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I am selling my home and the buyers had an inspection done where the inspector listed the exterior GFCI outlets as a safety hazard because they weren't on their own circuits. These outlets were assembled and installed when the house was built and I have done nothing with them. This house passed the City's inspection protocol as I got the report. The inspector wrote in the report that this is a safety hazard but I am reading on line that it is common practice to wire them in with the interior lights. I got a copy of the city signing off that it passed to give the buyers, but I am confused as to why an inspector would write this up as a safety hazard if it's not even breaking code and it's common practice. Any answers out there?

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    If there is electrical issues that are a safety hazard it should be listed in the NEC. This is a pretty common example and there are many pages in the NEC talking about outdoor circuits and requirements. Make the inspector specifically give you the code they are referring too. If they can't I would even go as far as saying you cannot trust their complete inspection and will not repair or discount anything based on this inspectors findings. I have made that statement numerous times with bad inspectors.
    – DMoore
    Aug 24, 2021 at 20:33
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    IMPORTANT NOTE: If the inspector does give you a code reference, ask whether it was in place when the house was built and if there's anything specific in the code that says that it must be retrofit prior to sale. Odds are good that the answer to both would be "no". Usually building/electrical/plumbing/etc code grandfathers anything that existed prior to the code change, and must only be updated if/when changes are made (changes, not repairs).
    – FreeMan
    Aug 25, 2021 at 13:32
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    Remember your goal here is to successfully connect with a buyer. Fixing something minor for them will help achieve the sale you want, without knocking money off the price. Compromise is necessary on both sides.
    – Criggie
    Aug 26, 2021 at 2:09
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    Is it "the buyers" or "the potential buyers"? Aug 26, 2021 at 17:27
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    @Criggie - maybe. Or once you do 1-2 things, it becomes 10-11. I do not fix things for buyers unless there is a code violation or if there is a conditional contract signed. For 3-4 outdoor circuits... wow that could cost 5k. The house certainly won't be worth $100 more if this specific thing is done. Literally the ONLY person buying this that would think it is more valuable is someone using outdoor heavy tools in a shop. I know its common for this site but we are talking 1-2%.
    – DMoore
    Aug 26, 2021 at 18:24

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A private buyer's inspector can write whatever they want. Some have a reputation for being minimalistic that gets them referrals from selling agents, some have a reputation for being "tigers" that gets them referrals from buyers who pride in waving 30 pages of "problems" at the seller. Some will highlight minor issues if there aren't any major ones in order to pad out the report and "demonstrate value".

There's no universal advice as to how you should deal with such things. There's nothing you can fix that the buyers can't fix. Some buyers will take pride in correcting all the things you didn't, some will try to squeeze it out of you ... it mostly comes down to money. However sometimes there is some psychology involved. If the buyers have an outsized fear of electrical fires and you can throw them a peace offering for $15, that could go a long way.

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    Those last 2 sentences can go a long way toward getting a house sold. However, this might be more than a $15 dollar fix, depending on where the feed to the outdoor outlets is. Also, 'round these parts, houses are being listed and getting 10-20 offers above asking price within 24 hours. No inspection, barely having people see the houses in person. Basically, list your house, set your price, pick the highest bid over your set price, move out. It's been a bit crazy this summer...
    – FreeMan
    Aug 25, 2021 at 13:24
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    Yes in current conditions buyers should view their inspection report as a list of projects they can enjoy pursuing after closing.
    – jay613
    Aug 25, 2021 at 14:08
  • @jay613 Yes... and then they can join this site and all of us can battle the fix... woo hoo.
    – JACK
    Aug 26, 2021 at 15:06
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My first guess would be that the inspector was misinformed. It's common to have a number of GFCI protected outlets on their own circuit if the circuit is protected by a GFCI breaker in the main panel. Individual GFCI outlets do not have to be on their own circuits. The only reason I can think of that would be a safety concern would be if the GFCI's were not listed for outdoor use or not in weatherproof boxes.

