New apartment electrical woows...

I just moved into a new apartment in chicago's north side. The building is kinda old so I dont expect things to be perfect but this
is a little out of control. The lanlord just put in a brand new kitchen: counters/cabs, full size refriderator, full size microwave oven and conventional oven (micro is mounted above the oven) and a 1/2 sized dish washer. Here is what the layout of the Apartment:
|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| | | BATH | S DW M/O F | | | ||||||||||| | | | LIVING | | | | | |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| Kitch | R5 | | | FD--^ | | \ | | | R1 | | R2 | R3 | | | |||||||||| | | | | | ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| | | ^-- OUT TO BACK POURCH | R4 | |||||||||||||
if the picture comes out jumbled up, you can view the jpg version here:
http://www.tech-nine.net/floor.jpg
KEY: S = Sink, DW = Dish Washer, M/O = Microwave / Conv. Oven, F=Fridge
Ok, now that you have an idea of the layout, here is the kicker... the Bathroom, Room3, Room4, and EVERY outlet / applience in the kitchen is all on *one* 15 amp breaker!!!
Every time we ran the air window air conditioner in the R3 we cannot run the dishwasher or the microwave without tripping the breaker.
The other kicker is that Room5 used to be part of the back pourch but was converted to a room recently. There are NO outlets in Room5 so I have an extension cord running from an outlet in the kitchen to room5 to power my computers - and due to the low amps left from the curcuit my APC UPS Backup battery is beeping due to wattage lost every time something is turned on which is a major pain in my a$$ and ruing my battery...
The last kicker is: I complained to the landlord so they go in there and the swap out the 15 amp breaker for a 20 amp breaker and i dont believe they rewired anything so if my understanding of electrical code is correct that is a big time fire hazzard.... right?
Anyway, I need to know the exact text of the fire/electrical code so that I can bring it to my landlords attention. Also if anyone here has any ideas or suggestions on what I should do or how I should go about getting this handled I would appreciate it.
Thanks, Rick
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On 14 Jul 2004 12:11:26 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@datanerds.net (digitsix) wrote:

Among other items, there should be two 20 Amp circuits for the plug in kitchen appliances (and ONLY the kitchen appliances). The dishwasher is a fixed applicance and should have it's own dedicated circuit. I'm not familiar with the local code in Chicago (though I believe it is strict), a disconnect switch may be required at the dishwasher, as some local codes require. I once lived in a suburb of Chicago that required a fused disconnect at the dishwasher (usually mounted under the sink).
If your wires are 14 awg, they should have fuses or circuit breakers for 15 amps.
If the branch circuit wires are 12 awg, they should be fused or have circuit breakers for 20 amps.
A 20 amp breaker protecting a mere 15 amp circuit (with 14 awg wires) is a major fire hazard and should be reported immediately to your local building inspectors. More than likely, you have old minimal standards wiring which may be a problem with certain air conditioners as you have experienced.
The code isn't going to say anything about your overloaded extension cords, but it sounds like you may have a potential fire hazard there, as well.
Remember, your building was probably designed and wired when there were no computers, air conditioners, dishwashers, microwaves and a whole lot of other stuff that you want to use now. Back in the old days, you might have had an electric fan, radio, tv, a few lights and that was it
Whether you can force your landlord to upgrade is a legal question. Is it YOUR window air conditioner, or did it come with the apartment? Check your lease carefully. It sounds like a complete electrical upgrade might be necessary and that could run into hundreds if not thousands of dollars. One legal thing your landlord can do is say that the apartment wiring is not suitable for certain loads such as A/C, your microwave or computer and just tell you not to use it.
Beachcomber
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Forget the text of the NEC, call a building inspector and show him. Me thinks it is time to think about moving.
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040714 1754 - SQLit posted:

Yes, it sounds like a fire just waiting to happen...
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snipped-for-privacy@datanerds.net (digitsix) wrote in
As per the other fella that posted, there should be 2 separate 20A circuits for the kitchen plug-in appliances. There should be a separate circuit for the fridge and dishwasher each. If the landlord recently remodeled and failed to have it inspected, he could be in a jam. I wonder if he even got the permits to remodel, as I am sure a large city like Chicago would require them, and with the remodel, i would think that it would all have to be to code, including the electrical. (may not be....i don't live in chicago)
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Anthony

