Code violations outside of scope of work, hypothetical...

sw_ross

Senior Member
Location
NoDak
If you were working on a remodel/renovation where you came across some code violations that were outside of your scope of work for the job you were hired to do how would you handle the situation?

This scenario seems to happen on about about every reno I've worked on, whether resi or commercial.

My process is to bring it to the attention of person in charge of project (HO or PM, and sometimes to AHJ), evaluate the situation, assess whether it done by an electrician or DYI'er, make sure there aren't any possible fire hazards (current or future), and make a coordinated effort to resolve the situation.

Sometimes the resolution involves an additional scope of work to fix the situation and sometimes it's a situation where the person in charge chooses not to deal with it (in which case if I feel that it's dangerous I'll involve the AHJ).

A recent Reno was a motel lobby that had existing PTAC units. They weren't part of my scope of work. Eventually I found that 2 30-amp PTAC units were on one branch circuit. The OCPD was 45-amp breaker. The wire in EMT was #8 or #6 (hard to read). The situation had been that way since the mid-80's. Everything was in conduit, so obviously done by an electrician. When I put and amp meter on the circuit while set on full hi-temp mode current draw was 43 amps (both units). The MOCP on the nameplate said 30 amps, so obviously a violation.

I felt like the primary concern was the MOCP issue. I let that situation slip under the radar and focused on some other more pressing violations that definitely needed to be addressed.

It's definitely one of those situations where I've wondered what other electricians would have done.
 

Another C10

Electrical Contractor 1987 - present
Location
Southern Cal
Occupation
Electrician NEC 2020
If you were working on a remodel/renovation where you came across some code violations that were outside of your scope of work for the job you were hired to do how would you handle the situation?
I have also ran across many installations that were not code compliant while performing my separate scope of work, My policy is if its a fire hazard within reason and not just a design issue, I would address it, usually the correction only takes 5 minutes, It may be a cover plate or tightening a loose connection that arced in front of me, and definitely address it to the client, reason being once you work around those potential fire issues you are now indirectly responsible to correct it, simply to protect yourself from a potential future investigation that could arise in the event of an electrical claim, especially now that you are the last electrician working around the noticed problem area. Also Make note on any invoicing that problems were noticed and give them an opportunity to get a free estimate to rectify the noticed issues. I feel it is our obligation as licensed individuals to always make sure to protect the clients safety and your own name as an electrician and/or business.
 
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winnie

Senior Member
Location
Springfield, MA, USA
Occupation
Electric motor research
A recent Reno was a motel lobby that had existing PTAC units. They weren't part of my scope of work. Eventually I found that 2 30-amp PTAC units were on one branch circuit. The OCPD was 45-amp breaker. The wire in EMT was #8 or #6 (hard to read). The situation had been that way since the mid-80's. Everything was in conduit, so obviously done by an electrician.
Wearing my DIY hat I've installed conduit and wire in conduit. And as is often the case with DIY work some of it was not code compliant (excessive conduit fill as I recall). Just for what its worth.
 

__dan

Senior Member
It is one of the situations were an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. First in you bid, contract, and permit language you want to have very specific language of what work you are to perform, a very specific and limited list, and language saying everything not specifically listed is excluded.

You have to know that everyone will want to dance around your contract to get you either doing it for free or get blamed for it. You want some cover in your bid and conrtact language.

Your insurer is along for the ride and it's a good question to ask your agent. A good agent may have a good answer that is surprising or even very surprising to you. I could not guess what they could say about it. But it is very low cost to ask since it is prior to any damages. I would guess they could advise you on some contract language for both of you. But then how to play it, they have their own way of doing things. If your agent is out to lunch, you may want another agent.

If you feel it threatens life safety and especially with property open to the public, you would really have to cover yourself with sufficient reporting to the proper authority. If it's only a problem that the breaker will trip on overload but not life safety, I just had OSHA decline one like that (not life safety they said) wich I disputed and maintain is employee safety related, by definition. I'm sure if it went the other way, I would be the bad guy. But I wrote the first letter so I only lost the job and not the house and everything else.

Which brings me to the last point. As long as you're doing it for free or willing to or positioned to take the fall for it, they like it that way. As soon as you report something that scares them (code violation) they may be thinking that is your last job ever. I don't have that gift of sales to make them like (proceeding). But that's what you need in this instance, a way to present he change order listing the added work so you have some document that says ' I made them aware of this on this date and they decline to authorize the added work'.

Anyone doing this for a long time has always come across those surprise days, years later, they are trying to bang you for something on some long ago job. And you just (have to be able to) pull an old letter out of somewhere and respond saying "please reference my letter dated 1/19/12 when I cited this condition to you".

If you are the only guy nearby with a license, I always assume what they are going to say is 'hey I did the right thing, I hired a guy with a license'. In this case the arrangement you cited would probably not trip my radar, but I would absolutely not have done a load test on it unless they had authorized that work, and then I would have felt obligated to give them a document of the load test results, along with observed deficiencies. Just kind of SOP on autopilot without giving it much thought. But they hate those letters and I know, one letter is one too many.
 
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AC\DC

Senior Member
Location
Florence,Oregon,Lane
Occupation
EC
In the my town we run into a lot of "outlaw wiring" they call. From what I heard in town and from the Current AHJ is the old one would sign off on permits When you buy him a beer at the pub. I Always at the end of my jobs write a report of the issue that I found, and it was not payed to fix it. Then include a price to fix it.
One job I was at I installed Some GFCI in the Kitchen. Then a week later the HVAC system went out. Tried to blame me. Showed them how the wire was ran through welded out holes and diving in and out of venting. Fixed that then a circuit in a room went out. Found an old Panel in a laundry clause that no one new. I addressed all the Issue with a lawyer and he drafted up a report.
Cost me a little but I can sleep at night. Especially since the current owner is a hack contractor that will do his own wiring.

Document and address. I am still knew to this but some times my paranoia helps out.

Just read Dan response its perfect!
 

McLintock

Senior Member
Location
USA
Occupation
Electrician
This is a can of worms. When I did garage door service work we ran into this all the time. The owner of the company told me when I do service calls you check all the garage doors in the place. Most of the time that kick us in the butt. Unless it’s clear, you can see it with your eye, I would not touch it. And like others have said be clear on the scope and limit of your work. Most of the time this “extra” stuff you cost you money and time


“ shoot low boys their riding shetland ponies”
 

paulengr

Senior Member
The tricky part is you could be stepping on toes. So you tactfully point out the problem focusing on the why, not the letter of the law. The goal is to create the need in the mind of the customer without offending anybody.

Be prepared with a fix Offer to fix it or refer someone else. This is pure sales here, Follow up work can be quite lucrative and you are already a known quantity based on the job you just did. Usually these are on the spot sales, quite often no bids, no multiple quotes. Just take care of it.

It’s called repeat business, the best kind. No cold calls and advertising needed.

Sane if they volunteer to ask you to quote something. It’s all value add. Even if it’s a sizable job if you put the idea in their heads they will maybe come back to do it later.

So don’t freak out. It’s pure opportunity.
 

AC\DC

Senior Member
Location
Florence,Oregon,Lane
Occupation
EC
Depends on the customer though. Some are grateful for the information. Some are thinking your taking advantage of and some you want that letter to run and never come back
 
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