Q&A: Are Minnesota home inspectors allowed to open electrical panels?

I received the following email last week from another home inspector here in Minnesota regarding the inspection of electrical panels:

Today I received a call from a local electrical contractor in <omitted>, MN.  He decided he needed to call me and tell me that "I'm not a licensed electrician and I have no business removing electrical service panel covers" or testing outlets, etc as part of my inspection.  He named some statute that states that you have to be licensed to inspect any electrical.  I just listened and thanked him for the call.  Sounded like he was a friend of a home seller who's house I recently inspected with some electrical issues.

Just curious what your understanding of this is?

scorched neutralsThis is not a new story.

I've heard similar stories from numerous home inspectors here in Minnesota. There is no law that applies specifically to home inspectors in Minnesota, because home inspectors are not licensed. Thankfully, the rules can be found in the 2016 Minnesota Statutes that cover construction codes and licensing. They're in the electrical section under 326B.33 Licenses, Subd. 12: Unlicensed individuals. I'm pretty sure that this would have been the section that was quoted to my fellow home inspector. This section of the Minnesota Statute says the following:

(a) An unlicensed individual means an individual who has not been licensed by the department to perform specific electrical work. An unlicensed individual shall not perform work…

There's a lot more to it than just that, but that's the important part that has been brought into question. For the purposes of this discussion, home inspectors are typically unlicensed individuals. The obvious next question is "what constitutes electrical work?" For that, let's turn to the definitions section for electrical work.

What is electrical work?

Electrical work is defined under section 326B.31, Subp. 17, which says the following:

"Electrical work" means the installing, altering, repairing, planning, or laying out of electrical wiring, apparatus, or equipment for electrical light, heat, power, technology circuits or systems, or other purposes. The installing, altering, repairing, planning, or laying out of electrical wiring, apparatus, or equipment for electrical light, heat, power, technology circuits or systems, or other purposes includes, but is not limited to, the performance of any work regulated by the standards referred to in section 326B.35.

So there you have it. Removing an electrical panel cover to see inside the panel does not constitute electrical work. There is no rule or law in place that says that home inspectors can't do this.

The Standard of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) also requires the inspection of panel interiors. ASHI SOP (7.1.A.5) says the inspector shall inspect interior components of service panels and subpanels.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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Reuben is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Sharlene has worked with Structure Tech since 2000 and Reuben has been contributing to her blog since 2008.

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