May is National Electrical Safety Month

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, electrical fires damage 51,000 homes every year, causing nearly 500 deaths and $1.3 billion in property damage. To help raise awareness of electricity-related fire risks, ESFI develops special publications and outreach efforts for its yearly National Electrical Safety Month.

Every May, ESFI chooses a focus for its campaign. This year, it’s, “Decoding the National Electrical Code(r) (NEC) to Prevent Shock and Electrocution.” Topics include the risk of electric shock and drowning when swimming near motorized boats; how childproofing outlets can protect children from electric shock; the importance of circuit-interrupter outlets and surge protection; and the importance of compliance with electrical code.

For Maryland landlords – especially those whose properties were built more than a few decades ago – this month may be a good time to reevaluate the safety of electrical components and systems in your rental homes.

Aging Wiring

Peeling paint and leaky ceilings are obvious maintenance concerns. But because wiring is hidden from view, it may deteriorate for years before anyone notices.

Symptoms of faulty wiring may include:

  • Flickering or dimming lights
  • Scorch marks on or around outlet covers
  • Smoky odors near outlets

Some older homes are not able to handle the demands generated by modern appliances. Their wiring may have been designed for one or two small appliances and a few lamps, so TVs, stereos, computers, and video game systems can quickly overload the circuitry and raise a fire risk. And there are two types of older electrical wiring, in particular, that may be of concern for property owners:

  • Knob-and-tube wiring – According to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, this type of wiring is not inherently dangerous, unless it comes into contact with insulation or has been improperly modified or spliced. Often, inspectors find evidence of amateur splices that could cause systems to overheat.
  • Aluminum wiring – Between 1965 and 1973, aluminum was used in wiring because at the time, it was much cheaper than copper. But as early as 1974, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had received “numerous reports” of house fires attributed to aluminum wiring. Aluminum weakens over time, and as connections weaken, they overheat, increasing the risk of a fire.

Keeping up with Code

Revisions to electrical code are common – according to ESFI, since 1974, NEC code has changed 15 times. Sometimes, property owners aren’t aware their dwelling or structure is out of code until they decide to sell it, or they hire someone for an improvement project and an electrician or inspector finds the code violations.

If you own an older building and haven’t had a property inspection in a while, consider scheduling one. A property inspector will look at all major systems in the property – including electrical – and provide a detailed report that includes notes about defects and recommendations for upgrades.

Protecting People and Property

When you’re a landlord that owns residential or commercial properties, maintaining your electrical system helps protect anyone on the premises, as well as your investment. The cost of hiring a licensed electrician to make repairs is insignificant when compared to the potential losses associated with an electrical fire.

Lusk Law, LLC, specializes in assisting landlords and property owners with their legal needs. Our experienced attorneys have provided legal counsel and representation to landlords in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, and Anne Arundel County, and other counties in Maryland. Please call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form if you need legal advice.

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