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#38060 - 05/14/04 12:28 PM How to be a diplomat
pauluk Offline

Registered: 08/11/01
Posts: 7693
Loc: Norfolk, England
Today I went to inspect and test the wiring in the nearby house of an acquaintance. It's a rented house, and the landlord has had his own guy inspect and wants the house rewired, with the tenant to pay half the cost.

The guy concerned is someone I've known in passing for a while now. He's a friendly easy-going sort, but his wiring skills..... Oh dear!

Now, there are some horrors left over from before he moved into the house a few years ago, but his additions are, frankly, a mess: Outlets tapped from others using under-sized cables, unsuitable circuit arrangements, broken rings, an underground feed to his mobile-home workshop consisting of 6242Y (like Romex) pulled through garden variety water hose -- You get the idea.

I now have to write a report on the state of the wiring so he can negotiate with his landlord about the necessary work. I suspect that my report is going to to pretty much coincide with that given by the landlord's electrician.

The combination of his additions with somebody else's bodged modifications (not his fault, so a negotiating point at least) really suggest that the only sensible course of action is to start over.

So, how do any of you go about exercising diplomacy in a situation like this?

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#38061 - 05/14/04 01:23 PM Re: How to be a diplomat
Bill Addiss Offline

Registered: 10/07/00
Posts: 4196
Loc: NY, USA

Awkward situation for sure. One I've used is:

"This may work fine, but it is not according to code"

Good Luck,

#38062 - 05/14/04 01:31 PM Re: How to be a diplomat
Kobuchi Offline

Registered: 11/12/02
Posts: 12
Loc: Vancouver, Canada
I'm confused about who it is you're afraid of slighting.

I usually back away from these situations where my social life is involved, saying that I don't have time for the job. Better a stranger criticise, and no hard feelings.

Sometimes I blame myself to the person, by explaining that I'm perversely dogmatic and therefore can't help but find fault. I can make my "extreme uptightness" a condition of my doing the work, and then if they accept it's cool, and if they decline it's cool too.

#38063 - 05/14/04 01:32 PM Re: How to be a diplomat
HotLine1 Offline


Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 6792
Loc: Brick, NJ USA
Gee, I thought that all the homeowner specials were "ststeside"!

Working/inspecting/reporting on or for a friend can be a sticky situation to say the least. Last time I was in that corner, I did as Bill said....sure it works, but it's not "Code", and as a Lic EC and AHJ I HAVE to write it as I see it!

Good luck my friend!


#38064 - 05/14/04 02:07 PM Re: How to be a diplomat
BigJohn Offline

Registered: 03/06/04
Posts: 352
Loc: Boston, MA
I had a similar situation once where I was doing work for friend of mine who is an MD and also happened to be my landlord. He never had to tell me where he'd done electrical work because I could just tell by the code violations I found.

Finally, I told him: "Take this in the spirit that I'm giving it: I would not try to practice medicine because I'm not trained in medicine, and I would make mistakes. By that same token, you should not practice electrical work."

Sometimes there aren't really many ways to tell someone something, and you just have to depend on them being humble enough to understand. Good luck.


#38065 - 05/14/04 02:11 PM Re: How to be a diplomat
pauluk Offline

Registered: 08/11/01
Posts: 7693
Loc: Norfolk, England
My trouble is that I find it difficult to say "No," so when someone asks me to "Just have a look" at some problem, and I usually end up doing it (and often regretting agreeing to do so immediately). Maybe I'm overly sensitive or something, but I guess I just don't like offending anyone.

Basically, the guy asked me to check the wiring as he thought the landlord's electrician might have been overly critical in an attempt to condemn the electrical system and thereby break the lease. He was hoping for a counter opinion which would say "No, we just need to fix these couple of little things here."

Of course, I can only write up what I see, and everything which is of concern will go into my report. I don't have to add a recommended course of action as this is purely a second-opinion, but by the time all the problems are listed it will would be hard for anyone not to see that a full rewire is really the only logical solution.

Oh, he did ask about providing a quote for a full rewire if that's what it comes down to in the end. Fortunately, I managed to regain my determination a little and refuse, explaining that I really have too much other work in hand at the moment to be able to take it on (which is true anyway).

P.S. I don't think I'll bother to write-up the dead mouse I found when removing a wall switch from its box. The huge gap between some of the boxes and the wall which allowed said unfortunate rodent to enter will go in, though.

[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 05-14-2004).]

#38066 - 05/14/04 02:28 PM Re: How to be a diplomat
Jps1006 Offline

Registered: 01/22/04
Posts: 609
Loc: Northern IL
If you truly are concerned about hard feelings, maybe try to get out of it. See if he would be willing to get a third opinion.

I would probably still try to explain that you would have to be overly critical of the work, and you aren't comfortable doing that in this situation. In these types of situations I generally make the code the bad guy instead of the installer. You are only informing him of what the code says. "Even though this appears to be working fine, the code won't allow it this way" instead of "boy was the guy who installed this an idiot or what?"

I would expect that with careful explaining, he'll realize how little he knows about the code and possibly adopt the attitutde that he's kind of been caught, and he may even tell you to write up what you honostly think anyway.

Either way, talk to him first. How he handles it from there is in his court and out of your control. But you've handled it the best way you know how.

#38067 - 05/14/04 03:06 PM Re: How to be a diplomat
Trumpy Offline


Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8532
Loc: SI,New Zealand
That's a real tough one!.
I've been put in this situation a few times and I can't say that I enjoy it, at all.
My advice would be, if you are going to do a report, be absolutely impartial.
Just concentrate on the work that needs to be done to bring the installation back up to Regulation standard, that's the most important thing here!.
What happens after you have done your report, is entirely up to the two parties in the argument.
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

#38068 - 05/14/04 05:45 PM Re: How to be a diplomat
Dave55 Offline

Registered: 05/08/04
Posts: 666
Loc: Crystal Lake, Illinois, USA
Forget about their feelings. Think how bad you'll feel if someone dies in a fire from the faulty wiring. I work for a dentist who does some bad wiring. I ask him how he'd like it if I worked on his teeth.


#38069 - 05/14/04 06:54 PM Re: How to be a diplomat
Lostazhell Offline

Registered: 02/21/04
Posts: 1248
Loc: Bakersfield, CA (Originally Or...
I kinda have to go with Dave55 on this one... One for liability's sake, & the other reason being you might save this guy from really getting over his head in the future.. Just my opinion, but as a friend I try to put things as straight as possible to avoid reprocussions in the future.. (IE, their house burning down!) While I try to do it in a jovial way.. I make sure I get my point across.
Just kinda walk through with him while you're writing things out & explain why you should'nt do what has been done... This is the way I typically go about things when I'm doing home inspections also.. At the end, tell him he's free to get another opinion if he wants.. But I think, as a friend, he'll appreciate you being candid with him


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