Is a Seller obliged to issue an Electrical Certificate of Compliance (CoC) to the Purchaser when same is not noted in the Offer to Purchase?
A recent article in a local magazine claimed that according to a recent court ruling it was no longer necessary for an Electrical Certificate of Compliance (CoC) to be issued when a property changes ownership unless it is a condition of sale.
I have noted with some concern the large degree of uncertainty that exists on this topic and wish to elucidate same.
The Department of Labour enforces the requirements of the Electrical Installation Regulations in respect of residential properties. It is important to note that the law expressly provides that a CoC needs to be issued when a property on which an electrical installation exists changes ownership at any time after 1st of March 1994. (Note: The Electrical Installation Regulations do not dictate who should issue this certificate and most definitely does not state that a Seller is obligated to issue same to his Purchaser before transfer of the property can be effected.)
The Electrical Installation Regulations require every user or lessor of an electrical installation (i.e. a premises that is electrified) to have a valid CoC, which is transferable, in respect of such an installation.
There is an exception that if the installation existed prior to October 1992 and there have been no addition or alteration to that installation, and it has not changed ownership since 1 January 1994, then no CoC is required. Once a change of ownership occurs, a CoC is required to be issued.
For this reason, the majority of property sale agreements stipulate that a Seller will provide the Purchaser with a valid certificate of compliance. The Seller is however not obligated to have the said CoC issued if such obligation is not contractually agreed to. Contrary to popular belief, the CoC is not required by any Deeds Office to effect transfer of ownership of fixed property. Remember that a homeowner (being a user of an electrical installation) is required to have a valid CoC for the electrical installation on the premises unless the installation predates 1992 and there have been no additions or alterations and no change of ownership.
A valid electrical Certificate of Compliance is the most universally accepted and endorsed proof of safety and compliance. If the agreement of sale of a property stipulates that a Seller will provide a CoC, this becomes a legally binding obligation on the Seller. IMPORTANT: Please take note that the CoC certifies only that the electrical installation is reasonably safe and does not confirm or certify that any appliances (stoves, aircons etc.) are in fact in good working order.
The Electrical Contractors’ Association of South Africa (ECA) represents the majority of the country’s electrical contractors, many of whom are involved in the testing and inspection of electrical installations and issuing certificates of compliance. The Department of Labour is responsible for regulating electrical installation work and enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Electrical Installation Regulations. The Accredited Person is the electrician who is suitably qualified and has been licensed by the Department of Labour to carry out installation work and issue certificates of compliance. This electrician may either be working as an electrical contractor or may be working for an electrical contractor. The Electrical Contracting Board of South Africa (ECB) is responsible for registering electrical contractors. No one may carry out electrical contracting work unless they register with the board on an annual basis.
Take note that if the Seller has not bound himself contractually to issue a valid CoC to the Purchaser the Purchaser will have to carry the cost burden of acquiring same as the Purchasers Bank would usually require a copy of the valid CoC before registration of transfer. Whether you’re buying or selling, always insist on a new inspection being carried out by an ECA (SA) accredited member and that an up to date CoC is issued before transfer takes place. In doing so you’ll ensure a hassle-free transfer, that your new home is safe to live in and that you will not be landed with large bills later on.