California Law Requires Cable Abatement from unoccupied buildings.

Cable — billions of feet of it — snakes through plenum space in buildings today, raising concerns about fire risk and harmful toxic fumes. Partly in response to such concerns, California recently adopted the 2004 California Electrical Code, which incorporates the 2002 National Electrical Code with certain amendments (the “Code”), and which took effect throughout the state on August 1, 2005.

The Code includes important new requirements that certain types of abandoned cable be removed from buildings. Owners, tenants and lenders can, through awareness of these requirements and proactive measures, significantly reduce the potential for resulting costs and liability.

The Code defines abandoned cable as cable that is not terminated [at a connector and/or other equipment] and not identified for future use with a tag (see, e.g., §§760.1 and 800.2).

The removal requirements apply to audio distribution cable (§640), information technology cable (§645), class 2, class 3 and PLTC cable (§725), fire alarm cable (§760), optical fiber cable (§770), communication cable (§800), coaxial cable (§820), and network-powered broadband cable (§830).

Although it remains to be seen how broadly and aggressively local jurisdictions will interpret and enforce these requirements, they create the potential for several types of resulting costs and liability if abandoned cable is not properly removed.

Failure to abate cable creates the potential for several types of injuries resulting costs and liability if abandoned cable is not properly removed.

  • First, local inspectors may not give a certificate of occupancy or final sign-off for a remodel project, including tenant improvements and alterations.
  • Second, insurance companies may increase fire insurance and general liability premiums.
  • Third, owners may face third party claims for injury resulting from fire, smoke or harmful toxic fumes allegedly caused by abandoned cable.

Therefore, owners, tenants and lenders may want to take certain steps to allocate responsibility for cable abatement and to mitigate the potential for related costs and liability. Such steps may include the following:

  • Review and analyze cable abatement issues during due diligence inspections for a building acquisition, lease and/or secured loan.
  • Conduct an audit of existing cable networks to understand the scope of potential issues and develop a plan to address them.
  • Review and modify lease forms to ensure that the cost and burden of removing abandoned cable is clearly allocated. Specifically, owners may want to require tenants to (i) comply with all cable removal requirements triggered by any tenant improvement or alteration and (ii) remove all abandoned cable upon surrender of the premises (or at least to cause all cable to be properly terminated and tagged for future use so that it will not be considered abandoned). In addition, in net leases, owners may want to include cable abatement costs in the definition of operating expenses. Tenants, of course, may prefer to limit their cable abatement obligations and to exclude cable abatement costs from the definition of operating expenses.


Don’t hesitate to contact SWS Cabling for any questions regarding your cable abatement issues.

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