Existing or not?

acebradley

Member
Location
Colorado
Was just wondering about your thoughts on what is considered "existing" and how the NEC applies. Too often contractors will claim that something is existing and therefore they do not have to bring it up to code. How far should this go? For example, let's say an inspector is inspecting a service change and notices an unsafe condition, like wires hanging out of a junction box that are energized; should the inspector issue a correction notice? I would think most inspectors would issue the correction notice.

There are parts of the NEC that specifically refer to "existing" installations, such as for grounding of appliances. Regardless of 90.4, what would give an inspector the backing to correct issues he/she sees that are "existing"?
 

jxofaltrds

Senior Member
Location
Mike P. Columbus Ohio
Occupation
ESI
How it was explained (about 5 years ago) to me (for Ohio) was that the existing 'violation' must be an Imminent Threat - like in the next five minutes.

Not sure I like that but this came from someone responsible for investigating complaints (now retired) for the state.

I have never seen anything in writing on where the line in the sand is drawn.
 

cowboyjwc

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Simi Valley, CA
Most contractors will use that argument, but then most would probably lose in court, because they were the last ones there working on stuff and how can they prove that they didn't leave the box open.

As for inspectors, we can't really walk away from a code violation that we can see, so we write it up and present it to the contractor (our corrections notices are for the address) and then he can give it to the home owner or simply repair the work.

I can't tell you how many times I go on a commercial project where they're putting lights in the ceiling and find open j boxes and missing KO seals and what not. How am I to know that you didn't do all that when you were working up there and how can you walk away from stuff like that when you know it's wrong too?
 

iceworm

Curmudgeon still using printed IEEE Color Books
Location
North of the 65 parallel
Occupation
EE (Field - as little design as possible)
Where I am, the state law say "new work is subject to the NEC". It does not say anything about work done to previous codes. Does not say anything about sloppy/unsafe maintenance practices. The state osha laws do.

Most contractors will use that argument, but then most would probably lose in court, because they were the last ones there working on stuff and how can they prove that they didn't leave the box open. ...
Because the open J-Boxes did not have anything to do with the circuits they were working on.

... As for inspectors, we can't really walk away from a code violation that we can see, so we write it up and present it to the contractor (our corrections notices are for the address) and then he can give it to the home owner or simply repair the work. ...
So what exactly do you write up? Is this like a parking ticket for the homeowner - or contractor? Is it a Notice of Violation with associated jail time if not fixed by a certain date? What happens if the owner throws it in the garbage? Is this the contractor's problem or the homeowner's?

... I can't tell you how many times I go on a commercial project where they're putting lights in the ceiling and find open j boxes and missing KO seals and what not. How am I to know that you didn't do all that when you were working up there ...
Ahhhh.... Because the open J-Boxes did not have anything to do with the circuits they were working on. And you are knowledgable enough to figure that out in a few minutes - or less.

... and how can you walk away from stuff like that when you know it's wrong too?
They took a contract to install 6 lights. They did not take a contract to bring the whole facility up to current code, or correct years of sloppy/unsafe maintenance practices.

Up here, the State electrical inspector can give out a osha violation notice (I don't know exactly how that works) and it goes to the owner - not the contractor that did not have anything to do with the work. However, I think most inspectors deal with it by pulling their badge and gun and ranting until either the contractor or owner's crew gets on it - same as most anywhere else.

ice
 
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cowboyjwc

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Simi Valley, CA
Maintenance. Buildings, structures and building service equipment, existing and new and parts thereof shall be maintained in a safe and sanitary condition. Devices or safeguards which are required by the technical codes shall be maintained in conformance with the technical code under which installed. The owner or the owner's designated agent shall be responsible for the maintenance of buildings, structures and the building service equipment. To determine compliance with this section, the building official may cause a structure to be reinspected.

Existing installations. Building service equipment lawfully in existence at the time of the adoption of the technical codes may have their use, maintenance or repair continued if the use, maintenance or repair is in accordance with the original design and a hazard to life, health, or property has not been created by such building service equipment.
 

mwm1752

Senior Member
Location
Aspen, Colo
There are quite a few installations that are in compliance within the code cycle which governed the wiring method that are now out of compliance -- A common instance is working space -- If the installation is unsafe or has never been in compliance with code then I will direct the contractor to remedy the issue -- As an Inspector there should never be a situation ignored if it has life safety issues -- here is a reasonable question for both inspectors & installers , Would you let your spouse/children/grandchildren occupy a structure with non compliant issues present? I hear alot of the customer's can't afford the project so contractors want to stay within budget, fair enough view, but if it isn't safe for your family it is not safe for a strangers family. You are not going to go bankrupt covering a blank j box or adding a ko seal if you see one missing -- That's just good workmanship and IMHO should be done prior to inspection.
 
