Electrical Work

Property flipper law to protect homebuyers from hazardous electrical work

JULY 20, 2021

 

TUMWATER — Property flippers musts use certified electricians when doing wiring improvements to homes or commercial buildings they sell within a year of purchase.

That's according to a new law that takes effect July 25. Substitute Senate Bill 5267 passed during the 2021 legislative session. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries will enforce the law.

"This law is designed to protect home buyers from shoddy electrical wiring," said Wayne Molesworth, chief electrical inspector for L&I. "We have many examples of unsafe wiring performed by property flippers that resulted in new owners having to hire electrical contractors to make repairs, sometimes at a significant cost.

L&I electrical inspectors reported at least 600 instances in the past year alone of dealing with electrical wiring problems at a flipped property. In one Bellevue case, a homeowner had to pay around $4,100 to bring the residence up to code.

The bill's prime sponsor, state Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) talked about her own case during the signing ceremony for the legislation April 14. She purchased a "flipped" home that had faulty wiring, causing a significant hazard.

"Homebuyers and home inspectors may not be able to tell whether electrical wiring has been installed correctly," Molesworth said. "By having a licensed electrician do the work, it helps ensure electrical work is done safely."

About enforcement

SSB 5267 focuses on owners of homes or businesses interested in "flipping" the property – that is, making some repairs then selling for a profit, in this case, within 12 months.

The new law will not affect longtime property owners who make repairs on their own home or business. Generally, under Washington law, property owners are exempt from electrical licensing and certification requirements.

The electrical contractor or certified electrician doing the work must purchase an electrical permit from L&I, which helps cover the cost of an inspection.  Doing electrical work without being a licensed electrical contractor has a $1,000 fine for the first offense.

If the work is in a city that does their own permits and inspections or in Tacoma Power's service area, then they have their own permit and inspection process.

The new law also covers telecommunications work on a "flipped" property. This usually involves installation of a cable jack, phone jack, or internet connection. L&I licenses telecommunications contractors.