You can't 'idiot proof' anything....every time you try, they just make
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| I just moved into a new apartment in chicago's north side. The
The City of Chicago uses the 1999 edition of the National Electical Code, with some modifications.
| Ok, now that you have an idea of the layout, here is the kicker... the | Bathroom, Room3, Room4, and EVERY outlet / applience in the kitchen is | all on *one* 15 amp breaker!!!
The current NEC requires:
1. Kitchens must have a minimum of 2 separate circuits of electrical outlets, not shared with any other circuit, rated for 20 amps, and GFCI protected.
2. Bathrooms must have a 20 amp GFCI protected outlet near the wash basin. It can be shared with certain things, like other circuits in the same bathroom, or other bathrooms. But not with any other rooms.
3. Bedroom circuits must be be AFCI protected.
At a minimum, these rooms will need 4 circuits, 3 of which are 20 amp. And the other is AFCI (arc-fault) protected.
| Every time we ran the air window air conditioner in the R3 we cannot | run the dishwasher or the microwave without tripping the breaker.
Air conditioners should have their own circuit if they are big, but I don't know of any code requirement for that. There might be.
| The other kicker is that Room5 used to be part of the back pourch but | was converted to a room recently. There are NO outlets in Room5 so I | have an extension cord running from an outlet in the kitchen to room5 | to power my computers - and due to the low amps left from the curcuit | my APC UPS Backup battery is beeping due to wattage lost every time | something is turned on which is a major pain in my a$$ and ruing my | battery...
Outlets must be located within 6 feet, measured horizontally, along every wall.
Your UPS could be beeping due to voltage drop surges. That could indicate inadequate wiring or an underrated transformer.
I'm also concerned that perhaps your landlord converted the porch to a room to try to evade porch inspections, which the City of Chicago is doing very aggressively lately, due to some recent deaths. It may or may not even be safe.
| The last kicker is: I complained to the landlord so they go in there | and the swap out the 15 amp breaker for a 20 amp breaker and i dont | believe they rewired anything so if my understanding of electrical | code is correct that is a big time fire hazzard.... right?
Whether this is additional violation depends on the wiring. If all of the wiring is AWG 12 or larger copper, or AWG 10 or larger aluminum, then 20 amp protection would be allowed.
| Anyway, I need to know the exact text of the fire/electrical code so | that I can bring it to my landlords attention. Also if anyone here has | any ideas or suggestions on what I should do or how I should go about | getting this handled I would appreciate it.
The exact text is huge and complex. Understanding most of it requires some electrical knowledge (some of it significant). The Chicago Public Library should have a copy of both the National Electrical Code as well as the Chicago Building Code.
I would call the city Department of Buildings at 312-744-3400 and ask to speak to someone who can tell you how to go about reporting possible violations of the electrical code in a recently remodeled apartment. Tell them you have described the situation with someone who is familiar with the NEC and has determined that there are a few serious violations and that you are also having troubles with the circuits. Ask them what can be done to verify if that recent work has been done under a permit filed with the DoB, and if an electrical inspection was performed on the work done. Of course they will need the address if they are willing to check on the permits. They probably won't, but you could try to see if they would send an electrical inspector over for just a quick check.
Also ask them if conversion of a porch to a room is legal and if there was an inspection done on that.
Some web sites to visit:
http://www.caapts.org / http://www.lcbh.org / http://www.tenants-rights.org
Good luck.
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Good advice. I used to live in Chicago and know that the fire codes and electrical codes are pretty strict.
Over the past 5-10 years, there have been a number of porch collapses in Chicago and this has become a focal point of the inspectors.
Over a longer period of history, because of Chicago's association with the great fire in 1871 and the Iroquiois Theatre fire in 1903 (600+ deaths), the fire and electrical codes are generally taken very seriously, perhaps more so than in other comparable large cities.
Building inspections are required for any remodelling work. Unfortunately, any number of things can go wrong at that point. Different inspectors have different degrees of viligence where they range from being excellent public servants to being downright dishonest. Many owners in turn, will put wallboard over their corner-cutting, homebrew wiring mistakes and these might be missed by the inspector.
The tenant advocates and even your lease might give you the impression that you have a legal right to have these violations corrected... But... as a practical matter... (and I know because I've been there before)...
As a tenant, like it or not, you are in a position of weakness in dealing with many of these matters unless you have unlimited time to pursue the inspectors, city officials, legal and tenant assistance agencies, as well as the risk of starting a war with your landlord.
It may just be more cost-effective for you to move and be more observant about the electrical wiring in your new dwelling.
Good luck!
Beachcomber
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I agree with you on that, thats why im worried that I may have to move if they come and inspect... o well Id rather be *safe* than sorry.

