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AGO 1955 No. 94 - June 03, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Owner of premises may personally install electrical wiring without obtaining license.  It is immaterial what use is intended for premises.

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                                                                    June 3, 1955

Honorable Chet King
State Representative
19th District
P.O. Box 283
Raymond, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 94

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of April 18, 1955, previously acknowledged, requesting an opinion on the following questions:

            (1) Is it permissible for an owner to install electrical wiring and equipment in, on or about buildings and structures, which he is building to sell to others, and which he does not intend to occupy as his home?

            (2) Is it permissible for owners to install electrical wiring and equipment in, on or about apartment houses, hotels, motels, camp cabins, gas stations, grocery stores, taverns, etc., which will be occupied or frequented by the general public?

            In our opinion both questions must be answered in the affirmative.


            RCW 19.28.120 provides in relevant part that:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "No person shallengage in, conduct, or carry on the business of installing wires or equipment to convey electric current, or installing apparatus or appliances to be operated by such current, without having an unrevoked, unsuspended and unexpired license so to do, issued by the director of licenses in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.  * * * (Emphasis supplied)

            The only exceptions to this requirement are set out in RCW 19.28.200:

            "No license under the provisions of this chapter shall be required from any person, firm, corporation or municipal corporation because of work in connection with the installation or maintenance of lines or wires for the transmission of electricity from the source of supply to the point of contact at the premises or property to be supplied; nor for work in installing or maintaining or repairing on the premises of customers, service connection and meters, and other apparatus or appliances used in the measurement of the consumption of electricity by customers; nor for work in connection with the lighting of streets, alleys, ways, or public areas or squares; nor for the work of installing, maintaining or repairing wires, apparatus or appliances used in their business; nor in making or distributing electricity, upon the property owned or operated and managed by them; nor for the work of installing and repairing ignition or lighting systems for motor vehicles."  (Emphasis supplied)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            We assume that your first question contemplates the situation in which an owner is engaged, at least part time, in the construction of buildings for resale and is doing the work himself.  We note that your question is quoted directly from the first inquiry set out in an opinion written by this office on May 14, 1948, to the Director of Labor and Industries, a copy of which is attached for your convenience.  Apparently, that opinion does not completely answer the question stated.

            We do not believe that any of the exceptions stated in RCW 19.28.200 are relevant to your first question.  The problem, therefore, is to determine if such activity falls within the underscored language of RCW 19.28.120.

            An examination of the general case law upon these phrases discloses no firm rule which could be stated to cover all cases.  It is clear that in this instance the owner is not holding himself out to the general public as qualified and ready to install electrical wiring or apparatus, although he may do so as a part of the overall operation in constructing the building.  Again, a single act may not constitute "engaging in business."  SeeNovak v. Redwine, 80 Ga. App. 755, 81 S.E. (2d) 222;City of Los Angeles v. Cohen, 124 Cal.App. (2d) 225, 268 P. (2d) 183.  In the context "conduct" and "carry on" are apparently synonymous; see Roberts v. State, 26 Fla. 360, 7 So. 861; Inyo County v. Erro, 119 Cal. 119, 51 Pac. 32.

            While additional facts might vary the conclusion, we think that where an owner constructs by himself, as a complete unit, a building for resale, he is not required to obtain a license under RCW 19.28.120.  Protection to the public in such cases is available under other provisions of RCW chapter 19.28 [[chapter 19.28 RCW]]and under local building codes and the inspection provisions for enforcement of those codes.  See chapter 36.43 RCW and RCW 35.21.180.

            In regard to your second question, also quoted from the above cited opinion of May 14, 1948, we think that AGO 51-53 No. 207, dated January 9, 1952, to the Director of Labor & Industries, a copy of which is also attached, is of some relevance.  It indicates that the underscored portion of RCW 19.28.200 exempts individuals who personally install, maintain, or repair wires, apparatus or appliances used in their business so that they are not subject to the licensing provision of RCW 19.28.120.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            We conclude that such persons are exempted from the licensing requirement, regardless of the fact that their business entails a frequenting of the premises by the general public.  RCW 19.28.200,supra, makes it clear that an owner whose building is "used" in his business need not comply with the licensing requirement.  Although the failure to have a licensed electrician perform the wiring services may constitute a danger to the general public frequenting the premises, it nevertheless appears that the legislature has not extended the provisions of chapter 19.28 RCW so as to compel an owner of such a business to employ a licensed electrician or to secure a license.  It seems apparent that the owner of such a business is not himself in "the business of installing wires or equipment * * *."

            We hope this opinion will be of assistance to you in clarifying the matter, and insofar as the conclusions reached herein are inconsistent with former opinions of this office, such opinions, to the extent that they are inconsistent, are overruled.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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