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cowboyjwc

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Simi Valley, CA
Cowboyjwc: I would have to agree. By the way, where are you getting your definitions from... building code?
They came out of the Uniform Administrative Code.

mwm1752 makes a point that I always make to contractors, especially out of town ones. I live in this town as do my parents, my children, and my grandchildren, trust me, it's going to be safe when we're done. I'm also very involved in the community so the chance that some one I know is going to get hurt, is not an option.

We have a saying in our department, "you don't worry about money, we'll make it safe if it cost's every dime you've got.":D
 

packersparky

Senior Member
Location
Wisconsin
Most contractors will use that argument, but then most would probably lose in court, because they were the last ones there working on stuff and how can they prove that they didn't leave the box open.

As for inspectors, we can't really walk away from a code violation that we can see, so we write it up and present it to the contractor (our corrections notices are for the address) and then he can give it to the home owner or simply repair the work.
ffff
"Innocent until proven guilty." You have to prove they worked on it. They don't have to prove they didn't. What "stuff" did they work on? The burden of proof is on you, not on the contractor. If that where the case they should be going through the house with a fine tooth comb every time they enter the home and fix everything they find wrong.
 
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packersparky

Senior Member
Location
Wisconsin
They came out of the Uniform Administrative Code.

mwm1752 makes a point that I always make to contractors, especially out of town ones. I live in this town as do my parents, my children, and my grandchildren, trust me, it's going to be safe when we're done. I'm also very involved in the community so the chance that some one I know is going to get hurt, is not an option.

We have a saying in our department, "you don't worry about money, we'll make it safe if it cost's every dime you've got.":D
I find that attitude ignorant. Would you bankrupt a business in your town if they couldn't afford a fix that you deemed necessary? What if a family member worked there? Compliance should be sought, at all costs? Could the installation be made safe temporarily, while the owner made arrangements to finance permanent compliance? I am sure that you could walk into any building in your town and find violations. Shut them Down!:happyno::happyno::happyno:
 

mwm1752

Senior Member
Location
Aspen, Colo
I find that attitude ignorant. Would you bankrupt a business in your town if they couldn't afford a fix that you deemed necessary? What if a family member worked there? Compliance should be sought, at all costs? Could the installation be made safe temporarily, while the owner made arrangements to finance permanent compliance? I am sure that you could walk into any building in your town and find violations. Shut them Down!:happyno::happyno::happyno:
Ignorant-- the same could be said about your comments -- Listen carefully because most comments made are about "If's & But's" -- If a structure is unsafe due to life safety issues deemed necessary per Code then it is neglegient to ingnore the problems at hand -- Should never be a personal choice but an educated choice -- A business will go bankrupt with law suits when someone is injured(not killed) thru no fault of thier own if a proven known unsafe existed and nothing was done -- Sure you could walk into any building & find minor violations but that most likely will not bankrupt a business as you suggested -- How much is a life worth to you? I say priceless -- An unsafe structure should not be occupied.
 

cowboyjwc

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Simi Valley, CA
Ignorant-- the same could be said about your comments -- Listen carefully because most comments made are about "If's & But's" -- If a structure is unsafe due to life safety issues deemed necessary per Code then it is neglegient to ingnore the problems at hand -- Should never be a personal choice but an educated choice -- A business will go bankrupt with law suits when someone is injured(not killed) thru no fault of thier own if a proven known unsafe existed and nothing was done -- Sure you could walk into any building & find minor violations but that most likely will not bankrupt a business as you suggested -- How much is a life worth to you? I say priceless -- An unsafe structure should not be occupied.
Yeah, pretty much what he said. There are laws that cover these things and you guys should know them. If there is a violation that I see and I do nothing about it, then I'm as at fault as the owner or contractor who didn't fix it. There is no magic law that says inspectors are exempt from law suits.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Generally speaking, regardless of what the NEC says, no one can be forced to do work beyond what he is contracted to do. period.

