One of the things I always check at an inspection is whether the Electric Utility Company meter seal is in place or not.
Reaching over and giving them a good tug can be very revealing. When the seal is found to be either missing or tampered with, one can start to make intelligent guesses as to why it is missing. If it is just plain missing and it is an older installation you can guess that someone may have been doing work on the system that required removal of the meter—-like replacement of the breaker panel—-or perhaps replacement of an old fuse panel.
That a new seal was not installed can be indicative of three things:
1. the work was done without permits,
2. the work was done with permits but the permit was never “finaled,” or,
3. the work was completed under permit and finaled but the Utility has not gotten around to putting the new seal in place. Of course there is also a 4th possibility that someone thought they might make nice earrings and just took it—long with the neighbor’s.
I find these meter seals to be missing or tampered with fairly often—-especially on older homes. On a recent inspection I found where the meter had been relocated to the opposite side of the home from where it used to enter the home. While the installation itself was “technically” proper I noticed right away that the meter seal was missing, as can be seen (or actually not seen) in this next picture.
Usually when a service change like this has been finaled by the Electrical Inspector, the inspector will place a little green sticker on the meter box indicating their approval of the installation. So the missing sticker, along with the missing seal are all consistent with there either never having been a permit to do the work or that the Electrical inspector has not signed off on it.
Another big clue that supports these conclusions was the large coil of “extra” wire that was at the mast head. Electricians will often leave excess wires so that the Utility Company can make the final decision as to how much they need when they make up their final connections.
All of this is brought to the attention of the buyer so that they can make an informed decision about what they want to have done about it.
It can mean that other work was done in the home without permits as well. I have seen entire homes rewired, including upgrading of the electrical service, all without permits. This is all information that most buyers would want to know. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the work was done improperly—-it may have been done by a moonlighting electrician. It is just another one of those red flags that inspectors like to raise.
I still think they would make interesting earrings.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email