I am looking to start a home automation business in Alabama. I am going to be selling, servicing and installing home automation products. Some of these products require tapping into the in house wiring. I am wondering if for a residential home, I would need to hire or be an electrician to install new light switches, electrical outlets etc. From what I have read as long as I have permission from the home owner to do electrical work I don't need a license is this true?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Congratulations on your new venture. Exciting times. The best answer I can give is, "it depends." The state statutes draw different distinctions from what you've provided in your question. I'll provide you the relevant state Code sections below, but you probably should consult an attorney with more specific questions after reviewing these. Also, many codes relative to home contracting, electrical work, and home alarm systems changed in 2010. An attorney could research more specific situations that have been litigated since then. Finally, your city or county may also have specific requirements an attorney may need to investigate locally, i.e. local building codes may require outlets a certain number of inches off the floor in case of flooding or that bathrooms/exterior areas may require GFCI outlets.
Here's the link to the online Code of Alabama: http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/alison/codeofalabama/1975/coatoc.htm
Title 34 Chapter 36 deals with Electrical Contractors. Section 34-36-3 defines an electrical contractor as "... proposes to bid, install, maintain, alter, or repair any electric wiring devices or equipment." Section 34-36-13 provides exemptions for certain types of work, part (5) exempts employees of home owners; however, an "employee" is a legal term of art that typically requires supervision, ongoing work, payroll, etc. and not one-time projects. From the details you provided I don't believe you will qualify for this exemption and there is not any provision for home owner consent (in fact, the legislative intent of virtually every licensing statute in every state is based upon the fact that the average consumer cannot provide consent since they do not have enough expert knowledge of what you are doing in order to agree to it). Exemption (8), though, excludes the license requirement for those working on systems operating on 25 volts or less. Since, most home automation devices operate on standard 15 V outlets you may be exempt, but your term of "tapping into" the wiring probably needs more specific discussion and investigation by an attorney. You may find that you can perform most any service you want offer without a license, but some services require bringing in a licensed electrician. Knowing exactly which ones will be a gamble without a lawyer. And for what it's worth, the advice I give to all entrepreneurs is to become friends with an Accountant, Insurance Agent, Lawyer, and Banker. They may become the best friends you've ever known.
Other sections to consider, but don't likely apply based on the details you presented:
Title 34, Chapter 1A Alarm System Installers - if your work involves home alarm systems this section will apply to you.
Title 34, Chapter 8 Contractors - if your work will cost more than $50,000, this section may apply to you.
Title 34, Chapter 14A Home Building and Home Improvement Industries - if you work will cost more than $10,000, this section may apply to you.
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