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Can city inspector force you to hire electrician?


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There are permits that were never issued and expired permits from previous owners (some going back 30 years!) that the city is now forcing me to pay for the permits and correct.

I don't have a problem correcting problems, who doesn't want things safer?

The inspector wrote on the inspection card2 that I MUST hire a licensed electrician to do a load calculation and correct all code violations. He told me (verbally) he didn?t want to write it all down for me.

Can the city FORCE me to pay someone to do simple things like replace a bad receptacle, GFI, or replace a breaker? I am unemployed right now and every extra expense hurts ? so I really need to keep these expenses low.

I am hoping some people who know the electrical code and experience with dealing with city inspectors can reply and help me figure out where to pick my battles.

Thanks

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Some AHJ's allow homeowners to do their own trades work, provided they demonstrate competence. In my experience as AHJ I saw more than one case where competence was clearly lacking in performance of electric work. Then, the requirement for licensed work kicked in.

What was the reason for the AHJ to make site visit at all?

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I think, reading between the many lines, the AHJ has concerns for your electrical service and past wiring issues you may not be aware of.

Load calculations are needed if there is a suspicion that the service is inadequate for all the appliances installed.

Go ahead and fix the small stuff, then get the electrician in to check and approve the panel and service. An inspection by a licensed electrician is usually enough to satisfy the authority.

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The city doesn't just walk up to your house and say this stuff.

What's the rest of the story?

What do you mean? I don't know what else you want to know that wasn't stated or implied above. I pulled permits for some work, when I called for an inspection the inspector saw other items and brought up permits that were expired. They have inspection cards and he wrote that on the card and said he didn't want to write everything down and he wants a licensed electrician to do a load calculation and inspect everything and fix all code violations. I'm not sure how this will work as the house was built in the 60's, or how far this will go.

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Some AHJ's allow homeowners to do their own trades work, provided they demonstrate competence. In my experience as AHJ I saw more than one case where competence was clearly lacking in performance of electric work. Then, the requirement for licensed work kicked in.

What was the reason for the AHJ to make site visit at all?

I pulled permits for some other work. The work in question actually isn't the work that I did, it was from past owners that is the larger issue. The only items that came up of my personal work were smaller items. For example, I ran other receptacles off of the GFI in the bathroom, this isn't allowed apparently now. This was a simple fix.

The main service panel (100amp) apparently didn't have a permit (which was done when the city widened the street and all service was converted to underground, about 30 years ago) and a permit was pulled but without a final inspection for a sub-panel placed between the house panel and the main service panel. This seemed to concern them, and apparently why they asked for a load balance report.

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Rule #1: Don't argue with the municipal inspector.

The blowback will always far exceed any imagined benefit.

I agree I don't want to cause problems. I also don't think we should be slaves to just just whatever a bureaucrat wants to say if he/she is wrong. He actually complimented a lot of the work done, he thought a contractor did it, but actually I did all the work. I already got him to admit a couple other items isn't in the code that he tried to require me to do, in a very polite way of course - asking where this was in the code so I could make sure it was carefully followed - then he said he couldn't find it and I could ignore it.

I don't even mind hiring an electrician if I know exactly why and a scope is well defined. He just seemed in a hurry.

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I think, reading between the many lines, the AHJ has concerns for your electrical service and past wiring issues you may not be aware of.

Load calculations are needed if there is a suspicion that the service is inadequate for all the appliances installed.

Go ahead and fix the small stuff, then get the electrician in to check and approve the panel and service. An inspection by a licensed electrician is usually enough to satisfy the authority.

Well, I would agree that the original electric service condition prior to my purchase of the home was suspect. Well, I found it just unsafe.

I think the big issue is from the main service panel the power line runs into a sub panel, and from there goes to three other panels with multiple circuits in each. I wish I had a larger service to the property, but changing this could be complicated. The main breaker has never tripped due to electrical usage (I did test it as I found other breakers that didn't work, so I wanted to make sure it did) in over 5 years.

I'm trying to become as knowledgeable about the issues as I can, and keep from doing unnecessary work as well as keep my expenses down.

I am hoping that you are correct. I've had a few electricians out, unfortunately I get VERY different answers so far from each of them. It seems to just get more complicated over something that seemed to me should have been a simple thing to fix.

This forum is helping me definitely sort out the type of electricians that I've called. I appreciate all the input very much.

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hey tps,

Another thing I encountered along the trail of misunderstanding in the woods of the public was an assumption that all one has to do is get a permit, call for an inspection, and the inspector will tell one what must be done. Sort of like getting free education or free design service.

