How to Spot an Unlicensed Electrician

Electric Shock

We're all good at spotting something. Some of us can spot a sale in our sleep. Others spot frauds like you and I hone in on chocolate. Still more-like my 4-year-old-spot the golden McDonald's arch from about 50-miles out. Okay, so I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the point. We're all capable of spotting things. Sometimes we do it by nature, and other times we're trained. When it comes to electricians, there's a certain type to spot, and they are called the unlicensed.

The Purpose of Licensing

It is a safe bet that you know an electrician needs a license. But just how much do you know about an electrical license? It's much more than a piece of paper. It serves a major purpose. An electrical license protects public health and safety by stopping unqualified people from practicing the trade. It's also a legal and formal means of defining a professional.

An electrical license encompasses more than memorizing some facts and passing an exam. It holds the electrician as responsible and liable to penalties in the event of illegal, immoral, or incompetent actions. Those who fail to obtain a license are denied for good reason. Those who suffer a suspended or revoked license are not simply punished. They are banned from the trade to prevent the repetition of improper acts and ultimately protect the public-you and me.

Wanted Dead or Alive

We all hear horror stories about contractor renovations that leave homeowners' with endless problems, a pile of astronomical bills, or worse-a wiring job that puts the house and the family at risk. It's a nightmare scenario, and it happens more often than we hear. When it comes to electrical work, it is pivotal to work only with Licensed Electrical Contractors (LECs). In fact, LECs are the only businesses in Ontario that are legally authorized to perform electrical work in your home.

It's the unlicensed electrician that others want off the market. According to the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), more than 27 percent of electrical fires in Ontario homes are caused by electrical wiring and equipment. Although Ontario law requires that anyone offering electrical work or repair services must be licensed by the province's ESA, unlicensed electricians are still a problem.  So how can you know if your contractor is a licensed electrical worker?

10 Easy Ways to Spot a Fraud

Essentially, an unlicensed electrician is a fraud. They can-and do-cause trouble for homeowners. In the end, they can turn a wiring project into an overly expensive, nightmare of a mess. What's worse, their uncertified work could ultimately put your family, property, and even neighborhood in immediate danger. Before you hire a contractor, know the warning signs of an unlicensed and illegal con:

  1. They require or ask you to take out the needed permit(s) with the ESA.
  2. Their work vehicle does not have an ESA/ECRA license number. It should be easily seen, never hidden or altogether absent.
  3. The estimate they provide lacks an ESA/ECRA license number or the ESA fees for the permit.
  4. When you ask for their ESA/ECRA license, they conveniently don't have it or can't show it to you. If they cannot produce a verifiable license number, they are not properly certified.
  5. A search for the company or contractor's name in the 'Find a Licensed Electrical Contractor Near You' tool located on the ESA website produces no results.
  6. The contractor says you don't need to involve the ESA and you don't need a permit. This type of statement is never true.
  7. If you pay in cash, you'll receive a discount, or they accept only cash. A legal professional will always be capable of accepting numerous payments types, and they will always provide an accurate and legitimate receipt.
  8. They keep odd work hours often outside of normal operating hours, such as working only at night or on the weekend.
  9. Your General Contractor insists he has a LEC doing the work. However, he cannot produce an electrical permit, and a vehicle with an ESA/ECRA license is never present.
  10. Finally, you shouldn't ever hear lack of pride and responsibility from a proper LEC. If a supposed electrician ever says something like, 'If anyone asks, tell them you did the work yourself,' you should immediately stop working with them.

These are just a few of the warning signs that an electrician is unlicensed. You can learn more on the ESA website.

Finding a Pro

It goes without saying that you should never hire an unlicensed electrician. Now that you know how to spot them, you're ready to find a local home professional for your wiring and electrical needs. Why not start your search with Trusted Pros contractor search tool?

Posted by: TrustedPros
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