Insurance: New rules for electric fences

2013-06-30 14:00

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New regulations may find your electric fence on the wrong side of the law with regards to the insurance of this security system, writes Neesa Moodley-Isaacs

In a society where homes need maximum protection from criminals, it is easy to understand why you might choose to use electric fencing to protect your family and your property.

However, if you fail to comply with the new electric-fence regulations, you could well find yourself on the wrong side of the fence with regards not only to the law, but in terms of your insurance as well.

Regulation 12 of the Electric Machinery Regulations of 2011 stipulates that all electric fences installed after October 1 2012 must be certified and have an electric-fence system certificate of compliance. It also applies to electric fences that have been altered, added to or where ownership of the premises changes after October 1 this year.

Risk of no cover

1 In cases where electric fences have not been installed by a certified electric-fence installer, the homeowner could face financial loss when their insurance claim is rejected or even legal costs associated with liability claims.

Marike van Niekerk, the legal and compliance manager at MUA Insurance Acceptances, says any legal liability claim resulting from noncompliance will be excluded from cover.

Impact on landlords

2 Van Niekerk says this also applies to property owners renting their property to another person. “The property owner faces not only expensive legal costs, but runs the risk of being criminally prosecuted,” she cautions.

She says if your insurer establishes that an unregistered company installed your fence and the fence has to be fixed or replaced due to damage, the claim could be rejected on the grounds of defective workmanship. “In addition, you will be forced to remove the fence or ensure an accredited installer upgrades its requirements,” she says.

Meeting requirements

3 In order to issue a certificate of compliance, all electric-fence installers must be registered by the department of labour as well as pass an exam by October 1 2013 to ensure they are qualified and able to meet the law’s requirements.

The SA Electrical Fencing Installers Association (Saefia) expects that by October this year, there will only be about 300 registered and accredited electric-fence installers across the country. Van Niekerk points out this figure is quite low and should serve as a caution to ensure you properly screen any contractors before they commence work on your property.

You will be unable to transfer property with an electric fence unless you provide 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 has been issued, there is no need for another certificate to be issued on transfer of ownership,” she says.

However, Johan Pretorius, the chairperson of Saefia, says the EFC is not transferable and certificates of compliance also expire after two years, so new owners will have to have the fence tested again before they resell the property.

The deadline for electric-fence installers to register is September this year. In the interim, there are registered installers who can issue you with a certificate of compliance if you are selling your home.

Finding an interim solution

4 Bruce Swain, the managing director of Leapfrog Property Group, says sellers should be able to contact the department of labour to find out which electric-fence installers in their province are registered.

“However, we have tried to contact the department of labour and have yet to have our calls answered. We have also contacted the Western Cape Approved Electrical Inspection Authority, which was also unable to produce a list,” he says.

Swain says he is at a loss as to how the average seller is expected to find a registered fence installer who can issue a certificate of compliance.

Van Niekerk’s advice is that you should include an appropriate clause in your 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 the buyer.

Your responsibilities

The regulations are quite clear on your responsibilities as a homeowner:

» You have to have proper warning signs on your property to caution all visitors. These signs must be visible from the pavement and your driveway;

» Your electric fence must not hang over into the neighbouring property;

» You must have a certificate of compliance issued by a registered electric-fence installer; and

» You will need to provide an electric-fence certificate of compliance if you choose to sell your property.

The national standard

According to Live Wire Electric Fencing, the following criteria are currently in place for electric fences:

»?The minimum wall height of a private property to be secured with an electric fence is 1.8m;

»?Upright brackets may be used without any height restriction;

»?Brackets can be angled at not more than 45 degrees out and must be installed on the inside of the boundary wall;

»?You are not allowed to angle brackets into your neighbour’s property without their knowledge or consent;

»?Barbed wire or razor wire fences should not be electrified;

»?Fences along a pathway or public road must be identified with yellow warning signs every 10m; and

»?The gate should open and close without shocking the person operating the gate.

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