There is no sitting on the fence when it comes to electrical compliance

With a change in legislation in May 2009, it has since become compulsory for sellers to be in possession of and provide the buyer with a valid Electrical Certificate of Compliance or ECOC. 

Essentially the document certifies that all of the electrical work and any additional installations have been vetted and comply with the regulations stipulated by the South African National Standards.
Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that before the current legislative change was made, ECOC documents never expired and could simply be transferred from one owner to another without limitation, provided no changes were made to the electrical installation. The seller could provide the new owner with the very same electrical certificate that was given to them when they purchased the property, regardless of the time period that had lapsed. 

“However,” says Goslett, “the current legalisation stipulates that the ECOC is only valid for a period of two years. If the seller has an ECOC that is older than this, or any electrical alterations have occurred during the two year period, the seller will be required to obtain a new ECOC by enlisting the services of a certified electrician.  During the sale process of the home the original compliance certificate will be requested by the conveyancing attorney before the registration of the property takes place. It will then be presented to the new owner of the property to retain, as the owner is required by law to present the certificate to an inspector on request.”

Goslett notes that aside from it being a legislative requirement, there are two reasons why having a valid ECOC is important for homeowners to have.  “The first reason is that the certificate should prove that the electrical work and any further installations are up to code and safe for the home’s occupants. The second reason is that from an insurance perspective, 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. If the homeowner is unable to produce the ECOC, the insurance company could dismiss their claim.

“The legislation ensures that homeowners use a certified electrician that is registered with the relevant authorities. The electrician must have a wireman’s license or be working under the direct supervision of someone with such a license. Contractors without the necessary qualifications will not be unable to provide an electrical compliance certificate on the work that they do,” says Goslett. “The onus is on the homeowner to request to see the accreditation certificate before anyone starts any electrical work.”   

The ECOC will cover all electrical work from the supply, which is the distribution board, to the point of consumption. This would include the electrical sockets, light fittings and all electrical connections and wiring. Goslett says that the actual light bulbs do not need to be replaced to obtain an ECOC, provided there is electricity at the point of connection. That said, as a condition of sale, all electrical connections must be operational and it may be required by the bank that all lights are in working order.

Goslett notes that once the property and ECOC has been transferred into the new owner’s name, any alterations or renovations that they undertake will not be covered and a separate certificate will be required to cover the additional installations. “Once all renovations or additions have been made to the home, the entire installation will need to be checked and an entirely new certificate should be issued covering all the electrical work,” he says.

If an owner has rented their property to a tenant, the landlord is required to provide a copy of the ECOC to the tenant for their records; however they will retain the original document. Goslett says that the law prohibits any property to be leased out without the landlord having a valid ECOC in their possession. “If a rental agency is used by the landlord, the rental agent will request the owner to provide them with the document before they will assist them with finding a tenant. So landlords will need to ensure that they have all the necessary paperwork in order before letting their property,” advises Goslett.

Additionally, Goslett says that if a homeowner has opted to install electrical fencing as a security measure, an Electrical Fence System Compliance Certificate is now also required where applicable. It is vital to note that an ECOC and Electrical Fence System Compliance Certificate are two separate and different documents. In terms of the Electrical Machinery Regulations of 2011 (the Regulations), issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, Regulation 12 of the Electrical Machinery Regulations, 2011 imposes an obligation on the user of an electric fence system to have an electric fence system certificate of compliance.

This requirement does not apply to a system in existence prior to 1 October 2012. Once the certificate has been issued, it is transferable so there is no need to obtain another one on the change of ownership of the property. However, as with an ECOC, this certificate will be required where an addition or alteration is effected to the system or where there is a change of ownership of the premises on which the system exists if the change of ownership takes place after 1 October 2012. It is vital that the electric fence system is certified by an approved installer.

Goslett says that regardless of whether a compliance certificate has surpassed its expiry date or not, it is good maintenance practice to have all the electrical systems inspected for any damage or faults. He concludes by saying that keeping electrical systems and wiring in a home in good working order will ensure that it remains safe for its occupants.

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