Stickers Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore: Why CSA Labels Matter #547
CATEGORY: Legally Speaking
TAGS: Canadian Standard Association (CSA) Factory-built Structures Manufactured Home
My children collect stickers and trade them at school as though they are currency. And for adults and licensees, the stickers that should concern you are the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) label and the silver label.
Licensees selling a mobile or manufactured home should locate and investigate the validity of a CSA label or silver label before listing or selling the property.
The Legalities of the Label
Section 21 of the Electrical Safety Regulation1 (the “Regulation”) reads as follows:
21 (1) Subject to subsections (3) and (4), a person must not use electrical equipment in British Columbia, or offer for sale, sell, display or otherwise dispose of electrical equipment for use in British Columbia, unless the electrical equipment displays a label or mark as follows:
(a) a certification mark;
(b) a label or mark of a certification agency that is acceptable to the appropriate provincial safety manager to certify electrical equipment for a specific installation;
(c) an approval mark issued under section 10 of the Act;
(d) in the case of used manufactured homes, used factory-built structures and used recreational vehicles, a label supplied by the appropriate provincial safety manager.
The Regulation requires that all new and used factory-built structures or manufactured homes display an approval mark from an accredited certification agency prior to sale—typically a CSA label.
Where the original label cannot be found, has been rendered invalid, or is not present, the Regulation allows for a used manufactured home and a used factory-built structure to display an approval mark or label approved by a provincial safety manager. This approval mark is a silver label which happens to be a sticker, too.
Technical Safety BC regulates this area and certifications. In addition to applying and interpreting the Regulation, they have an information bulletin and other helpful resources on their website2.
First, they have an information bulletin for the approval of manufactured homes and factory-built structures. That information bulletin contains useful definitions as well as dedicated sections for new and used manufactured homes.
Sticking with labels, the key information for avoiding claims relating to approval marks and labels comes from the section of the bulletin about:
- used manufactured homes where completely new wiring has been installed with a permit (inspection and new label required),
- alterations to wiring have been made under a permit (no new label required),
- and when alterations have been made without a permit (installation permit, inspection and a new label required).
A homeowner permit from Technical Safety BC is required for repairs or renovations. Amazingly, the type of work requiring a permit in relation to a manufactured home includes:
- replacing light fixtures or ceiling fans;
- installing or moving light switches or electrical outlets;
- installing wiring for renovations, including solar installations, and connecting; and
- permanently installed electrical equipment such as dishwashers, ovens, hoods, security cameras or heat pumps.
I am not that handy but even I have tried a couple of those chores around my home as have certainly many owners of manufactured homes.
The Practicalities and Guidance
The BC Financial Services Authority (BCFSA) has a number of tools in their Knowledge Base for use by licensees selling manufactured homes3.
The Manufactured Homes Guidelines not surprisingly provide a lot of guidance, such as:
- Determining if the property is a manufactured home and is eligible for sale in BC,
- Determining if there is a valid CSA label or approval label,
- Determining if there is a manufactured home registry (“MHR”) label and number (not the same as a CSA label number),
- Determining if alterations have been made to wiring under permit or without permit and recommending an inspection to be certain.
The Regulation and BCFSA are clear that alterations done without a permit may invalidate an existing CSA label or silver label. So, licensees need to have an important conversation with a seller before listing the property and while investigating alterations to any manufactured home property.
Getting a picture of a CSA label located on or near the electrical panel of a manufactured home for the listing is a good start, but it needs to be part of a larger conversation with the seller on any alterations. Without that information in hand, a licensee cannot know for certain whether the existing label is valid.
BCFSA also has a checklist for manufactured homes as well as information on how to locate a CSA label versus an MHR number at a property.
Consulting the local real estate boards may also provide guidance on selling mobile or manufactured homes.
Diligent buyer’s agents should recommend their clients get an appropriate inspection. The fact that a CSA label from the 1980s remains on a manufactured home and there are no alterations does not necessarily mean the electrical is perfect. It may be that in the past 30+ years, the electrical work is no longer up to code, has been chewed on by animals, or is generally not appropriate or sufficient for the property and its use.
When investigating a manufactured home and determining the appropriateness of any label, discussions about alterations and recommendations for property inspections should be in writing. Experts such as inspectors should be engaged whenever a licensee is beyond their own expertise, and should get in touch with the local contact for Technical Safety BC to help review the property and ensure that it is salable. A seller can also be asked to sign a declaration that they have not altered the property without a permit during their ownership.
What Happens If You Get It Wrong?
BCFSA has entered into several consent orders with licensees who have failed to ascertain whether the manufactured home has a valid CSA approval label or silver label4. Interestingly, the penalties agreed in these consent orders often exceed the typical cost of a silver label inspection itself—all the more reason to get it done right in the first instance.
The courts have also weighed in on CSA label issues. A Provincial Court decision from 2014 held a licensee liable for failing to ascertain whether there was a CSA label and, if so, whether it was valid5. In that case, the licensee was not aware of the Regulation or the directive by the BC Safety Authority (the regulator at the time concerning CSA labels). While an inspection condition had been recommended, and specifically declined by the buyer, liability was still found against the agent for the buyer. That case serves as a reminder that the saying “ignorance of the law is no excuse” still holds true.
Licensees must be aware of the Regulation, the related information bulletins and the recommendations of BCFSA when selling manufactured homes.
The alternative is sticker shock that impacts your pocketbook as well as your professional reputation.
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