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Small triplex, electrical plans big bucks paid, then inspector bust

Small triplex, electrical plans big bucks paid, then inspector bust

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  #1  
Old 05-03-16, 12:45 PM
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Small triplex, electrical plans big bucks paid, then inspector bust

So I have a small triplex I was renovating to rent out, and wanted to split the heat so that each renter had their own thermostat (and managed their own bill).
The only way to do this was with electric heat, registers. I understand that's far from the best kind of heat, but its what I had to work with. There was originally gas boiler/water heat, and that still exists (I planned to heat the building up to say 60 and then let them use their thermostats how they like) but the building as built could not have the gas alone and pipes split into 3 it would be far too expensive.

After hiring the electrician we put in four new electrical panels and meters- one for each apartment, and one 'home' panel and meter for the house, which I pay for, and wired up electric heaters in all the apartments, that's all done and works fine. The panels were all located in a separate small utility room with the water heater, the original boiler, my tools for maintenance, etc. The plan was to keep the renters OUT of this room- because I could come in one day and the water heater could be busted or gone, someone could mess with the gas boiler, or my things could be stolen- who knows- and who did it? No idea if its a common room. The neighborhood is also iffy and there's a lot of petty theft.

Enter the City Inspectors. They come in and say- after its all finished- now you are required to give everyone keys to the utility room, because every renter needs to be able to flip their own fuses! This defeats the whole system, as of course they can just turn up the water heat when I'm not there, etc. Not to mention vandalism, theft, or anything else..... especially if a renter leaves the utility door open, even if they deny it.

My question is this: Is there any kind of reset switch that can be put OUTSIDE the building, at the meters, so that each of the renters can reset their own fuses?
The City inspector made reference to this, but I don't know how realistic that is. And if such a thing exists, would it be so expensive as to not be worth it?
Thanks for opinions.
 
  #2  
Old 05-03-16, 01:20 PM
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You could put main breakers outside by the meters, but that doesn't really do much for tenant as it is exceedingly rare to trip a main as compared to a branch circuit breaker. Which code did the inspector cite that you are violating? Locked panels are fairly common. Perhaps some local rental law?

Possible alternative idea -- is there a way you could build some type of cage inside the utility room? For example a sliding chain link fence wall / dog kennel style between the electrical panels and the other equipment which you could secure with a master lock. This would at least deter casual tampering and theft. Perhaps also a cheap security camera or two inside that utility room, even if it's not hooked up to anything it might deter the petty crimes.
 
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Old 05-03-16, 03:34 PM
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I have no idea what code was violated, none was given.
However I've been finding the more I call in about issues, the more attention they pay to the property.
How do you challenge code violations or even look them up? The general impression I'm getting from talking to people here is they can make your life hell if they have a bad cup of coffee, and you're just supposed to beg for forgiveness, do all as ordered and hope they lose interest and move on.
And nice secure jobs with benefits and retirement too, unlike mine. Must be nice all I can say....
 
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Old 05-03-16, 04:52 PM
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Too late now but the smart think would have been to have the breaker boxes outside with the meter. Easy enough to do even now. Just gut the existing breaker boxes and use as Jboxes to extend the BCs outside. The big question is how big a discount if any from the installing electrician to do it. You can argue he made the the mistake by not explaining things clearly enough. I'll admit though your up north where they have a habit of putting the breaker boxes inside not outside like where I am so it may not have occurred to the electrician.
 
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Old 05-03-16, 05:20 PM
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I don't think the inspector is singling you out. I don't know of the code, but it seems the electrician should have installed the main breakers at the meters, and the individual breakers/panels inside the units.

That's the way it's done out here. The unit's panel would be in a bedroom closet or elsewhere.
My opinion is the electrician let you down.
 
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Old 05-03-16, 05:55 PM
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I believe the code (as I remember) may state that if the area where the panels are going to be locked and is not accessible to the tenants for their individual breaker panels you must as the landlord have someone such as "on call" (an employee of yours-maintenance worker or you yourself) that can come over when they call (within a reasonable amount of time) and reset a breaker.
 
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Old 05-03-16, 06:23 PM
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I don't know if it's code but tenants must always be allowed to get to their breakers. It's not something I would think to challenge. The inspector would demand it. Your electrician really should have known that. Here in NJ.... it's a given.

If there is no way to segregate the storage room that leaves you with installing combination meter/circuit panels outside. I'm not aware of any type of circuit breaker remote reset.

Square D Surface Mount Main Breaker Combination Service Entrance Device
 
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Old 05-04-16, 03:24 AM
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A state inspector told me in the past that if a maintenance person (employee of the landlord) is available on call then the service disconnects can be grouped together in a locked room only accessible by authorized persons.

The below code could be a matter of interpretation. Provided by the management could mean management pays the electric bill.

230.72
(C) Access to Occupants. In a multiple-occupancy building,
each occupant shall have access to the occupant’s service disconnecting
means.
In multiple-occupancy buildings the different units are generally
independent of each other, so access to the service disconnecting
means for each unit may be difficult due to locked doors or other
impediments. Unless electric service and maintenance are provided
by and under continuous supervision of the building management,
the occupants of a multiple-occupancy building must
have ready access to their service disconnecting means, and this
access has to be incorporated into the building service equipment
layout or location. Section 240.24(B) contains a similar requirement
for access to service, feeder, and branch-circuit OCPDs.
Exception: In a multiple-occupancy build ing where electric
service and electrical maintenance are provided by the building
management and where these are under continuous building
management supervision, the service disconnecting means
supplying more than one occupancy shall be permitted to be
accessible to authorized management personnel only.

 
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Old 05-04-16, 09:50 AM
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In one way this is just obvious consideration for your tenants. If you rented would you want to be without electric for several days while your landlord partied in Cabo and your apartment was freezing cold and dark?

You need to discuss this with the electrician that did the job. There are remedies as I said earlier but you need to find out what consideration in discounted costs the original electrician is willing to give you for changing the location of the meters since there was no "meeting of the minds".

How many 120 volt and 240 volt breakers are in each tenants breaker box? How far from the meters are the breaker box? Are they on the same side of the building?
 

Last edited by ray2047; 05-04-16 at 10:52 AM.
 

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