Obviously it was done under the table because had this work been inspected, they would have had to fix it. There is no inspector, i dont care how crooked that would pass that off as safe, one 15 amp breaker for a kitche, bathroom and 2 bedrooms? common!

not sure what you meant by this but, as a tenant i have the right to live in a safe building that is up to code. By him signing a lease with me full knowing that the electical curuitry in this builing is far beyond obsolete and possibly unsafe, he will have his ass in court. He will be paying me back for my costs to move and any other inconvenience charges i can weasle in court.

As far as a war is concerened he lives off site and I never see him so I dont really care if he gets mad. Besides He owns this whole block and this is a very popular area in chicago. In other words, he is loaded and can surely afford to fix the problems at hand. He is just cheap.

Cant im bound by a lease in any event.
I also took phil's (i think) advice and called the DoB. They put in a request for a *FULL ELECTRICAL INSPECTION* and marked it as urgent because the wiring may possibly be underrated for the breakers installed. Im sure they will be out within the next few days ;)
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snipped-for-privacy@datanerds.net (digitsix) wrote in

Keep us advised of this situation :)
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You can't 'idiot proof' anything....every time you try, they just make
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| Obviously it was done under the table because had this work been | inspected, they would have had to fix it. There is no inspector, i | dont care how crooked that would pass that off as safe, one 15 amp | breaker for a kitche, bathroom and 2 bedrooms? common!
$$$$
|> The tenant advocates and even your lease might give you the impression |> that you have a legal right to have these violations corrected... |> But... as a practical matter... (and I know because I've been there |> before)... | | not sure what you meant by this but, as a tenant i have the right to | live in a safe building that is up to code. By him signing a lease | with me full knowing that the electical curuitry in this builing is | far beyond obsolete and possibly unsafe, he will have his ass in | court. He will be paying me back for my costs to move and any other | inconvenience charges i can weasle in court.
He _can_ have his ass in court, if someone pursues it. I think the point is that _you_ might have to be the one to pursue it. But maybe of the tenants rights associations can help in that area.
|> As a tenant, like it or not, you are in a position of weakness in |> dealing with many of these matters unless you have unlimited time to |> pursue the inspectors, city officials, legal and tenant assistance |> agencies, as well as the risk of starting a war with your landlord. | | As far as a war is concerened he lives off site and I never see him so | I dont really care if he gets mad. Besides He owns this whole block | and this is a very popular area in chicago. In other words, he is | loaded and can surely afford to fix the problems at hand. He is just | cheap.
Maybe he is loaded because it avoids paying the costs on everything like electrical wiring.
|> It may just be more cost-effective for you to move and be more |> observant about the electrical wiring in your new dwelling. | | Cant im bound by a lease in any event.
It would be implied in a lease that you get an apartment meeting code in all aspects, including electrical. But if you do walk out, he can still take you to court. He might now if you have proof the apartment was in violation. But he might have fixed it in the mean time fearing the court situation, and then claim there never was a problem. Having the inspector look at it can be the proof you need.
But I can't say what the scenario would be. Depending on the building construction, it would be possible to get most of the work done in a day or two (team of electricians). Or the landlord can say "oops, I have to start all over and redo this place ... end of lease". But at least you may also have this option yourself: "this is not a legal dwelling ... end of lease".
| I also took phil's (i think) advice and called the DoB. They put in a | request for a *FULL ELECTRICAL INSPECTION* and marked it as urgent | because the wiring may possibly be underrated for the breakers | installed. Im sure they will be out within the next few days ;)
And it is possible the inspector could classify the building or the apartment as "uninhabitable".
I wonder how many other of his buildings are like that.
I wonder if his electricians are in on the con.
It's so funny ... I watched "The Sting" on TV last night, too :)
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040715 2244 - snipped-for-privacy@ipal.net posted:

