of ethics. Any violation of the code of ethics, even if done during the commission of a commercial inspection and at the behest of the client, could land you in hot water with DOL. As long as you are holding that license and are accepting money for your expertise you must abide by the code of ethics.

You must remain unbiased, you must maintain your integrity, you are not allowed to minimize, compromise or attempt to balance information and you may not accept an inspection when assignment of the inspection is contingent upon your reporting predetermined conditions - namely that there is nothing seriously wrong with the structure.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I was asked by Mike to provide my 2 cents worth. Don't listen to the agent. Listen to your client. The client will need to show the report to the lender to get financing. Sometimes the only reason people get inspections is to appease the bank. That doesn't mean we change our opinions.

If there is a concern in the report that the lender is not comfortable with, then the lender will often hold back from the loan, the amount req'd to correct the deficiency. It doesn't mean that the purchaser won't get financing - they just won't get as much as they want. Once the deficiency has been corrected, then the lender will advance the rest of the funds. You may need to go back to do a second inspection to verify for the bank that the panels have been remedied, as necessary.

The question becomes who pays to replace the equipment. I don't know how many panels are being considered, but it sounds like $10 - $20K - not really enough money to worry about. If the seller is motivated and the purchaser is sincere, they can come to a price agreement.

I would suggest that the onus is now on the seller to get the qualified electrician in to undertake a detailed review and let the electrician have the final say and liability. That would be following the advice of the inspector.

Regarding the wording in the report, my personal opinion is that it is somewhat alarmist. Everyone knows that an electrical deficiency/concern means shock or fire. I would try to keep it short and sweet without eluding to poor quality components inside, etc.

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For any of you that might be wondering, "Who the hell is Richard Weldon, he's never posted here before and I've never heard of him," Richard is a principal with Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Ltd. consulting engineers in Toronto, CA. He teaches commercial inspections all over the North American continent.

I've asked Richard if he'd consider moderating a commercial building inspection forum on TIJ but haven't heard back from him yet whether he'd like to do it. If you guys would like his continued input on commercial inspections, don't start jumping on him and trying to scare him away, be encouraging.

Here's his CV - taken directly from the CDW Engineering website:

Richard Weldon, P.Eng, LEED® AP

Graduated in 1987 from the University of Toronto with a B.A.Sc in Mechanical Engineering.

Designated by the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario as a Professional Engineer in 1989.

Designated as a Consulting Engineer in 1995.

West Central Region Councilor, Professional Engineers Ontario.

An employee of Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd. from 1987 to 1997. Duties include inspecting over 4,000 residential and commercial buildings of various descriptions and reporting on conditions of major components such as structure, building envelope and mechanical systems.

An employee of Carson, Dunlop, Rohmann & Associates Ltd. in 1991. Duties include detailed progress inspections of roofing membrane installations, consulting with architects on roofing details and procedures and specification writing for roofing applications.

Formed Carson, Dunlop, Weldon & Associates Ltd. with Alan Carson and Robert Dunlop in 1997.

Member of the Ontario Building Envelope Council.

Member of the Ontario Plumbing Inspectors Association.

Member of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada.

Served as an expert witness to the Ontario Courts-General Division

Revised and updated the Rehabilitation Skills Course for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Continuing education courses include:

  • Deterioration and Failure of Concrete Structures, University of Toronto.
  • Ontario Building Code - Part 9 Technical Requirements, Ontario Ministry of Housing.
  • Electrical Safety Code, University of Toronto
  • Structural Design, University of Toronto.
  • Advanced Plumbing Design, Seneca College
Co-authored and currently teaches Commercial Property Assessment courses for various public and private groups across North America.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Thanks for the advice on this subject. I do listen to, trust in and value your opinions, or I would have never posted this issue.

Mike - I do understand the COE for my license and I do appreciate that reminder. I do not intend to violate the code in any way. I do not intend to hide any findings of my inspection, but defects and/or concerns can be written in many ways.

Below is the full electrical page of my report for review. If my comments are alarmist (as Richard and Les have stated) what would be better wording for this problem? Would it be an ethical violation to change my wording so the report is not alarmist but still conveys the problem with the electrical system to my client.

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif 101203-electrical.pdf

9.68 KB

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Regarding the wording in the report, my personal opinion is that it is somewhat alarmist. Everyone knows that an electrical deficiency/concern means shock or fire. I would try to keep it short and sweet without eluding to poor quality components inside, etc.

Somewhat alarmist? There's up to twelve families at risk in that building. The people involved in this transaction need to be alarmed. From what information that has been posted, they're not getting it.

I agree that it should be short (and more to the point), like have an electrician REPLACE ALL THE PANELS NOW.

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I personally don't think your comments are too alarmist at all. It's not common sense to everyone that electrical panel problems mean potential shock or fire hazards. I find many people that don't have a clue, which is why I document items to make sure anyone will understand it, not just to what I would assume they'd understand.

If you don't call it as you did, there are many people that would just think "Yeah, whatever, the lights and outlets all work, so there's no problem." JMHO of course.

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I just don't get the alarmist thing. When it comes to something that could be considered life threatening, is there such a thing? I don't think your statement is alarmist at all. You are representing YOUR client. Here is my statement(taken from inspect-ny) for Zinsco/Sylvania;

A Zinsco TM or GTE-SylvaniaTM-Zinsco [or Kearney] electrical panel is installed in this building. Serious electrical hazards may be present in the electrical panel which could result in overheating, fire, or inability to turn off the electrical power in the home. A licensed electrician who is familiar with this equipment should be called to inspect the panel for immediate fire and shock hazards, and regardless of its visually-apparent condition, this equipment should be replaced. Significant expense may be involved. Additional information about this hazards is available at an independent building failures research website: www.inspect-ny.com/electric/Zinsco.htm

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Below is the full electrical page of my report for review. If my comments are alarmist (as Richard and Les have stated) what would be better wording for this problem?

Suggestion:

Sub-Panels - 1) Zinsco electrical panels are installed as sub-panels in each apartment and as the main service equipment in the utility room of this building. These panels are well known for their high of failure in multiple modes include bus bar overheat and failure of the breaker to arrest a dangerous overload current. They each represent a fire hazard and should be replaced. (see photo EL2).

Marc

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Everyone knows that an electrical deficiency/concern means shock or fire.

Everyone knows that? 80% of the population (I'm feeling magnanimous today) wouldn't be able to extrapolate electrical deficiency/concern to equal shock or fire hazard.

Electrical deficiency can mean shock, fire hazard and a bizillion other things. Why must we stress death and destruction? Sure it can kill ya and so can a stair riser that is 1/8" too large or small.

I'm am surely getting too old to save the world. Just report what you see and keep the references pertinent. Some inspection reports are nothing more than a list of other folks' opinions.

I know a bunch about Zinsco, Fed Pacific, Sq D, etc and that is what my client pays for - my knowledge and opinion. I guess I could just go around screaming "DANGER, DANGER Will Robinson" and be sure I was never called to task nor sued. BTW, I am called to task often and rarely sued.

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