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  • They are gfci outlets and they are both in weatherproof boxes.
    – Benton J
    Aug 24, 2021 at 18:32
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    Inspectors are often wrong. I have had many list things as non-code when they were clearly done by code. It is often a PITA to argue with them too as their clients often have no idea - at all - what either side is saying. The other thing is that most use software now that builds their reports, he could have checked the wrong thing or the software might be wrong - I have seen this many times the past few years. This one is easy. You simply state "please refer me to the code revision that this violates according to your inspection. "
    – DMoore
    Aug 24, 2021 at 20:29
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Not violating any code that I am aware of, though I am not an expert.

In fact, as I understand it, if the receptacles were not even GFCI protected at all and were installed when there was no such requirement, they would be perfectly fine! In that situation, I would expect a home inspector to note that they should be protected as that is the current code. But they are protected, so that is not even an issue for you anyway.

In a perfect world, every single room would have its own circuit (or two!) for receptacles and another for lights. But running more circuits than required costs extra - both parts & labor. As a result, it is quite common to have the required circuits - typically 2 for the kitchen, 1 for each bathroom (technically multiple bathrooms can still share, and in older homes that is very common), 1 for laundry, etc. and then have just a few circuits - say between 2 and 5 - serving all the lights and receptacles everywhere else (e.g., lights almost everywhere, receptacles in bedrooms, living room, basement, etc.).

GFCI requirements are a separate issue - they do go along with dedicated circuits in the kitchen and bathrooms but in other areas they can be shared with non-protected receptacles. The reasons for "separate circuit" are different from the reasons for "GFCI protected".

Keep in mind that almost anything in a house on an inspector's report is for negotiation. That certainly includes electrical. For example, if a house was built before GFCI requirements and the buyer, based on the inspector's report, insisted on GFCI in kitchen and bathrooms, that would be a reasonable request, and would usually cost relatively little to resolve. On the other hand, running new circuits is generally very expensive, especially if the panel is full or if drywall work is needed as a result. Another example is a roof problem. A known leak should probably be addressed. On the other hand, a roof showing signs of age (which is reasonable for an inspector to report so the buyer has an idea of what repairs will be needed in a few years) but not any indication of any active problems can be left as is. But all is subject to negotiation. (At least in most areas that I know of - a little different from buying a used car where you can't, in many places, get new tags without showing proof of passing a rigorous safety inspection.)

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    Your car example makes me laugh. We have zero vehicle inspections in my state. If you buy the car, you can get it registered. The closest to an "inspection" is if you buy it out of state, you must have it present when getting it titled in state so they can confirm the VIN (or have it certified by the police). VIN matches the paperwork and the "inspection" is done.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 25, 2021 at 13:28
  • And all these years I was told Maryland is lax about vehicle safety because they only require inspection when sold, and even that is done by "certified" service stations rather than state employees, instead of every year or two as some other states do. Aug 25, 2021 at 13:51
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact It's changed quite a bit in the past few decades. The number of states doing inspections has dropped a lot. For cost reasons and because cars have generally gotten more reliable. If anything, they do an emissions check, but generally that means plugging into the OBD2 and trusting the car's own computer to tell the truth... 2 minutes, slap a sticker, and done.
    – hobbs
    Aug 25, 2021 at 14:20
  • We have the emissions check here. IIRC, all the states ended up having to do some version of emissions check due to a federal mandate (don't get me started...oops, too late) but for most cars now it is just OBD2. I actually had my van fail once - I knew it would because it (a) made funny noises and (b) had the mystical Check Engine light (which is now a meaningless "industry standard" icon...don't get me started) but I went through the motions and got things fixed (tune up+extras) and lived happily ever after. Then with the pandemic magically emissions didn't matter for a year... Aug 25, 2021 at 15:00
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    You do not recall correctly, @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact. NO inspections whatsoever in Indiana. No emissions, no mechanical, no lighting, nothing. If you want to register it, you go right ahead! The state will gladly take your money (and they'll take a lot of it).
    – FreeMan
    Aug 25, 2021 at 17:30
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Home inspections like this all use the same list of issues that they check for regardless of the age of the home. Sometimes they list things that are nonsense for the situation, sometimes they list technical issues that don't really cause real-world problems, and sometimes they actually list things that are dangerous.

