CONSUMER ADVICE: ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS – TENDERS AND APPOINTING A CONTRACTOR

CONSUMER ADVICE: ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS – TENDERS AND APPOINTING A CONTRACTOR

By Lucas Bowles, Regional Director – ECA(SA) East/South Cape

When building or renovating a property, it is important for South African consumers to know something about the electrical industry before appointing an electrical contractor to undertake work on an electrical installation.

This is the advice members of the ECA(SA) can give to consumers so that they can make informed choices when it comes to their electrical installations:

Workmanship

In some quarters, the quality of workmanship in the electrical industry has deteriorated over the past years. The Wiring Regulations have been relaxed to the extent that the only priority is the safety of the installation and, whereas workmanship previously featured as part of the Regulations, there is no longer any reference to good workmanship in SANS 10142-1.  This has resulted in many jobs being carried out just to comply with the Wiring Code with no concern whatsoever for general workmanship and neatness.

As the client, it is your prerogative to determine the level of workmanship that would be acceptable for your installation and to make sure that the contractor is aware of your standards and has priced the work accordingly.

Why settle for less?

It is amazing how much money home builders and home owners spend on tiles, taps, bathrooms, kitchens and appliances and the like but, when it comes to the electrical installation, they are often prepared to settle for the cheapest materials and questionable workmanship.

Short cuts, shoddy workmanship and cheap non-compliant materials, equipment and fittings are a recipe for disaster and will, ultimately, place your investment (and lives) at risk.

When employing an electrical contractor, consider using an ECA member to do your electrical installation. Their work is guaranteed up to R20 000 per contract under the ECA(SA) Guarantee of Workmanship Scheme, and you have recourse in the unlikely event that workmanship is found to be defective.

ECA(SA) members are bound by law to only use compliant materials and the homeowner can be certain that the installation is safe. There are many unregistered electricians who are working ‘under the radar’ so using the services of an ECA member means that the homeowner can be assured that the electrical contractor working on their property is registered with the Department of Labour both as a contractor and registered person, subscribes to good practices, and works strictly according to the Wiring Code.

Tenders/quotations

First, let’s look at tenders and quotations and the reasons why the lowest tender price is not necessarily the best price.

  1. The contractor may have neglected to quote on all the items in the bill.
  2. The contractor may not have been exposed to a project of the size envisaged by yourself and has underquoted due to inexperience.
  3. The contractor may make use of unregistered labour or non-compliant materials, which are substantially cheaper than compliant products (for obvious reasons).
  4. The contractor may rely on turnover by quoting cheaply and using the cash he takes as a deposit to finance his next job.
  5. The contractor may not have the required equipment and, in particular, the testing instruments required to carry out a professional job; whereas his opposition has had to make allowance for the maintenance and replacement of such equipment and essential testing instruments.

Appointing a contractor

Let us now consider how to best deal with a situation where a client wants electrical installation work done.

  1. Employ a specialist to draw up a specified tender list where all the items are listed for the contractor to price. This ensures that the contractor could not, at a later stage, claim for items of work done that were not listed.
  2. By signing a contract, both parties are sure of their respective rights and obligations.
  3. Before appointing a contractor take care to check his background and credentials.

Consider the following:

o   The contractor may have previously been declared insolvent.

o   The contractor may be new in the industry and would have no previous track record.

o   The contractor could have built a reputation in the industry for starting the job and absconding with the client’s payment and materials leaving an unfinished job for anther contractor to rectify at extra cost to the client.

Deposit

Clients often ask whether or not they should pay the contractor a large deposit without security. This is a problem in the industry and there are two scenarios to consider:

  1. A contractor may insist on a deposit to buy materials and this would ensure that, should the client terminate the contract for whatever reason, the contractor would not have invested (and lost) money in the project. There is merit in this argument but, conversely a client could argue that if a contractor does not have working capital with which to fund projects, how financially stable would such a contractor be?
  2. A possible solution to this dilemma would be for the client to agree to pay for materials but then only on production of an invoice from the supplier of the materials, and secondly, to make payment to the supplier and not into the bank account of the electrical contractor.

Payments of this type should of necessity be limited to the absolute minimum as the situation could arise where the client ends up financing the project and the contractor could blame the client for delays when the contractor runs out of money.

Payment

Another important aspect is to ensure that both parties keep meticulous records of all payments made and, in particular, payments for extras where the client requires these.

The parties often overlook the fact that extra payments had been made, which may cause unnecessary arguments and time-wasting when the final account needs to be attended to.

It is advisable never to make cash payments to a contractor as these are sometimes forgotten and overlooked.

In today’s uncertain times, it is advisable not to negotiate in good faith without any documentation. Make sure everything is recorded properly so that claims – ranging from a price increase in material and labour to items not included in the original quotation – do not arise as the contract proceeds.

To find the name of an electrical contractor in your area who is a member of the ECA(SA), contact the ECA(SA)’s national call number 087 944 4555 or visit www.ecasa.co.za

Rather be safe than sorry.

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