ESA permits

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Posted by: from Brampton
10/29/2016 at 4:25:29 AM


We just recently moved into a house that had a recent kitchen renovation. We had a house inspection prior to purchase and found no issues.

When we moved in, one of the outlets wasn't working so I called an electrician to come to look at it. While he was fixing it, he happened to notice the under cabinet lighting wasn't installed properly, according to him, there was no way this work was done with a permit. He then proceeded to point out that since it looks like a do-it-yourself type of job that the potlights were probably without permit as well.

He then told me that all this unpermitted work would completely void the home insurance should there ever be a fire. It is apparently a law on all homes built after 2007 that all electrical work requires an ESA permit. Obviously that freaked me out and I asked him how I should fix this problem. I would like to correct any issues and get proper permits. He was very negative and basically just shook his head and said I would need to rip the entire kitchen apart and he would install brand new potlights (obviously at full price).

I guess I have a few questions:

- Would it really completely void my home insurance even though I obviously didn't know this rule and the work was done prior to me purchasing?

- Would I really have to rip the entire kitchen apart if the outlets needed rewiring or the under cabinet lighting needed to be reinstalled?

- If the potlights were to be found to be installed correctly, how would I go about avoiding reinstalling new ones? Can I get a permit for work I didn't complete, or can ESA just come and inspect it?

Thanks in advance!

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George from Doma Electric in Cambridge
Date/Time10/29/2016 at 8:27:05 AM

Good Morning Katherine

#1 please don't worry, you have brought up a number of very excellent questions.

- In regards to the insurance best to check with your Broker they can advise you on the insurance implications of unlicensed electrical work.


The web link may be of some assistance & you can certainly engage ESA for an inspection over your concerns. They will provide you with a detailed report and if any hazards are identified you can present this report to prospective electrical contractors to bid on the repairs required. Once you have the work completed the Contractor will provide you with an Certificate of Inspection from ESA which you can present to your Insurance Company.

- No need to rip & tear your kitchen apart until there is a hazard identified.

In regards to the technician, certainly needs people skills you do have recourse by registering a complaint with the College of Trades if you feel its warranted.

- You as a Consumer have a right to verify that the trades people you invite into your home are licensed & insured, much the same as most Auto repair facilities post the technicians Certificate of Qualification, You have the right to ask for this information from the individual, if they cant produce a CofQ my advise dont deal with them.

Hope this helps.

Kind Regards,

George Latimer M.E.

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Robert from ElecTriLight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time10/29/2016 at 10:02:15 AM


As George has already touched on good points which are accurate for Ontario, I am sure other comments will come in from other parts of the country as well which may or may not apply here. Your insurance company will be the best people to ask about policy issues, but honestly, there is no way they can refuse a house claim based on work that has been done prior to you purchasing. (unless the fine print states otherwise, and if it does, get another insurance policy right away, as this is impossible to enforce with a new home purchase as we have countless cases of home flipping every week). We (as licensed contractors), see tons of issues on every job we go into and can only advise the customer on what we feel is the right way to approach these terrible faulty installations, by removing what was installed and replacing it with what we know is 100% compliant. What he is getting at by telling you to tear it apart, is really that there may be hidden splices, frayed wires and bare connections that cant be seen without removing the drywall. All it takes is someone drilling a hole through metal duct-work, pulling wire through that hole and skinning off the outer sheath exposing the wires to arcing and fires within the walls (aka - combustible environments). One way to get around this is to install AFCI breakers on the circuits that power those renovation areas. These breakers trip if there is any risk of arcing or sparking and most important is get an ESA certified company to do it, not someone you found on Kijiji. Best advice is call in the ESA and get a home inspection and tell them about this worry. It will be documented and if there are serious issues found, the previous owner (or company who did the renovation) could be on the hook to get it repaired and those who installed the wiring without permits could be facing heavy fines or jail time. Us contractors receive info quarterly about the people and companies fined for not complying with the law that states electrical contractors are the only people who can wire other people's buildings. Homeowners can wire their own homes, but MUST get an ESA permit and inspection. But honestly anyone who is not a skilled electrician with residential experience should not be touching home wiring anyway, that includes your "brother-in-law's friend who works at the Ford plant"... Industrial electricians are not qualified to install residential wiring.

