Ocean City Today

New rule closes loophole in electrical work regulations

By Brian Gilliland | Jun 22, 2017

(June 23, 2017) If a permit is required for electrical work within a residence, that permit must be obtained by a licensed electrician and the work must be performed by a licensed electrician under a new law approved 6-1 by the county commissioners on Tuesday.

Relatively simple jobs, such as replacing an outlet or lighting fixture, are not regulated by the county and can continue to be performed by homeowners.

Previously, homeowners could get their own permits for certain projects, which created a loophole through which unlicensed or uninsured electricians could easily pass through, according Board of Electrical Examiners member Michael Patchett.

Patchett told the commissioners unlicensed electricians are telling clients to acquire the permits and then pass the work to them, regardless of the size of the job.

That also would mean a person could get a permit for one type of job, and end up getting more elaborate work done.

“We’re seeing unlicensed, uninsured contractors wiring entire houses,” he said, based on permits issued to homeowners physically incapable of handling such work themselves. Patchett used the example of a 90-year-old woman who used a walker installing complex electrical systems in her home by herself to illustrate the point.

Duane Duncan, also a board member, said it happens most often when homeowners remodel or buy properties with the intention of selling them quickly.

This creates two problems. First, if the work is faulty, the consumer has no recourse against an unlicensed or uninsured electrician that performed the work. Secondly, should the house’s electric system need further work, there’s no guarantee the previous contractor performed the job up to code, potentially extending the time and cost of repairs.

“Doing jobs takes three times as long because we’re fixing other problems,” Duncan, a licensed electrician, said.

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said the rule was needed because it protects the consumer, and is something other counties have adopted. Commissioner Jim Bunting said it was a safety issue for him, and would prevent “things being done that shouldn’t be done.”

Commissioner Chip Bertino was dubious about the scale of work that could be performed by homeowners, especially those who might be licensed in other jurisdictions but have retired to Worcester, though he voted in favor of the bill.

Commissioner Ted Elder was not convinced, and thought the board might be chasing problems that didn’t exist.

“It’s up to the homeowner to make that choice, and it’s their choice to make. I haven’t seen any flurry of activity on this,” Elder said.

Elder said he thought a new regulation was unnecessary and redundant. He was the sole vote against the measure.

The law takes effect in 45 days.

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