Fence replaced and now some areas left in the dark

AA writes:

Dear Paul: Fence replacement- beware of traps with hidden ‘after-market’ cables. If you are considering replacing fence or any project to do with digging, do not fall into the traps of ‘full satisfaction’ contractors. 

I am a Condo Board President in South Winnipeg and we ran into this problem. All our electrical wiring in the common areas are out of service and have already spent a lot of money with wire locate and digging, but still the issues have not been solved. 

The fence company that advertised as “We are dedicated to customer satisfaction, hard work, and making your dream fence become a reality!” has just shrugged off any responsibility. Hydro which did the locating and helped dig with their vacs also shrugged off. The electrician who did a shoddy job has totally removed his company from any responsibility. So ultimately it is ‘buyer beware.’ 

I am not sure if any insurance claim is even applicable or what construction codes or best practices have been broken here. If you have any inputs, please help me by sharing. 

Paul replies:

AA: I am sorry to hear that you are facing this situation. If I understand your situation correctly, your condo board hired a contractor to replace an existing fence. The first item I would consider is whether or not you have a valid written contract with the fence builder? If you do not, it may be difficult to hold it responsible for any issues. Who’s responsibility was it to locate electrical cables? Was it the fence builder’s or the condo corporation’s responsibility to contact Hydro for assistance in locating the electrical lines? If it was not the fence builder’s duty, then he would only be held liable if it knew where the lines were and damaged the lines in the process of erecting the new fence.

Since Hydro was involved in locating the lines, I assume that the cables were properly identified, and not damaged in the process. I am not a lawyer, but I would think that Hydro’s involvement probably ends once the lines are located.

Now it comes to the fact that you do not have any power to the common areas. You did not mention if you had electrical cables replaced at the same time as the fence. I will assume you did, and the work was performed by a qualified electrician. If everything up to this point was done right, it would appear that the connection to the electrical panel is the problem, which would mean the electrician could be responsible. If your common areas had power before the project began, then what changed?

Would you be able to make a claim under your insurance policy? You should consult with your insurance broker for an answer. I am not an insurance expert, but I would suspect that a claim would be considered only if a loss were incurred. I doubt that any insurance company would cover shoddy workmanship.

At this point, I would suggest the following course of action:

  • Find out from Hydro if the electrical work had to be inspected by Hydro. If “yes” was it? There should be some documentation.
  • Get the services of a reputable electrical company to investigate why you have no power to the common areas and give you a written report as to the existing problem, the probable cause, and what has to be done to correct it.
  • Consult your insurer and determine if it will pay for anything. Remember that your insurance has a deductible. If the deductible is quite high you may not want to make a claim.
  • Consult a lawyer to determine your legal rights. You may have a claim against one of the parties involved in the project and could proceed to small claims court.

I recognize that you may have already taken some of these steps. Good luck!

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