Electric fence compliance & insurance

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14 Jun 2013

Concerns over home security have led many South African homeowners to install electric fences as an added layer of protection against burglars.

According to the new law, property owners will have to make sure that proper warning signs are erected on the property to caution all visitors.

However, if they have not used the services of a certified electric fence installer they may face the risk of financial loss in the form of  insurance claim rejection or legal costs associated with liability claims.

Marike van Niekerk, legal and compliance manager at  MUA Insurance Acceptances, says homeowners who are planning to have electric fencing installed or upgraded must ensure it complies with new legislation as stipulated in Regulation 12 of the Electric Machinery Regulations of 2011. “This legislation stipulates that all new, upgraded or repaired electric fences are required to comply with strict regulations now governing the industry and the homeowner must have in their possession a certificate of compliance issued by a certified installer.”

Non-compliant electric fences place homeowners at risk of insurance claim rejection and they may also be held legally liable for any injuries inflicted upon others, including trespassers, Van Niekerk says. Any legal liability claim resulting from non-compliance with legislation will be excluded from cover under the homeowners’ insurance policy.

This also applies to property owners renting their property to another person. She says the property owner faces expensive legal costs and runs the risk of being criminally prosecuted.

Should an insurer establish that an electric fence was installed by an unregistered installer and the fence has to be fixed or replaced due to damage, such a claim can be rejected on the grounds of defective workmanship.

Van Niekerk says that should an insurer establish that an electric fence was installed by an unregistered installer and the fence has to be fixed or replaced due to damage, such a claim can be rejected on the grounds of defective workmanship. “In addition, property owners will be forced to remove their fence or ensure that an accredited installer upgrades it to meet compliance requirements.”

In order to issue a certification of compliance, all electric fence installers must be registered by the Department of Labour as well as pass an exam by 1 October 2013 to ensure that they are qualified and able to meet the regulations as prescribed in the new law.

The South African Electrical Fencing Installers Association anticipates that by 1 October 2013 there will only be around 300 registered and accredited electric fence installers nationwide. Van Niekerk says this figure is low and should serve as a caution to homeowners to properly screen their contractors before work commences on their property.

She adds that homeowners will also be unable to transfer property where electric fences are present without providing an Electric Fence Certificate (EFC) to the conveyance attorney. “This certificate must be presented along with the electrical compliance certificate." The EFC is transferable so once it is issued there is no need for another certificate to be issued upon transfer of ownership.

She advises that property owners should take precaution and include an appropriate clause in their rental or sale agreement to address the requirements and responsibilities for electric fence compliance of each party before the property is occupied by the lessee or buyer. 

According to the new law, property owners will have to make sure that proper warning signs are erected on the property to caution all visitors, van Niekerk says. The signs should be visible from the pavement and the driveway and in addition, the legislation stipulates that an electric fence should not hang over into the neighbouring property.

Van Niekerk says the use of disreputable electric fence installers presents a hazard to property owners by placing them at risk of unforeseen financial expenses in the form of legal costs or insurance claim rejections. To avoid unnecessary penalties, homeowners need to ensure that their fences are compliant by using a certified electric fence installer.

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