What you need to know about electrical certificates

Since May 2009 it has become compulsory for homeowners to be in possession of a valid Electrical Certificate of Compliance (ECOC). This document verifies that the electrical work and installations that have been completed on a property are up to the regulations required by the South African National Standards and are safe.

Why is an electrical certificate so important for a homeowner? Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that aside from the fact that the certificate is proof that the electrical installation is safe, the law requires a homeowner to be in possession of an ECOC, as do home insurance companies. “If a property incurs any damage as a result of an electrical fault, the insurance company will require the homeowner to provide them with a valid electrical certificate. Failure to produce the document could result in the insurance company repudiating the claim,” says Goslett.

Prior to the legislative change during 2009, an ECOC remained valid indefinitely and could be transferred without limitation, unless changes were made to the electrical installations. Essentially this meant that the seller could provide the buyer with same ECOC that was provided to them when they purchased the home, regardless of how long ago that was.
Goslett notes that these days, during the sale process of a property, the conveyancer would need to obtain the original ECOC from the seller before registration takes place. This means that the seller must get a certified electrician to inspect the electrical installations, if the ECOC in the seller’s possession is older than two years or if any changes have been made to the electrical installations during this time. The original compliance certificate must eventually be retained by the buyer after it has been presented to the conveyancing attorneys, as legislation requires a property owner to produce a valid certificate of compliance on request to an inspector.
According to Goslett, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to check whether the electrician doing any electrical installation on their property is registered with the relevant authorities and has a wireman’s license or is working under the direct supervision of an electrician with a wireman’s license. If they do not have the necessary qualifications, they will be unable to provide an electrical compliance certificate on the work that they do. “The homeowner must also request to see the contractor’s registration card and accreditation certificate. This is particularly important in light of the fact that electricians do not have to guarantee the electrical system is in working order, but only that it is safe, and the new requirement that a test certificate must accompany the ECOC,” says Goslett.       

He notes that once the ECOC has been transferred into the name of the new homeowner, any alterations made by the new owner to the electrical installation through renovation of the property, for example, will not be covered under that certificate and a separate certificate will be required to cover the additional installations. Goslett says that alternatively, the entire installation can be checked once the additional work has been complete and an entirely new certificate can be issued covering all the electrical work.  “As a rule of thumb it is good maintenance practise to have the property re-inspected for wear and tear every two years, regardless of whether the owner is intending to sell the property or not. This will ensure that the wiring in the home remains safe during the period the homeowner occupies the residence,” he says.

In the instance where the property is rented out, Goslett says that the owner is required to possess a valid ECOC for the electrical installation in that property and provide the tenant with a copy for their records. “According to the law, no property may be rented out without the landlord having a valid compliance certificate and rental agents are required to see the ECOC before they can assist with finding a tenant for the property,” he concludes.

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