One of the most controversial topics in the field of Conveyancing is the issuing of Electrical Certificates of Compliance (“COC”). By law, the transfer of a property where there is an electrical installation present, cannot take place unless there is a valid COC issued by a duly registered person who has a license issued by the Department of Labour.
An unregistered person may work at the property, but only under supervision of a registered person. The registered person needs to personally ensure the standard of the work done by the unregistered person before the registered person signs the COC.
The issue of Certificates of Compliance (COC) is regulated by the Occupational Health & Safety Act, 1993 read with the Electrical Installations Regulations 2009 (as amended from time to time). It is no longer regulated by the Machinery and Occupational Safety Act No. 6 of 1983 and the Electrical Installations Regulations of 1992 as still stated in most offer to purchases.
A typical clause pertaining a COC in an Offer to Purchase might read along the following lines:
“It is recorded that in terms of the Regulation 7(1) of the regulations (“the Regulations”) promulgated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act No 85 of 1993 and published in Government Gazette No. 31975 dated 9 March 2009 that came into effect on 1 May 2009 every user of an electrical installation that have been changed since 23 October 1992 is obliged to have a valid Certificate of Compliance in the prescribed format (Annexure 1 to the Regulations).
In terms of Regulation 7(5) the Seller may not allow change in ownership if the Certificate of Compliance is older than two years and accordingly the Seller shall be obliged to furnish the Conveyancers with a certificate of compliance in the form of Annexure 1 to the Regulations to enable them to proceed with registration of transfer in terms of this Agreement.
The Seller shall bear the costs of rectifying any shortcomings in the Electricity installation.”
Although it is standard practice that the Seller obtains and bear the cost for a COC, the responsibility can be shifted to the Purchaser if the parties agree to same.
From the above clause extract, it might look straight forward, but it is unfortunately so that many persons give themselves out to be registered licensee who are qualified and authorised to issue a COC’, but in fact, issue a fraudulent COC. Most of the time the Seller is a lay-man pertaining electricity standards, and simply believe that it has complied with its obligation in terms of an offer to purchase by presenting a certificate. Unfortunately, if the COC is invalid or if the electricity is still not up to standard, it is important that a correct COC is issued before the transfer can take place.
It is advisable that the party responsible for obtaining a valid COC, familiarize him or herself with the credentials of the electrical contractor and request a copy of his or her license. It is further advisable that the responsible party make use of a reputable electrical contractor who has a fixed address and telephone number (information that also needs to be on the COC) and who employ a registered person full time, or is registered himself. The other party to the sale agreement is advised to obtain a second opinion as to ensure that the electricity is up to standard and the COC valid. Both parties should be vigilant and proactive as to ensure that their rights are protected and a correct COC issued.
When a dispute arise regarding the validity of a COC, the approved inspections authority as appointed from time to time by the Department of Labour must be called to inspect. The person requesting the inspection will have to pay. Should the certificate be declared not valid – the approved inspections authority will request that a new certificate is issued. Should the defect be negligence on the part of the registered person, the inspector shall report the electrical contractor to the Chief Inspector.
A COC will be rendered invalid in the following circumstances:
A valid COC must have:
The importance of a valid COC should not be underestimated and could, if not taken seriously, lead to a breach of contract and possible claim for damages.