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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71154
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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a local electrician put underground cables to supply 2 water

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a local electrician put underground cables to supply 2 water features and garden lighting
some 10 years ago .however i have just discovered after altering the design of the garden that the cables are LESS THAN 6 INCHES BELOW THE SURFACE OF THE SOIL
(the landscape gardener struck the cable with his spade and immediately sent for a "N.I.C.E."QUALIFIED electrician who had to "cap" the cable for safety reasons) he instructed me not to dig or fork the lawn etc until the cable has been rendered safe
I have contacted the original electrician to rectify the situation BUT he argues that it is NOT his responsibility because he did not dig the trench!!! but surely as he was the
electrician on that contract it must be his duty to oversee WHOEVER DUG THE TRENCH
to supervise that the cable was sunk to the correct depth !!
I would be very grateful for your help
your faithfully
john d strafford

Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.

How much is this going to cost to put right?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

thank you your honour

I am currently awaiting for an estimate from the " n.i.c.e."electrical

inspectors ( they are extremely busy at the moment ) but the existing cable

will have to be completley removed and replaced -it will be thousands of

pounds -I will also have to pay an expensive fee for the initial professional

electrical inspection report + the lawn will also have to be completely


yours faithfully

john david strafford

Who arranged digging of the trench?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

your honour,

I was actuallyl working at the time , but I know that the gardener

and the electrician were working together ( i had major structural

alterations to the house to accommodate a downstairs bathroom for my

late mother who suffered from alzheimers disease and bowel cancer )

and the extension went out towards the garden which necessitated

completely renewing the lawn -the gardener said he would have to put new field drains in (,I had also requested to have 2 water features) the

electrician asked me in view of this ,would i like some garden lights whilst the H20 features would require electricity

I can only assume that the electrician would have authorised the

digging of the trench since he said would see to all the electrics

yours faithfully

john d strafford

Assumption will not work in court. If you are asked you will need to say who told the gardener to dig the trench.
It seems unlikely he would dig it without your say so or did he simply go ahead on electricians say so?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

your honour,

I will have to contact the gardener in question and ask him

who authorised him to dig the trench

would it not be the electricians duty and indeed his responsibility to check whether the trench was dug to the correct depth so

that the cable was placed deep enough out of harms way ?

I will notify you as soon as possible

many thanks for your help and advice

yours faithfully

john d strafford

No problem. Come back when you can.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

your honour,

my sincere apologies for the delay in replying to your request ,

I have only just managed to get in touch with the original gardener who did

the water features and the garden lighting in 2000

He confirmed that the electrician WOULD have instructed him to

dig the trenches,although he cannot remember the precise details since it

was in 2000 when the work was performed

yours faithfully

john david strafford

There is no statutory depth to which cables laid underground must be buried. That is extremely surprising although there are guidelines as to how deep it should be buried.
In the regulations it does say that the cable could be armoured or metal sheathed or both and that it must be identified by suitable tape or markers above the cable so that anyone digging will become aware of its presence. In addition or instead of, cable covers can be used to provide protection and identification. It is also recommended that the identifying marker is laid well above the cable (not possible in this case) so that the identifying marker is reached long before the cable is touched.
Although there is no statutory depth, the recommended depth under a cultivated area which would include grass would be at least 700 mm and under a non-cultivated area such as a path, would be 400 mm.
The fact that the electrician did not dig the trench may or may not be relevant. It may be partly relevant.
If you had the trench dug and he put the cable in, he is under a duty to say that it is not deep enough. That would let render him partly responsible. If he arranged to have the trench dug, that would make incompletely responsible.
The limitation period under the Limitation Act for breaches of contract is 6 years but that runs from the date of knowledge and is subject to a long stop date of 15 years so, you have 1 years from now to instigate proceedings because that is 15 years from when the job was done back in 2000. Expect problems because of that timescale if you issue proceeedings and he defends them
From what you have said the electrician has no intention of coming to fix this and therefore the solution is to get it fixed yourself by a competent person or persons and take the electrician to court for the cost of doing the work.
You need to tell the electrician that if he does not rectify this job by a particular date you will get it done yourself and then reclaim the costs from him via the county court if necessary.
Here is the link to the Small Claims Court
And here is a link which I found it to the regulations which could well now have been revised but the situation would certainly not be more favourable to the electrician than that shown here.
Can I clarify anything for you?
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