4 Reasons Why You Should Care about Licensing, Permits, and Trade Qualifications


The last article outlined four compulsory trade industry requirements (trade qualifications, licensing, permits, and Workers’ Compensation Insurance (WCI)) that Canadian contractors must abide by. However, red tape does not ensure that homeowners will end up satisfied. It will only make sure that homeowners and contractors are protected under the law. Finding out what homeowners have to say about contractor performance on websites like may be more helpful in this regard.

A qualified Journeyperson isn’t necessarily an expert. Moreover, a qualified Journeyperson may be more expensive than an unqualified Journeyperson. These two issues obviously conflict with one another. Why hire someone who won’t do the best job, and may cost you more?

For one thing, trade qualifications, licensing, permits, and WCI are legally enforced, and obligatory. Those who don’t comply are penalized. Secondly, those who don’t meet industry standards can cause a lot of damage, and be a safety threat. Why should we care about these four requirements? Read on to find out.


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1. Standardization

Certifications and licenses are important because they help standardize the industry. You can see why standardization is important in this example. Due to a lack of standardization within the home inspection industry, it’s exceedingly difficult for homeowners to get a consistent home evaluation across the board.

If 8 inspectors are called in to assess a home, a homeowner can expect 8 different assessments that have no relationship to one another. This issue has brought a new opportunity to B.C. The home inspection industry will see new standardizing rules come into play to avoid inconsistencies.

Imagine if inconsistency was a regular problem in other industries that fix, repair, and install highly pressurized propane gas or water systems. That would be a safety hazard nightmare!

Learn more about which trades require licenses in your province.

We should stand behind licensed and certified experts who have undergone training within a standardized program. Each Journeyperson will have knowledge of the same curriculum. Their overall approach will follow the same protocol because they have been trained under regulated rules. And, depending on the industry, they will have to answer to a governing body in case something goes wrong.

Homeowners should always ask electricians, plumbers, gasfitters, and HVAC technicians for their trade license before signing a contract! It's a homeowner's responsibility to verify that the contractor's license is valid.


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2. Informed Contractors

When a Journeyperson or a tradesperson is not certified, licensed, and does not have the appropriate permit, they may run into a serious problem with their project. Provincial training and municipal permits can inform workers about local environmental conditions that could interfere with building sound structures or systems.

Additionally, permits give workers the “go-ahead” for a project within a municipality. Permits take environmental assessments and city zones into account. This information isn’t always common knowledge. It is extremely helpful for anyone digging or building a foundation to know about the environment they will be working in. Unstable land could mean structural trouble.

Take this story, for example. The contractor (Geoenergia) had no B.C. license and no Vancouver building permit. Had they obtained these requirements, they may have been notified by city officials about pressurized aquifers in the zone. In addition, the project may not have been approved by the city due to environmental restrictions. However, without a permit issued, Geonegria may not have been able to get a hold of this valuable information. Without provincial training through licensing certifications, Geoenergia may not have been properly trained to deal with puncturing a pressurized aquifer.

However, without a permit issued, Geonegria may not have been able to get a hold of this valuable information. Without provincial training through licensing certifications, Geoenergia may not have been properly trained to deal with puncturing a pressurized aquifer.

Unfortunately, the community is at the greatest disadvantage. They must bear the burden of a spewing aquifer at the end of the day. One lesson learned is that many groups could suffer at the expense of non-compliance. When a group chooses to bypass provincial and municipal regulations for whatever reason, much more is at stake than saving money or time. The harm outweighs the benefit for all parties.


3. Future Risk

Hiring someone without a license is a huge risk. Unlicensed contractors owe you nothing because they have no accountability in the event of an accident. If they are uninsured and they make a mistake, it will be difficult to get your home insurance policy to cover any damages they have caused.

Governing licensing bodies demand that Journeypersons purchase damage insurance before they can get their official certification to work in the field.

Additionally, it is not unheard-of for unlicensed and uncertified workers to scam their clients, and run off with their money. Companies that operate illegally (because of unlicensed workers, for example) may not be registered with the government. This allows them to be sneaky and elusive. They may not have an HST/GST number and could be pocketing extra cash.

Unregistered businesses can pop up in the marketplace, trick their clients into paying a deposit for a project, and run after they collect large sums of money.

You can usually check your Journeyperson’s license with the provincial governing body for trades and apprenticeships.


4. Short (and Long) Term Problems vs. Long Term Benefits

Hiring a contractor who doesn’t meet all the necessary requirements could strap you with issues. One great example that illustrates this well is permit holding. Some people think that the cost of a permit simply isn’t worth getting one. Others may not know that permits are mandatory. Some people are led to believe that permits are optional.

Permits are mandatory some of the time. You ought to check with your municipality regarding permit regulations. Some projects require permits, others do not. If your project does require a permit, you must make sure that you have one. Working without a permit goes against city bylaws. A Toronto ML&S representative explains:

“renovators and contractors can do work without a permit. However, if they get caught without a permit by a patrolling city bylaw officer, or get reported by a community member for an unsafe, unsightly, or noisy workplace, the officer can fine them heavily for not having a permit. The officer can also halt your project until a valid permit is presented. This costs homeowners time, and time is money.”

It could be your responsibility as a homeowner to obtain a permit. For example, in some provinces, electrical permits must be obtained by certified Journeypersons. In some cases, building permits are the homeowner's responsibility to take care of. If you are skeptical about how serious cities are about permits, just ask these Surrey homeowners about their experience. A structure built without a building permit may get condemned, or removed by the city; it may also prevent you from doing further renovations on your home.

The greatest advantage to having a permit is your ability to call a city inspector for inspections. They can vet the work your contractor does, and make sure it is up to code. The last thing you want is a home that doesn’t have safe wiring or sound plumbing. That will be your responsibility to fix down the line, especially if you ever plan on selling the house.


How to hire a certified pro who is a real expert

Not every certified worker will be an expert. How are you to navigate the home improvement world? Follow these steps:

  1. Read the TrustedPros Contractor Hiring Guide. We share advice on contract guidelines, bid assessment, conflict resolution, payment methods, project checklists, and hiring strategies.
  2. Post your remodeling project online for FREE to receive quotes, or browse local skilled trades professionals and ask them about their interest in your project.
  3. Filter the pool of contractor candidates for your project by certification requirements. Only hire properly licensed and certified contractors for reasons previously mentioned. Remember, certifications and licensing are obligatory across the country.
  4. Base your decisions from that pool on what people have said about a Journeyperson’s workmanship. Consumer reviews and references are one of the only objective ways to know about the skill a tradesperson has. Using reviews to your advantage will let you know if a certified tradesperson's work is high-quality, and long-lasting.
  5. Ask for client references in order to see the contractor's work samples in local homes.
  6. Find a contractor with a good reputation on TrustedPros. Make sure you get proof of their certification and licensing before you sign a contract!

Posted by: Nicole Silver
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