DIY Doctor

The question "Is it legal" what should be the answer?

Postby ericmark » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:15 pm

We see many posts asking "Can I" or "Is it legal to" and although we know that doing the work will be unlikely to result in legal proceedings we also know that strictly speaking the DIY man is unlikely to inspect and test as required by the regulations and Part P makes not following the regulations also a criminal act. OK I know it does not have to be BS7671 which is followed but I think the cases where German or French regulations are used instead must be rather few.

So forgetting the "Can I" as really one can forget the law with that as they have not directly asked the question, but with "Is it legal" can we really tell a poster yes you can fit a new socket for example when strictly we know it will fall foul or the regulations even though we know it is unlikely to result in legal proceedings?

If we look at an example where the Handy Man fits a new socket and some one in the house uses that socket to power a hedge trimmer and cuts through the lead giving himself a fatal shock. First question would be was it RCD protected, if it was then second question did the RCD work to within the laid down limits. If either question answer is no then the Handy Man would be brought to task. Should he be able to show he tested the RCD and show the test results then likely he is OK. But with out test results he would have a hard time and with out a RCD fitted likely would be facing a manslaughter charge.

However same job done by family member and the Coroner would likely record accidental death rather than cause the family more grief.

There does seem to be a trend to call to task the "Tradesman from Hell" but as yet the "DIYman from Hell" seems to in the main get away with it.

But on this forum we aim to help and telling the DIY person you can't legally do it is not really helping. Also if we tell them they can't likely they will do it anyway and in a more dangerous way than if we had given advice with out reference to the law.

However reading a post often we don't know if some Handy Man has done a job which the house holder is not happy about and is looking for a way to force the guy to correct the work. Or if truly DIY.

So what do the other regulars think we should answer when asked directly "Is it legal"? assuming what they propose is not strictly legal but would be unlikely to cause any legal proceedings to be started.
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Postby proptech » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:57 pm

Hi ericmark

I think yours is a question that really can't be answered fully. The fact is that people are going to do DIY electrical work anyway. It's a good thing that there's someone like yourself that can give them expert advice. Without a forum like this, there's nowhere much else they can go for help.

Without that help, things could be a lot more dangerous. So I would suggest that it must be safer to advise on the best safe way of doing the job, rather than giving very off-putting legal information in the way that may well cause someone to ignore any advice altogether.

With the specific question "Is it legal" how can we really be qualified to answer that, except by our own knowledge of the regulations involved. Even then, some of it is open to interpretation, and not all electricians will agree on some points.

Unlike questions on gas installations, where the answer has to be NO DIY end of story, there's no cut and dried answers with electrics. We have no way of assessing the condition of a poster's existing circuits, or their competence to do the work. We just have to do our best to advice the safest way of completing their project in a practical way.

Think of it this way, with the number of posts you've written advising on safely working on electrics, you could well have saved a few lives !

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Postby ericmark » Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:30 am

My problem is I am not that good at reading between the lines. People so rarely say what they really want to know.

I will give an example of something which happened to me. My mother wanted the intercom door bell wiring to mains supply so the batteries could not go flat. The social services kindly offered to get the work done and an electrician arrived. In spite of my pointing out a 12 volt DC supply was required he fitted an AC supply. Before I realised this I asked about a minor works certificate and he replied it was hardly required with such a small job there was no earth to transformer so really nothing to enter on the certificate anyway so I agreed not really required.

However when he was called back to change to a DC power supply rather than AC transformer he found he could not source a 12 VDC unit in the same stile and so bought a plug in 12 VDC unit and swapped the transformer for a socket and plugged in the device. He still provided no paperwork.

Now I have every intention to test the socket but consider this was done in a house where the people have no idea as to if it's all OK. They think some thing is wrong but not sure so they ask the question.

Is it legal

So what should one answer? To me lack of paperwork is not necessary illegal as my mother was not the client. It would be social services who would receive paperwork. Since I know the original transformer was fed from the non RCD protected side of the CU there is also a chance this does not comply. However to point it out only means he needs to return and write on it door bell transformer only. It butts onto the CU so no issue with buried cable. Only has a 6A supply but nothing wrong with that. So in real terms the only real problem would be if the electrician did not replace the wire to the CU and has not connected the earth.

For me not a real problem but if I was wanting to sell the house and wanted to collect up the paperwork I could well be worried about the lack of it for this job. So I would be looking for a leaver to force some one to issue the paperwork. However if it was a DIY job I had done I would likely not have the equipment to test it myself and to be told it was required could be a worry.

So can we maybe develop a phrase to paste into posts which without scaring off the DIY guy who has not strictly followed the law also tells the client what he should expect from the tradesman?
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Postby ericmark » Wed Jun 19, 2013 9:04 pm

Tested the socket no RCD protection but ELI was a healthy 0.26 ohms. To make legal it requires a sticker saying for door intercom only and a bit of paper called a minor works certificate issuing.

I do not think it's worth bothering about. Except that if they do that with my mothers house where I was watching what would they do when there was no one watching them?

So should I report him? And if so to whom his employer or social services. To make him return to just put a label on the socket does seem petty.
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