Moving house is complicated. There’s packing, wrapping, clearing out of unused items. But one element people often neglect is ensuring that their homes are safety-compliant when they put them on the market. Sunburst Electric would like to provide you with a definitive guide – ‘Certificates of Compliance: 101’.
What is a Certificate of Compliance (COC)?
The electrical Certificate of Compliance is compulsory for homeowners wishing to sell their humble abodes. You can obtain an electrical Certificate of Compliance (COC) from a qualified, registered electrician.
The purpose of this certificate is to prove that all of the electrical work and installations in your home are in good working order, and up to standard. Certificates of Compliance are valid for two years from the date of issue. You should also know, however, that any property with an electric fence requires its own certificate of compliance: an Electrical Fence System Compliance Certificate.
Who needs a Certificate of Compliance?
Before the home is placed on the market, the owner should have it inspected to ensure all electrical elements of the property are installed and working as they should. Any aspect that does not meet the requirements should be removed or fixed. Homeowners, who’ve had electric fencing installed at the property, will require an additional Electrical Fence System Compliance Certificate.
What is covered by my Certificate of Compliance?
The electrical certificate covers:
- everything in the main distribution board and any sub boards, circuit breakers, earth leakage etc.;
- the earthing system and connectivity throughout the installation;
- bonding of all metal components (antennas and satellite dishes);
- the socket outlets and light switches;
- all isolators for fixed appliances;
- all the cables from the mains incoming point to the main distribution board;
- all the cabling from the distribution boards to switches and plugs (including the wall plugs and light switches, through to the connection at the lights);
- all circuits and wiring to any fixed appliances, even if they are plugged into a wall socket (excluding the actual appliance itself);
- positioning of electrical equipment (e.g. light switches and plugs that may not be within a certain distance of taps, shower, baths etc.);
- mains switch and their accessibility within a certain height from the floor in case of emergencies;
- ensuring that all electrical equipment in the installation is approved by SABS or other relevant approvals, and be of the correct type and rating for the application;
- ensuring that all electrical equipment must be installed in an approved manner;
- ensuring that all electrical equipment is securely attached in place and suitably protected from little fingers gaining access;
- ensuring that all parts of the permanent electrical installation is in good working order (including safety features); and lastly,
- an electrician will also take various readings to ensure that voltages, insulation, earthing, and other values adhere to regulatory requirements.
The distribution board (DB board) of your home serves as the heart of all of your electrical installations. From here, the incoming supply to your mains are further split into the various plug, light, and other circuits. The circuit breakers protect against overload and short circuit faults (without which you could run the risk of electrical fires).
The circuit breakers and wire size need to be correctly rated according to the maximum amount of electricity that the connected circuit may be expected to carry.
The earth leakage on your DB board protects against potential electrocution situations. If nothing else, minimum regulations require that the main switch must be easily accessible in case of emergencies. Of course, it is preferable that the entire board is easily accessible.
What is NOT covered by the Certificate of Compliance?
Like your car’s roadworthiness certificate, the electrician issuing the COC does not service or upgrade the electrical installation. S/he merely ensures that what is already installed in your home is operational, complies with regulations, and is deemed safe.
Your Certificate of Compliance also does not cover upgrades to electrical installations in older homes. According to regulations, each room in your home only requires a minimum of one operational light. There are no regulations stating that a home must have a certain minimum number of socket outlets per room, or a number of plug circuits. In some cases even the old fuse boards are still deemed perfectly legal.
Fixed home appliances are only checked in order to ensure that they are connected to the installation via approved means, rather than making sure that they are in working condition. This includes items such as:
- air conditioning units
- swimming pool pumps
- bore hole pumps
- pool lights
- garage and gate motors
- pond pumps
- HVAC systems
- wall heaters
- underfloor heating
- any other fixed appliances
Your Certificate of Compliance does also not include temporary installations. This means that it does not cover something that can simply be unplugged and removed by hand, and that was clearly intended for temporary use only.
That being said, if you have performed the installation in such a manner as to indicate that it is intended for permanent usage, then it will need to be done according to regulation.
Why do I need a COC?
Electricity, just like water and gas, can ‘leak’. This leakage current is potentially dangerous as it can flow through you when you touch the ‘leaking’ appliance. The earth leakage relay is designed to monitor for leakage current going directly (or indirectly) to earth. If this exceeds a certain value, the earth leakage relay will trip and disconnect the current flow. This is why it is so important that all circuits are properly earthed in order to ensure that the earth leakage relay would operate as intended in case of an emergency.