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Mirek from Mirek Electric in Mississauga
Date/Time10/29/2016 at 12:38:23 PM

Hi Katherine,

Just to add what George and Robert said, I would call ESA (877 372 7233) and ask for General Inspection.

When the inspector comes I would point out all your concerns from your electrician.

The inspector will give you list of defects which will have to be corrected.

After that you will have to hire electrical contractor to repair the defects.

When all the defects are corrected, the ESA will issue you an inspection certificate and you will be able use this certificate to talk to your insurance company, that your wiring is up to code.

I hope this help,

Good luck


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Date/Time10/29/2016 at 2:34:56 PM

I would have proper inspection done and if there were issues found have them repaired by a qualified electrical contractor they are bound by rules and regulations to insure proper practices are followed.

Most likely your lighting is ok and no need to demolish your entire kitchen.

Paul Porter

Carmana Home Improvements

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Date/Time10/29/2016 at 5:50:49 PM

Katherine, I can appreciate how unnerving an experience like this is.

When my technicians take a service call they are trained to not use scare tactics to increase sales. They are also not to express their criticism of workmanship of others; it's just not professional.

Having said this, they are trained to take notice of their surroundings. So what are they to do?

Technicians should inform and educate. Once you, the homeowner, have all the necessary information you can then choose your next step.

Having an ESA home inspection is good. ElecCheck is thorough and comes with an appropriate price tag. Once it's completed you are expected to get everything corrected.

My recommendation is to find an electrician or electrical contractor you can trust (one who informs, educates and gives you options along with all relevant costs). Express your concerns and ask for their feedback.

I wish you all the best.

Henry Kirsch

Kirsch Electric Contracting Inc

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Date/Time10/29/2016 at 8:33:15 PM


There is not much more to say; if this is an issue, you can get a thorough inspection done by a Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC). They can do the 90% solution to see a majority of stuff.

I share Henry's comment about education, we also employ the same approach to situations; it is nice to hear others share the same thoughts. Robert also makes a good point that we see this everyday in our world; while we all want to run around with our hair on fire, that truly is not helpful to anyone.

There are two areas I will comment on. First ESA does provide a service that completes a 'history search' to see what permits have been taken out, if any. That tells you at least that some of the work has been inspected and passed. While the permit(s) may not be associated to your kitchen project, it can give you a piece of mind that some (if not a majority) of the work was at least inspected.

Secondly there is a difference between non-compliant work and unsafe work. A simple example might be the requirement for 'tamper resistant' (TR) receptacles. If a standard receptacle is installed it is likely not going to cause your house to burn down; but depending where the receptacle is located it is a non-compliant installation. If however your house is wired with speaker wire and everything is on a 30 amp breaker / fuse; then that is unsafe as well as non-compliant.

As Robert and Henry pointed out, we see this stuff everyday and it is our job to help the client make informed decisions and mitigate any risk.

In your specific case, you may want to spend the money to get a history search done from the ESA and you may even want to get a 'General Inspection' (eleccheck). You should know however that those are not going to tell you what is behind the drywall. Another option is to call in an LEC and get them to do a detailed inspection; similar to what we would do for Aluminum (AL) wire. The LEC and open up receptacles, switches and lights and see what is there and make a valued-added judgement on the quality of the workmanship and the compliancy of the installation. In the case of the potlights, then can remove them and use a snake camera to look around for things that may be questionable such as improper connections, hidden junction boxes, misuse of wire, etc. When that is done, your LEC can provide a 'report' for your insurance company (similar to ones provided for AL inspections) if it is required.


John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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