Tenant's Rights / Electrical work question - Hudson County NJ
September 15, 2013 3:57 PM   Subscribe

While I was dusting the blades on one of our ceiling fan/light units it made a loud grinding/zapping noise and fiery sparks flew out. Needless to say it is now turned off at the wall and will stay that way until an electrician takes a look at it.

Short version: our landlord doesn't want to send an electrician. I on the other hand do not want to be electrocuted or burn the building down. Is there a ballpark figure for how much an electrician might charge to inspect/repair the fan? And has anyone had experience with similar tenant/landlord issues in Hudson County NJ?

More details:
I called our landlord and he doesn't want to send an electrician. He just wants to send "his guy." This guy has doe work on our apartment before and there is NO WAY I trust that he has the knowledge or integrity to ensure the fan is safe. So I asked the landlord to send an "actual electrician." He doesn't want to - says he would have to "find" one - says we will have to wait a while (a "while" in our apartment building repair universe usually = "never").

So I said I would prefer to "find" one myself and take the repair out of the rent (which I believe is legal in NJ, according to this site) At this point our landlord said he would put us out on the street and hung up. Now I'm googling tenant's rights, local electricians AND apartment listings...

By the way, shouldn't our circuit breaker have tripped?
posted by blu_stocking to Law & Government (5 answers total)
To clarify, you're asking whether you can dictate who does and doesn't repair stuff in your apartment? My guess is that no, you can't. You clearly aren't qualified to fix the fan, so you also aren't qualified to determine who *can* fix the fan.

Chances are, a licensed electrician will charge more than any non-fancy-designer fan is worth. It would be cheaper in most cases to throw the old one out and hang a new one.
posted by jon1270 at 4:06 PM on September 15, 2013

Best answer: Regular circuit breakers only trip when they exceed a specified current-time curve. A throwing sparks electrical fault often won't exceed that curve because the contact is intermittent. This is why Arc Fault circuit breakers are mandated by code in Canada and the US in bedrooms in new construction where fluffly blankets heighten the risk from those sorts of failures.

Unless this fan/light unit is very expensive it'll probably be cheaper to just replace it rather than ensuring safe performance. So a couple hundred dollars for a fan/light unit and an hour or so to change it.
posted by Mitheral at 4:11 PM on September 15, 2013

Electricians don't generally repair paddle fans - just replace them. Many handy-type folks have sufficient clue to replace paddle fans, although I can't speak to the level of clue of the guy in question.

The circuit breaker will only trip if (assuming it's a 15A breaker) more than 15 amps of power goes through it. So, whatever made the fan spark probably didn't result in a short circuit that pulled more than 15A through the feed. If it's a loose connection between normally-connected wires inside the fan, that would explain the zapping-without-breaker-tripping behavior. Kind of like if you're plugging something (like a vacuum cleaner) into the wall while it's turned on and you're sort of wiggling the prongs around a bit, they might spark. But it's not shorting to ground, so it's not going to try and pull ALL THE AMPS EVER ALL AT ONCE like a short to ground would.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:27 PM on September 15, 2013

It's a very optimistic reading of that site to decide that you qualify for repair and deduct. The landlord did offer to repair/replace the fan.

A fan replacement is squarely in handyman or home owner territory. There are videos to show you how easy this is.
posted by 26.2 at 5:43 PM on September 15, 2013

Replacing ceiling fans is dead easy, I installed two in our house and I'm no electrical genius. The wires are color coded and the connections are simple, it'd be a waste to call an electrician over a $100 fan and a 15 minute install.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 4:39 AM on September 16, 2013

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