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Replacing Two Prong Outlets -- Inspector says Rewire the whole house instead

Replacing Two Prong Outlets -- Inspector says Rewire the whole house instead

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  #1  
Old 04-30-05, 06:56 AM
AdamLPerry
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Question Replacing Two Prong Outlets -- Inspector says Rewire the whole house instead

A co-worker recently moved into a 1950's plat house that was wired before grounded outlets were required. When he moved in, all the outlets were 3-prong, but we discovered that except in the bathroom and kitchen, the grounding wire was connected to the white terminal with a paperclip and in this way it "tricked" the plug-in tester the home buyers insurance inspector used.

The insurance agency said they needed a report from the county inspector indicating the wiring was not up to code before they would discuss paying for the correction of the problem. The County inspector came out, looked at what was done, and said the entire house needs to be re-wired. His logic is that the moment that grounded outlets were installed, the wiring was "upgraded" to a grounded system and had to meet the standards in place at the time of the upgrade which was the mid-1990s.

I had suggested that the outlets be changed back to 2-prong as an easy fix, but the county inspector says we can not revert back after the "upgrade".

The home buyers insurance now says that since the wiring was inproperly upgraded, without inspections, and that the previous homeowner took deliberate and deceptive actions to trick the home buyers insurance inspector into thinking the wiring was correct, that they are not liable, but will pay half the cost to take the previous owner who made the changes to court. The house was brokered by a bank after a reposession who says the liability is on the home buyers insurance and they have no liability after the house was sold. They said the home buyers inspection should have discovered the problem and reported it as needing repair before the sale was finalized. The whereabouts of the previous owners who had defaulted on his loan is unknown.

Obviously, if the original type outlets can be re-installed without rewiring the entire house, the problem can be resolved quickly, cheaply, and without a major legal battle. Is it realistic to think that replacing the outlets with the original style would be within code under the idea that it is a "repair" and if it is, how should my friend go about challenging the county inspector's previous comments?

One other issue -- The county inspector runs a home electrical service on the side and the county does not see this as a conflict of interest because they do not have enough work to hire him as a full-time employee. The inspector even presented the homeowner with a quoatation to re-wire the entire house! I would think that this shows a clear conflict of interest and should disqualify his impariality in this case!
 
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  #2  
Old 04-30-05, 07:16 AM
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What does YOUR lawyer say?
 
  #3  
Old 04-30-05, 07:17 AM
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What does your lawyer say?
 
  #4  
Old 04-30-05, 07:18 AM
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This is a sad story. I sympathize.

The most ridiculous part of this story in my opinion is the county inspector who ruled that the change to 3-hole receptacles is an irreversible upgrade. That's an incredibly silly position, but I'm not sure how to go about challenging it. It wasn't an "upgrade". It was a code-violating mistake, nothing more. Mistakes should be corrected.

Proving fraud by the seller (although it seems obvious to you and me) would be extremely difficult if not impossible. The seller could say that he didn't make those changes, and it would be hard to prove otherwise. The seller could also plead stupidity instead of fraud, which would also be hard to contest.
 
  #5  
Old 04-30-05, 07:28 AM
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Installing a GFCI receptacle and using the "no equipment ground" sticker on downstream receptacles is an alternate solution to the problem. Even with the price of GFCI receptacles it's still cheaper than bringing the wiring up to code. It sounds like this inspector is trying to scam your friend.

Having the ground and neutral wires connected as in your friend's situation is definitely not good, especially if they're connected with a paper clip of all things.
 
  #6  
Old 05-01-05, 02:22 AM
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Firstly,

NOthing should stand in your way of returning the recepts back to their original state. The upgrade of the rececpts to 3 hole is not what I would consider a whole upgrade because the upgrade did not actually take place...nothing is upgraded because of the lie and deception of the previous owner.

On home inspectors...sad to say they don't know electrical issues like they should...good with roofs, leaks, foundations and so on but for electrical evaluataions ( which we do all the time ) should be done by an Electrician.