The onus has been placed on the homeowner (seller) to ensure that a faulty or non-compliant electrical installation in his/her house does not pose a safety threat to any person, animal, or property. Should an injury or incident occur and there is no COC in place, the homeowner could be held liable and the insurance on the house could be declared invalid, and you’ll be responsible for any damages incurred.
When is a COC required?
A valid electrical certificate is a legal requirement, which means that any person who owns any type of electrical installation should – at all times – be in possession of a valid Certificate of Compliance.
In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) no person may market, sell, let, or supply an electrical installation that is unsafe. This means that the Seller of a property is obligated to obtain a COC before transfer of the property may occur. The certificate must be issued by a legitimate contractible company, and must comply with all the criteria stipulated by the authorities, as well as conforming to the latest Code of Practice.
How do I obtain a Certificate of Compliance?
Only a qualified electrician with a Wireman’s License (and who is registered with the Electrical Contracting Board of South Africa (E.C.B)) can issue a COC.
How do I spot a fake and invalid Certificate of Compliance?
There have been reported incidents of fraudulent COCs issued. In some cases, these have been signed, blank copies simply sold. In others, former employees in possession of a company’s Department of Labour registration details and illegally issued the COCs.
In such cases of identity theft and leaking of information concerning how a Certificate of Compliance is completed, the responsibility to rectify the situation lies with the company whose details were used to issue the Certificate of Compliance.
We’re giving you a further list on how to spot a fake COC:
- When your residential main distribution board is tested, the voltage should be less than 25 volts. If it is higher, your COC is most certainly invalid.
- Similarly, the continuity of your bonding on your main DB board should n’t read more than 0.2 Ohms.
- Insulation resistance shouldn’t be higher than 1 mega ohms. It can be 1 or infinity, and you should make sure that it is stated on the COC.
- Earth leakage unit operation has to be between 15 and 30 mA (Milliamps). If this isn’t the case, then your COC is not valid. Again, make sure this is clearly stated on the COC.
- A valid COC shouldn’t have been corrected or altered in any way.
- The information shown on your COC has to correspond with the correct date and must have the electrician’s details. Here, it is your responsibility to ensure that the COC you’re issued with is correct.
- Always check that the electrician has filled in either “Yes” or “N/A’ where those sections occurred. If there is a “No” answer, your COC will not be valid.
- The electrician issuing the COC has to have signed the document. Without his/her signature, the COC won’t be considered valid. This also safeguards you against any potential issues on the COC as his/her signature confirms that everything is correct according to established standards.
- While all of this may seem highly technical, the COC shows all of these categories, and you simply need to verify that the checklist above has been adhered to. By doing that, you ensure that your COC is completely valid, and avoid any potential issues.
You should also pay close attention to any comments made by the electrician issuing your COC.
What does an Electrical COC Cost?
The price of the inspection is normally a fixed fee – the total cost, however, is determined by whether or not repairs need to take place. The electrician inspecting your electrical installation will inform you about any potential issues that need to be addressed so that the installation complies with the Code of Practice.
The electrician will also provide you with a full quotation for work required in order to ensure COC compliance. At this point the client can decide to either:
A: Accept the quotation so that the electrician can perform the work, after which they will issue a new electrical certificate (COC).
B: Appoint another qualified electrician to perform the work and issue the COC.
Electricians cannot issue COCs based on the work of others as the certificate also serves as a guarantee on materials and workmanship. Please note the inspection fee is a consultation fee, and not a certificate fee. The fees, therefore, remain payable irrespective of who ultimately issues the certificate.
What is the validity period of the Electrical COC?
For a long time the electrical certificate was valid for as long as the electrical installation was not amended or worked on in any way.
There are, however, two shortcomings in this practice:
- Wear and Tear: everything eventually breaks or wears out, including electrical equipment. There is, therefore, simply no way a COC can be valid forever.
- The new owner was simply expected to take the seller’s word for it that s/he had not amended or worked on the electrical installation in any way in all the years s/he had lived at the premises.
It was therefore decided that a COC only be valid for an absolute maximum of two years, assuming that no alterations or work had been done during that period. Sometimes an affidavit will need to be signed to this effect.
Our qualified and friendly service professionals are fully trained and are able to answer any questions you may have regarding your COC. We are standing by to check your electrical compliance today!