When I bought my current house "the electrical system was deficient". Why? None of the breakers were labeled and there was a three-way switch that didn't work. Did I care or even mention that to the seller? No, it's just not a big deal.

You are not obligated to fix anything found in the report. You sell the house as-is and you can use any fixes as a negotiating tool. In some cases there might be an issue so bad that a buyer wouldn't be able to get financing, but some technicality on a GFCI outlet isn't one of those. Some buyers might make it out to be a bigger deal than it really is, but fixing it or not is up to you.

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  • The only reason to fix a niggle issue like this is if it makes a difference between sale/no sale. If it's a buyer's market, the extra effort may get the house sold. If it's a seller's market (as it has been around me the last 6-12 months), fugetaboutit!
    – FreeMan
    Aug 25, 2021 at 13:30
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In some local codes (my own familiarity is here in Ontario) it may say that a house must have an exterior GFCI outlet on a dedicated circuit. In other words, at least one. I guess the idea is that you may have something like a corded electric lawn mower that draws a high load and they want to make sure there's at least one that can handle it. But there's nothing that says you can't have others which are on shared circuits.

But that's local code, and it doesn't sound like this inspector has referenced code. As a safety issue, I'm not getting it. Maybe he's thinking these circuits, if overloaded, could result in a power outage of something important inside the house? That seems a stretch, and at any rate, that's for code to consider.

If the inspector can't cite local code (as others have said, relevant to the date the outlets were installed) then I'd push back pretty hard on this being a valid issue.

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My guess is the inspector is just confused, their training and certification is really questionable at best. I have been called to "fix" things that weren't a problem, for instance a breaker that was UL Listed for two wires had two wires. The seller agreed to have it "fixed", since there was available breaker space to add a breaker the broker said to just do that to comply with the agreed condition of sale. The "fix" wasn't a code requirement, but since they agreed to do it it needed to be done. Another time I had to tell the inspector inspecting for a house I was buying that the electrical panel location in the back of a kitchen cabinet was a code violation of code required working clearance, and I wanted it added to his report.

Codes vary and evolve, the NEC for instance normally updates every 3 years, and are subject to local adoption in whole or with amendments. I think until as recently as 2020 HUD was still regulating mobile homes under the 2008 edition.

In the NEC specific receptacle locations, dedicated circuits, and Ground-Fault requirements are all addressed separately.

The latest NEC 210.52 requires outdoor receptacles front and back, and requires they be accessible from grade, less than 2 meters above grade. It doesn't specify or give a reference to a section that requires a dedicated circuit.

210.11 specifies dedicated circuits that include the phrase "shall feed no other outlets" with specific exceptions. Currently the NEC specifies that garage, bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room receptacle circuits be dedicated, the only circuit with an exception for outdoor receptacles is the garage circuit.

Also heating and cooling equipment regularly requires dedicated circuits, but rarely do those circuits have receptacles. You also could have other fastened-in-place equipment that is plug fed, if it uses more than 50% of the rating of the circuit feeding it then it cannot share with other general purpose receptacles.

Ground Fault protection is specified in NEC 210.8. It includes all of the above locations in 210.11, outdoor receptacles, and more. This paragraph doesn't reference any circuit requirements. Also it doesn't specify location of protection in circuit. It could be at point of use, the load terminals of an upstream GFCI receptacle, or a breaker protecting the full circuit.

One recent NEC change causing confusion is that now GFCI reset is now required to be readily accessible, the code defines readily accessible a little more strictly than seems necessary.

But whatever is making him specify that there is a violation present is unclear.

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