Now, it is possible that for whatever reason a contractor might agree to do some work and as part of his contract agree to do the work IAW all applicable codes and standards. If the applicable codes require him to bring some part of the installation "up to code", that probably becomes his problem because he agreed to it up front.

If OTOH, he only agrees to do some very specific things, that is all he has to do, and if additional work is required to meet some code that apply, than that is likely the owner's issue.
 

cowboyjwc

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Simi Valley, CA
Generally speaking, regardless of what the NEC says, no one can be forced to do work beyond what he is contracted to do. period.

Now, it is possible that for whatever reason a contractor might agree to do some work and as part of his contract agree to do the work IAW all applicable codes and standards. If the applicable codes require him to bring some part of the installation "up to code", that probably becomes his problem because he agreed to it up front.

If OTOH, he only agrees to do some very specific things, that is all he has to do, and if additional work is required to meet some code that apply, than that is likely the owner's issue.
That's what I said, the correction notice always goes to the job address. I never said that the contractor was responsible for fixing it, just that someone is responsible for fixing it.
 

eprice

Senior Member
Location
Utah
As for inspectors, we can't really walk away from a code violation that we can see, so we write it up and present it to the contractor (our corrections notices are for the address) and then he can give it to the home owner or simply repair the work.
Generally speaking, regardless of what the NEC says, no one can be forced to do work beyond what he is contracted to do. period.

Now, it is possible that for whatever reason a contractor might agree to do some work and as part of his contract agree to do the work IAW all applicable codes and standards. If the applicable codes require him to bring some part of the installation "up to code", that probably becomes his problem because he agreed to it up front.

If OTOH, he only agrees to do some very specific things, that is all he has to do, and if additional work is required to meet some code that apply, than that is likely the owner's issue.
I agree with both of these.

When I am inspecting new work done in an existing structure, I am primarily looking at the new work. I don't spend time scrutinizing existing work for code violations, but sometimes problems in the existing work, that constitute safety concerns are painfully obvious. Open boxes with energized conductors hanging out is one example. The fact that is existing doesn't remove the fact that it is a code violation. Open boxes with energized wires hanging out, I am certain, does not conform with the code that was in effect when the original installation was done. Those types of violations I will write up.

However, if it is not part of the new work, I don't see it as the contractors responsibility to fix. When I write an inspection report, I am not assigning responsibility to anyone in particular to fix the violations. I don't know what is in the contract between the contractor and the owner. I am just noting violations that exist that need to be corrected. Ultimately, the responsibility for code compliance of the building rests with the owner. The contractor has an agreement with the owner to do certain work. If violations are found that are outside the scope of the agreement, then the owner can choose to negotiate adding the additional work to the contract, or to hire someone else to fix the existing violations. It doesn't matter to me (as long as whoever it is has the proper license), but I will not pass the inspection until the violations are corrected.
 
I agree with both of these.

When I am inspecting new work done in an existing structure, I am primarily looking at the new work. I don't spend time scrutinizing existing work for code violations, but sometimes problems in the existing work, that constitute safety concerns are painfully obvious. Open boxes with energized conductors hanging out is one example. The fact that is existing doesn't remove the fact that it is a code violation. Open boxes with energized wires hanging out, I am certain, does not conform with the code that was in effect when the original installation was done. Those types of violations I will write up.

However, if it is not part of the new work, I don't see it as the contractors responsibility to fix. When I write an inspection report, I am not assigning responsibility to anyone in particular to fix the violations. I don't know what is in the contract between the contractor and the owner. I am just noting violations that exist that need to be corrected. Ultimately, the responsibility for code compliance of the building rests with the owner. The contractor has an agreement with the owner to do certain work. If violations are found that are outside the scope of the agreement, then the owner can choose to negotiate adding the additional work to the contract, or to hire someone else to fix the existing violations. It doesn't matter to me (as long as whoever it is has the proper license), but I will not pass the inspection until the violations are corrected.
Do you give any indication as to which violations are part of the new (permit pulled, hopefully) work and the violations that were there prior to the EC's new work and not committed by the EC?

The reason I ask is that it would seem like not passing the new work because the old work is in violation would probably hold up the EC from getting a final paycheck from the owner.
 
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