On the inspector....You should write a letter to the state level Electrical Board like in VA we have the DPOR and they will go after ANYONE regardless of them being a inspector...in fact they hold them to a higher point as well....

Also you could hire a electrical contractor to do a electrical evaluation and state the deception and what needs to be done to make the house safe on the lowest cost level and submit it also to the regulatory board of the state you are in and simply go over the head of he AHJ.

Again you should tell your friend to tell his insurance agency that he will install GFCI recepts where needed and change the recepts back to (2) hole non-grounded and get the electrician who is doing the evaluation to make that suggestion in writing also.
 
  #7  
Old 05-03-05, 09:13 AM
assemblage
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Garou is correct, GFCI's like he said will work. But at 11-12 each, it can get expensive, but still cheaper than hiring an electrician to rewire the house.

I have the same kind of house, and I'm rewiring it. It should cost me about $300 in materials. For me it was more than just replacing the circuits. The current circuits aren't adequate, such as two bedrooms and the bathroom being on one circuit. All outlets and lights in the kitchen on the same circuit. It's time consuming, but with the proper planning and learning, it's something within my capabilities, and I've never wired before now. However, my city electrical inspector is helpful, as he should be since he's supposed to be serving city residents.
 
  #8  
Old 05-03-05, 03:06 PM
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Agree with the previous posters.


If it was me, I would change out the receptalces according to the NEC and then invite Mr. Inspector back to take a second look. And if he still won't budge, show him a copy of the specific NEC code that states how to change out non-grounding type receptacles.

As for the upgrade issue, there must be a local law, code, to support his claim. This is where an attorney would be a great help to you.

Is Mr. Inspector a licensed electrician?
 
  #9  
Old 05-03-05, 04:58 PM
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Let me preface by saying that I fully agree with the consensus here. There should be no need to rewire.

I will offer this bit of info though. The way the code reads, the inspector is almost correct. In no way am I saying that an upgrade was made, but careful inspection of the applicable code article, by technical interpretation, as rediculous as it may seem, nongrounding-type receptacles may no longer be installed. This is truly one for the lawyers....lol.

2002 NEC
Article 406.3(D)(3)

Nongrounding-Type Receptacles. Where grounding means does not exist in the receptacle enclosure, the installation shall comply with (a), (b), or (c).

(a) A nongrounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with another nongrounding-type receptacle(s).

(b) A nongrounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a ground-fault circuit interrupter-type of receptacle(s). These receptacles shall be marked “No Equipment Ground.” An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter-type receptacle to any outlet supplied from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter receptacle.

(c) A nongrounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a grounding-type receptacle(s) where supplied through a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Grounding-type receptacles supplied through the ground-fault circuit interrupter shall be marked “GFCI Protected” and “No Equipment Ground.” An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected between the grounding-type receptacles.


Ahh, if only you had fixed it before the inspector came out.
 
  #10  
Old 05-03-05, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Bolted Fault
I will offer this bit of info though. The way the code reads, the inspector is almost correct. In no way am I saying that an upgrade was made, but careful inspection of the applicable code article, by technical interpretation, as rediculous as it may seem, nongrounding-type receptacles may no longer be installed. This is truly one for the lawyers....lol.
I don't know how much this will help. But the way I would interpret this is that if the intermediate situation did not pass inspection, then it was not a legal installation, and therefore does not count as a valid situation to work from as a starting point. The starting point is the way they were the last time they passed inspection. Then if there are ungrounded outlets present where there were ungrounded outlets before, but they just happen to be different ones, then they are replacements.

How to deal with the inspector, though, I cannot say. This is definitely one for a lawyer, and the legal costs need to be paid for by the previous home owner who created the invalid situation, so there is likely going to have to be a lawsuit in this case.

The lawyer might contact the inspector and explain to him that he is going to end up being in court, even if the only action being taken is against the original home owner, because it will require testimony by the inspector to explain why it is that it is necessary to perform so much extreme upgrade just because of the original homeowner's swapping things around. But if he wants to avoid all that he can simply accept that undoing the OHO's illegal swap puts things back to an originally legal situation.
 
