Homeowners are often tempted to do their own electrical repair work to save money. Some jobs, like replacing a bad light switch, may be fairly easy and seemingly involve little risk. But some homeowners get more adventurous, installing new light fixtures or other electrical features that involve more complex task, like running new power lines. Mistakes can cause problems with a home’s power distribution, electrical shocks, and fires. Homeowners should understand the liability risks involved before undertaking electrical work without going through proper formalities.
Contractors versus amateurs
Nevada law defines a contractor as a person who, in a “professional capacity,” performs any construction, alteration, or repair work, makes a bid to do such work, or claims to have the ability to do such work. NRS 624.020. People who fall within the definition of contractor must hold a license to bid upon or work on a household construction project, including any sort of electrical work.
NRS 624.031(4) provides an important exception to contractor licensing requirements for work completed by the owner of a residential property that is for his or her own occupancy and not intended for sale or lease. Any sale or lease of the property within one year of the work creates a rebuttable presumption that the work was completed with the sale or lease in mind. To take advantage of the exception provided by NRS 624.031(4) a homeowner must apply to the State Contractors’ Board for approval.
The State Contractors’ Board approval process requires the homeowner to submit an affidavit making certain legally binding representations. Among these are requirements that homeowners:
- directly supervise the work, or do it themselves;
- hire only licensed subcontractors, if any; and
- provide workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment compensation, tax withholding, and other benefits for any unlicensed person hired to help with the work.
Failure to comply with these and other requirements will create a presumption that the homeowner has violated the statute. Under NRS 624.700 someone who is convicted of a violation can be subject to court and prosecution costs, and the cost of the Board’s investigation into the matter.
Unlicensed work can create other problems
The chances aren’t high that the State Contractors’ Board will go after a homeowner for changing out a light switch. But doing work without the proper permit can create other problems for a homeowner. For example, when the homeowner goes to sell the house the buyer may insist that any work have been licensed, and any unlicensed work must be inspected by a professional before closing. If the buyer’s inspector discovers any problems the homeowner may need to do the work properly. In addition to the expense of hiring a licensed contractor, this sort of after-the-fact repair work can involve starting over again.
Fire is the most serious concern when it comes to electrical work. If a home burns down due to unlicensed electrical work, a number of consequences are likely to follow. First, the home’s insurer will probably deny the homeowner’s claim for coverage, on grounds that the homeowner’s work was unlawful and therefore not covered by the policy. Second, the homeowner may be liable for negligence for any damages to others, such as harm to neighboring structures or personal injuries.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
The best approach to electrical work is to always work with a licensed professional. But when problems arise, talk to an attorney to figure out how to best navigate the legal fallout. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez works with clients in the Las Vegas area. Call us today if you have questions about do-it-yourself electrical work, or injuries resulting from the negligent work of others. For a free attorney consultation call 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.