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Question DetailsAsked on 12/21/2016

Electrian did estimate for repacing 5 electr. Panels, they did not pass inspection- and more work needs to be done.

He was hired to replace 5 panels and bring up to code, the inspector found 5 things that needed to be doe- electrician wants to charge us $500.00 more to do, do i have to pay him? I said No he shoudve known with35 yrs experience

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Here is a link to a similar aituation with response - for electrical outlets, not panels but similar situation - I do assume you mean breaker/distribution panels when you said panels -

IF the contract/work statement properly stated that his bid was to include all work to replace 5 identified panels according to code, then if the deficiencies were in the panels or their rewiring itself it should be out of his pocket. (Your contract or work order would not have to specifically state "to meet code" because that is implicit in work like this, assuming your area is part of the probably 95% of the country where electrical work like this has to be done by a state licensed electrician.

Now the kicker - if the contract did not say something like "replace 5 electrical panels and rewire/reconfigure/update as necessary to meet current code, including any other necessary changes needed to meet current code as a result of the panel replacements or upgrades", he may have an out - I explain below.

He might have replaced the panels OK (depends on what the deficiencies identified by the inspector were) - BUT perhaps there were other things about the electrical system which might have been OK as is, but because of the panel replacements NOW had to also be upgraded. Of course, the electrician should ideally have identified such deficiencies to you at the time of bidding, giving you an opportunity to have them corrected too - but sometimes it does not occur to him, sometimes that is how he gets the low bid, some count on extra work this way by being change-order artists. Examples of these types of things which commonly can now be substandard even though thay were OK as originally installed include (depending on how much the local code requires updating of electrical system when doing a substantial upgrade):

1) inadequate capacity (size) leads to panel from meter and/or main breaker/disconnect, or inadequate meter or incoming utility drop lines (less common), because the new panels or main breakers are rated for more amperage than before, so now the wires feeding them or the connecting elements are now too small by code

2) similar to above - because of increased panel capacity the main disconnect and/or main breaker has to be upgraded - or you never had a main breaker or disconnect outside but code now (in most areas) requires it

3) previous undersized or illegal wiring or double-tapped leads or connections or such coming into the panel which he did not replace/fix in the process

4) a particularly nasty one, but not your case because it would likely be thousands of $, not $500 more, is if replacing panels some areas require incoming wires be legal under current code - so fabric or asbestos insulated or deteriorated circuit wiring has to be replaced too

5) if aluminum circuit wiring (to indeividual circuits), bringing those into breakers that are not rated for it, instead of using special breakers designed for aluminum wire (not available for some brands) or special conversion fittings from aluminum to copper at each breaker (available for all brands)

6) aluminum main feed wires to panel but used panel designed for copper, so the incoming connections are illegal

7) grounding problems - previous grounding leads or grounding rods are not up to code for a new breaker panel installation

8) did not put in GFCI or AFCI (ground fault / arc fault circuit interrupter) breakers for all the current areas requiring them (list has more than doubled in recent decade or two). OR did not properly handle ground/neutral wiring in the panel for GFCI breakers to work correctly. (Ground/neutral connections have changed over the years - sometimes were combined at the breaker box, sometimes not - has to be done certain way for GFCI breakers to properly detect a fault.

9) a dozen or more more esoteric ones depending on situation and locale

You would have to look at what the inspector marked as deficient - if connections or breakers or such IN the new panels, I would say the electrician does not have a very firm leg to stand on and would have to do some pretty good explaining as to why he should not have included that work in his quote to you. If related to items OUTSIDE the panels, then depending on whether the contract was to upgrade the panels AND any related electrical components as necessary to meet code or not, he might or might not have a good basis for a claim for additional work.

Note on the "bid" versus "estimate" thing - if he gave you a firm bid or quote for the job, that is the price he should normally do the work for - subject to contract terms as discussed below. If he gave you an "estimate" then that is not a firm price, and arguing a less than say 15% overrun is generally a losing proposition - he can pretty readily come up with evidence in most cases that he overran his estimate for one or more reasons.

Bear in mind, for 5 panels you probably paid about $3000-5000 (assuming individual living unit panels, like in a 5-plex or one main and 4 sub-panels in a 4-plex say) - so $500 additional comes close to falling within a standard 10-15% contingency amount if an estimate rather than a bid, so arguing about it might end up with your electrician walking off and you having to get another electrician in to finish the work - which would undoubtedly cost more, and you would end up with you having two electricians on the same building permit (including having to amend the permit) - a nightmare opportunity for a "his responsibility, not mine" fight between them if any more deficiencies are noted by the inspector in his "final" inspection, so might be better to suck it up and agree to pay the $500 or some lesser agreed upon amount upon the job passing FINAL inspection.

One compromise, if you are not confident that the additional work was not definitively included in his original scope, would be to express your dissatisfaction with the overrun but offer to split the difference with him and pay additional $250 upon passing final inspection.

I am NOT a licensed electrician but am licensed for total design of up to 4-plex buildings in my state and have a lot of design/contracting/inspection experience, so if you want an unofficial opinion of whether I would consider certain deficiencies to be in a normal panel replacement or not, you can reply back with what the deficiencies were and the line or so from the estimate or phrasing of how the scope of work was defined, using the Answer This Question link right below your question, and I will give my unofficial 2 bits worth - noting of course I am almost certainly NOT licensed in your state or city so will not know specifics of unique non-standard code requirements of what is and is not required for your area. And you would still have to decide whether you feel your contract required all related necessary work to meet code, or just the panel replacement only.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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