I am serious. I actually fought with co-working inspectors over this issue. "You gotta problum?...so tell me what I gotta do!" Around here the so-called inspectors fall for that line. If you do not know how to do the work, you have to hire the help. The inspector is not a designer or a tradesman.

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hey tps,

Another thing I encountered along the trail of misunderstanding in the woods of the public was an assumption that all one has to do is get a permit, call for an inspection, and the inspector will tell one what must be done. Sort of like getting free education or free design service.

I am serious. I actually fought with co-working inspectors over this issue. "You gotta problum?...so tell me what I gotta do!" Around here the so-called inspectors fall for that line. If you do not know how to do the work, you have to hire the help. The inspector is not a designer or a tradesman.

Belligerent builders hear this from me, "this isn't a how-to school."

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hey tps,

Another thing I encountered along the trail of misunderstanding in the woods of the public was an assumption that all one has to do is get a permit, call for an inspection, and the inspector will tell one what must be done. Sort of like getting free education or free design service.

I am serious. I actually fought with co-working inspectors over this issue. "You gotta problum?...so tell me what I gotta do!" Around here the so-called inspectors fall for that line. If you do not know how to do the work, you have to hire the help. The inspector is not a designer or a tradesman.

While I would agree inspectors should not be pushed into a position of a how-to instructor, I would fully disagree that they do not need to explain themselves, give the code they are relying on, or answer questions PRIOR to work being done if there applicable codes they will enforce related to work on your home.

These people work for us, and too many forget that. They act like demi-gods that pick and choose what to say and enforce. That just isn't their job. Too much of the code seems "flexible" or open to interpretation - if they are going to play it that way, then you have to be specific on what THEY want.

I have had the building department in my city actually tell me to completely BUILD something and then they will tell me if it is ok, or if I have to tear it down completely (a cement block wall). They were not interested in plans, or giving information on any local requirement outside of state regulations. They charge to review plans, so why don't they review them??

?It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.?

#8213; Benjamin Franklin

I'm not arguing with the inspector, I just want to know I'm not being screwed over because someone is taking advantage of a situation.

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Here's some free advice for the O.P.

Stop coming here to get answers that you need to get from an electrician. Go to you library and get a copy of Electrical Inspections of Existing Dwellings by Douglas Hansen, read it from cover to cover and then re-read it and then read it again.

Once you've worked your way through that you should be able to have an intelligent conversation with a licensed electrician about what the electrician needs to do to straighten out your electrical system.

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tps said,

"...I would fully disagree that they do not need to explain themselves, give the code they are relying on, or answer questions PRIOR to work being done if there applicable codes they will enforce related to work on your home..."

Inspectors always have to back up problems they cite with chapter and verse. Solutions to problems, however, are sometimes even more numerous than the archetypical 100 ways to skin a cat. It is up to the permit holder to find his way out of the woods.

Compliance is 100% the burden of the permit applicant, and that includes codes knowledge and application. BTW the way to best insure compliant work is to hire that licensed tradesman, whose terms of licensure require that he stay updated and knowledgeable re codes compliance.

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Read Mr. O's post #13.

While most don't realize it, building inspectors are code enforcement officers. The building code is a body of law adopted by a municipality. They may not agree with what they're charged to enforce, but they are obliged to enforce the law.

Also, when the guy refers you to an electrician, there's a lot more background activity going on that can go into multitudes of obscure and/or ridiculous (but very real) legal implications. Background activity in the depts. I worked in was tied up most tidily by simply insisting they get a licensed guy to spec and do the work. There's a clean paper trail. We were bureaucrats, after all.

So, stop wasting fuel thinking about the muni guy. It isn't going anywhere. At base, no one cares what a civilian thinks. Not trying to be insulting; just stating a fact.

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I have seen inspectors require work that had been covered up before inspection to be fully exposed to allow inspection. All the cabinets and drywall needed to be removed from the kitchen.

The inspector does not have the luxury, nor should my taxes pay for them to educate the uninformed.

Sorry that someone's mistakes are costing you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've taken my NEC to the AHJ's office several times and politely asked for justification. They've always been polite and proven their point to my satisfaction. In fact, each weekday from 7 to 8 and noon to 1, there's at least one inspector in each trades on standby for contractors and plain folk to come talk to.

Now, if a DIYer is making repeated trips to the AHJ about one job then I can easily see the AHJ's patience running thin, and justifiably so.

Marc

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