It could be that he paid off the inspector, and the one's who did the wiring are illegal immigrants working under his tutelage.
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Well I'm not sure about the rules in Chicago, but most places if they do not rewire the place, the wiring is grand fathered in. So the remodel of the kitchen might not have required a rewire to current codes. The exchange of the 15 amp to 20 breaker as pointed out by others might be ok or bad depending on the gauge of wire used. I'm willing to bet though, that Chicago, like most places will NOT allow a landlord to do ANY wiring on an apartment unless they are a licensed electrician!!!
William....
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WOW! Thanks so much for all that. As far as the pourch thing is concerned, i was an Inodoor pourch, kind of like a back hallway and its pretty safe, at least it seems so.
As far as contact the building inspectors the one thing im worried about is being forced to move out or evected due to code violations. I *JUST* moved here like less than a month ago and aside from it being a really cool apartment its in the best possible location I can think of.
If they come out and have to do a rewire on the whole place, will I be forced to move out?
Thanks, Rick
snipped-for-privacy@ipal.net wrote in message wrote:

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On 15 Jul 2004 11:17:29 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@datanerds.net (digitsix) wrote:

No you won't necessarily be forced to move unless the building inspector declares the unit uninhabitable. This is rarely done except in slum-type buildings with say, no heat in the winter, or no running water or toilets. A good electrical contractor will have at least some temporary power for you .
You will need to make accomodations for contractor access though.
If you are not actually at home at the time of the work, you may need the landlord to allow the contractor to have access to your place. He probably has the key anyway.
If they actually start tearing up your walls and making the place unlivable, you may be able to claim an allowance for time spent at a motel during the period in which you where displaced.
Beachcomber
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wrote:

No they don't. Chicago writes their own code. They currently use their 2002 code, which is the 2002 NEC with modifications. But in terms of the current thread, the requirements are the same (i.e. two 20-amp circuits for the counters, etc.)
Ben Miller
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| wrote: |> The City of Chicago uses the 1999 edition of the National Electical |> Code, with some modifications. | | No they don't. Chicago writes their own code. They currently use their 2002 | code, which is the 2002 NEC with modifications. But in terms of the current | thread, the requirements are the same (i.e. two 20-amp circuits for the | counters, etc.)
According to their web site, what I stated is what they say. Maybe the webmaster is asleep?
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Phil
I stand corrected. After checking my copy of the 2004 Chicago Building Code, the electrical requirements are still based on the 1999 NEC. They update the entire code annually, but the electrical section still appears to be the 2002 version, labeled as 2004, copyright 1999, with a Feb 2001 effective date. The introduction refers to the "2003 code". I guess you just pick whatever year suits you :)
Of course, being a customized code, you need to use it in place of the NEC when working in Chicago, as there are differences.
Ben Miller
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| Phil | | I stand corrected. After checking my copy of the 2004 Chicago Building Code, | the electrical requirements are still based on the 1999 NEC. They update the | entire code annually, but the electrical section still appears to be the | 2002 version, labeled as 2004, copyright 1999, with a Feb 2001 effective | date. The introduction refers to the "2003 code". I guess you just pick | whatever year suits you :) | | Of course, being a customized code, you need to use it in place of the NEC | when working in Chicago, as there are differences. | | Ben Miller
Most places just adopt a specific year of NEC and then specify their local differences. But Chicago has to be a PITA. I think NYC is as well.
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snipped-for-privacy@ipal.net wrote:

You are correct - NYC has its own.
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digitsix wrote:

If there was a structural change in the remodel, they have to come up to current code. The kitchen remodel you describe does not necessarily qualify. When the porch was converted to a room, they had to come up to the current code at that time. From your description, there is no doubt you are "under-wired", but your legal position is unclear. Your strongest "legal point" is probably the porch that became a room - the kitchen may very well be legally grandfathered. There may be a law in Chicago that supercedes that grandfathering - I don't know.
But lets say you are "legally right" in all you want electrically (you don't want enough - but that can be ignored for now). It is one thing to be legally right, and quite another to "get there" from where you are. My point here is only to get you to realize that being "legally right" does not mean you would automatically win a lawsuit or get what you want. I lived in an apartrment that had 3 circuits - and a 15 amp main fuse. That's 15 amps total for a 3 1/2 room apartment. When the landlord finally rewired, each unit in the apartment got 2 new 20 amp circuits plus the existing 15 amp circuit - and it was classified as a "Capital Improvment". That allowed the landlord to increase the rent for each unit to pay for the re-wiring. That could possibly happen in your case. And it's only one scenario out of many where the landlord complies with the law and you end up unhappy.
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