Unlicensed electrical doesn’t pay | National Post

Categories: Canada

I’m not an electrician, but I’ve learned a lot of valuable information from my longtime buddy Frank, a licensed electrical contractor. I get many emails from people asking Frank to come to their house and fix their electrical issues. Sadly, there is only one Frank. 

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There are lots of licensed electrical contractors around; however, there are also many unlicensed ones, which can spell trouble, especially since our lives are becoming increasingly reliant on electrical power. Our high-tech homes, smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs, appliances and electric vehicles — all need power. Not to mention most homes now require more electrical power and wiring just to keep up with the increased load, arising from more appliances, home additions, and even now EV Chargers. 

In almost every house I’ve renovated, there was some evidence of the homeowner’s “DIY electrical special.” Sometimes it fell into the category of stupid mistakes, and other times it was downright scary, not done by a licensed electrical contractor, and not inspected.

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I don’t think homeowners realize the importance of hiring a licensed electrical contractor and getting permits. In Ontario, the homeowner can perform electrical work, but it still needs to be inspected and a permit issued. Some homeowners hire unlicensed electricians unknowingly, while others do it with full awareness because of perceived convenience or because they offer to do it cheaper. Did you know 82 per cent of homeowners don’t ask their electricians for their qualifications and presume they are licensed and properly trained?

Improper electrical can be dangerous and costly, resulting in faulty wiring and electrical fires. According to a recent study, unlicensed electrical work can be up to four times faultier, and repairing that damage means you’ll be paying twice. Is the money you might save hiring an unqualified, unlicensed electrician, worth the risk?

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I always encourage homeowners to be knowledgeable about the renovation work they do in their homes — ask the right questions, and check references. Yet, most homeowners go with their gut instincts, trusting
and presuming the person they hired is true to their word, not realizing they could jeopardize their home and safety.

How does a homeowner know if they are hiring a licensed electrician? Today most of us rely on search engines like “Google” to do our homework. We all know that anybody online can pretend to be a licensed electrician. 

It’s essential to take a step back and ask for references, get quotes, ask about permits and follow up with an authoritative body to confirm that you are on the right path. It makes sense, and in this world of “fake news,” it’s becoming much more critical.

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Unlicensed electricians may have the tools, the truck, and even wear the uniform of a licensed electrician, but they lack a licence and qualifications. All provinces and territories have standards that include hiring a licensed electrical contractor, for example all Ontario-licensed electricians must have an ECRA number. While other provinces have similar organizations, always work with your local building or electrical authority.

Also, be aware of contractors who offer discounts if you pay them in cash or won’t provide a receipt; this is a common practice of fraudulent and unlicensed electrical contractors.

What happens if a contractor gets hurt on your property? It’s not just your family and home at risk from faulty and unlicensed electrical work. As the homeowner, you are responsible. That means any insurance claim on work performed by an unlicensed electrician, means your claim may be denied, or your policy cancelled.

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And remember, licensed electrical contractors are bonded and fully insured and have the training, expertise and equipment to do the job safely. Also, homeowners should always ask for the certification of acceptance — this is proof the work was done properly and inspected. Keep this for your insurance purposes and the resale of your home.

All provinces and territories must adhere to the CEC, which is the Canadian Electric Code, and the provinces and territories are the legislated regulatory authorities for electrical safety in Canada, which means you have 13 separate electrical safety regulations. However, most municipalities address local permit requirements, licensing fees, plan reviews, inspections and other administrative functions.

May to November are the busiest months for renovations, and most renovations will include electrical work. Keep your family safe. Give yourself peace of mind, do your due diligence and only hire licensed electricians. Remember safety first!

Residents of the GTA can apply for season 2 of Holmes Family Rescue atmakeitright.ca

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