Inspection angers homeowner

The electrician studies the electrical panel inside a house on Cardinal Street last week.

The electrician studies the electrical panel inside a house on Cardinal Street last week.

Margaret Hunt faced two inspections from Mission’s Public Safety Team (PSIT) in as many years.

The team had visited her a year ago at her home on Richards Avenue and she was prepared to meet them again last Wednesday at her Cardinal Street property.

Hunt has lived in Mission for 17 years and owns three properties with her husband. She raised her children here, volunteered at their schools and coached baseball for years. She considers herself a good citizen who has given back to the community.

When she received a notice of inspection for excessive hydro use at her Richards Avenue home last year, she willingly let the inspectors in and showed them around because she knew they wouldn’t find anything illegal.

The electrician examined the electrical panel and determined the high hydro use in the 50-year-old house was justified, but the other two inspectors were not convinced.

They probed closets, and all the nooks and crannies.

Hunt said they were rude, intrusive and she felt violated.

The search moved to the property outbuildings. There was no power to the shed where her husband kept half a dozen old car frames. Inspectors spent two hours shining their flashlights into each of the empty vehicles and even raked the dirt floor in their search.

Hunt stood outside with the electrician and her anger began to build.

The inspection didn’t uncover a marijuana grow operation, and Hunt wasn’t charged the $5,200 fee, but they wanted her to put up a guard rail on the property and fix a broken stair. And before the team left, one of them said they would be back if she didn’t reduce her power consumption. Hunt didn’t like the threat.

She faced questions from her neighbours. What were the police doing parked at the end of your driveway? Why were inspectors in your home?

The perception that Hunt and her family were doing something illegal had already travelled along the street.

Hunt had always paid her hydro bills and it was none of the district’s business how much power she was buying, she said.

She spoke with others in the community who have gone through a similar experience, and had researched the district’s purpose behind PSIT.

She called the number on the notice to confirm the purpose of the second inspection was to look for electrical faults to explain the high power consumption.

When the police officer and the PSIT team pulled up, Hunt walked out to meet them.

The Mountie remained in his vehicle, and the three inspectors approached. As calm as she could, Hunt said she was only allowing the electrician to come onto her property.

The inspectors protested and told her they work as a team for safety purposes.

“It’s an electrical inspection,” Hunt shot back and suggested the police officer accompany the electrician instead.

Without an entry warrant, the inspectors didn’t have a choice. They moved off the property, but stayed nearby until the electrician, who worked for a private contractor, was finished.

Hunt showed him the small barn with a heat lamp where chickens are kept on one side and goats on the other. She also opened up the small, dilapidated shack where there was no power and showed him the hydro meter before bringing him inside the house.

She explained that her daughter put curtains up in the doorways and clear plastic sheeting on the windows to try to stop the heat from escaping from the old home, which had only single-paned windows.

The electrician examined each wire in the electrical panel and concluded there was no harm done to the conductor or busbar, but talked to Hunt about minor issues, such as a missing conductor, discrepancies in the labelling and some odd-looking work. He suggested she engage a licensed electrician to address the problems. He also recommended the wires in the barn be examined.

Since Hunt’s daughter moved into the house about a year ago, they have been consistently consuming electricity at a rate of more than 120 kwh/day.

The average home consumes less than 50 kwh/day, but he noted older houses with single-paned windows could use closer to 100 kwh/day. However, he also warned house fire risks increase 25 per cent if a home uses more than 95 kwh/day. Since Hunt is in that category, he advised all smoke detectors and fire extinguishers be kept up to date.

Before leaving, the electrician said Hunt would be receiving a letter from the district confirming an inspection had been performed, but she would not be charged the inspection fee.

“The electrician did his job and left,” said Hunt, feeling victorious.