  #11  
Old 05-04-05, 05:16 AM
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IMHO the best way out would be to ask the inspector about the code shown by bolted fault. section C. You certainly don't want to go back to 2 prong recepts, which probably would probably cost more than a simple GFCI at the beginning of ea general purpose recept circuit. Installing GFCIs would be the way to go here if you don't want to rewire. The main thing is using tact with the inspector. Tell him you understand the situation as he sees it, and you think this code describes the solution to a T.
 
  #12  
Old 05-04-05, 06:43 AM
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Exactly what kind of woring do you have? I have 2 conductor armored cable, and I'm using the armor as a ground. Lots of people do that.
 
  #13  
Old 05-04-05, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Jedi9
IMHO the best way out would be to ask the inspector about the code shown by bolted fault. section C. You certainly don't want to go back to 2 prong recepts, which probably would probably cost more than a simple GFCI at the beginning of ea general purpose recept circuit. Installing GFCIs would be the way to go here if you don't want to rewire. The main thing is using tact with the inspector. Tell him you understand the situation as he sees it, and you think this code describes the solution to a T.
I meant going back to the 2-prong outlets only as a legal technicality. From that point forward I don't think there is any problem with replacing them with GFCI. It's just that the inspector seemed to be taking the position that since the existing receptacles are not the nongrounded type right now, then the code allowing replacement of nongrounded receptacles would not apply. E.g. putting GFCI receptacles in now would be replacing grounded (though miswired) receptacles with GFCI, which is not what 406.3(D)(3) is referring to. You can only use 406.3(D)(3) if you are replacing nongrounding-type receptacles (because that's what it says, literally).

I think the way this has to be looked at is based on the replacement that the original home owner did as being illegal and/or incomplete. Unless by chance the situation with grounding type receptacles got inspected as passed, then my argument would be that it can be backed off and put the original receptacles back in (temporarily) so you are working from the original previously passed state, or (another line of argument) that the work is incomplete.

SInce 406.3(D)(3) refers specifically to replacement, it (and any other rule referring to replacement) has its basis in what existed before. I'm just saying that the inspector needs to consider "what existed before" as being what last passed inspection before. I think that's where his opinion differs. It sounds like he would have had no problem applying 406.3(D)(3) to replace the receptacles with GFCI had the original homeowner left the original 2-prong receptacles there.

OK, so let's say the new homeowner replaces all the receptacles with GFCI receptacles. Inspector comes out and says it does not pass because he remembers that previously they were grounding type receptacles, and again insists the only way now to make it legal is to rewire everything. Our argument would be "but previous has to be taken as the point where all was in a legal state".

If you have to go to a higher authority (an state board, an appeals board, or even a court) to settle this, would you want to use the argument "the inspector must be confusing this with another house; he doesn't remember correctly", or "the last legal condition of the house was with non-grounding receptacles and those are now replaced according to 406.3(D)(3)"?

If only the NEC had written the section of code in terms of an existing condition (e.g. replacing existing receptacles on a nongrounded circuit), this would be much simpler. A good lawyer could also argue that the spirit is met because all of the steps taken as a whole still carry out the same thing.

What if the original home owner had stripped the house of all the receptacles and left the wire ends in place (capped or not, live or not)?
 
  #14  
Old 05-04-05, 12:30 PM
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My argument would be that the replacement was inproper to start with and I would be bringing it up to code by installing the GFCIs. I would refer back to the date when the install was per code, which would be the 2 prong outlets, and the correct replacement, which would be grounding type with GFCI.
 
  #15  
Old 05-04-05, 12:33 PM
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OK Skapare, I see you're saying the same thing.
 
  #16  
Old 05-04-05, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Jedi9
OK Skapare, I see you're saying the same thing.
Yes, I think so. Now we just need to knock some sense into that inspector.
 
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