What to do about paid Electrician who doesn't return calls?

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Posted by: from North Vancouver
11/24/2014 at 12:19:49 AM

We have built a brand new garage, and are almost done - drywall is in and everything is painted. Our electrician (whom we've paid in full minus 10%) has gone MIA. What are our options?

This is a garage workshop. Brand new build with a permit under the home-owners (me) name. We were allowed a toilet and sink and hot water tank, which requires a higher voltage wire. We also have planned to put 3 heaters in the wall. The electrician brought the power from the house, put in a sub-panel in the garage, and put a couple pot lights and plugs in. The rest is un-finished.

We are desperate to start using this building (we started building this last spring), but have been waiting for this electrian for weeks. He is not returning our phone calls. What should we do?

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Aseel from Ison Electric in Toronto
Date/Time11/24/2014 at 9:48:35 AM

Hi judy,

Unfortunately you have to hire another electrician to finish the job and have it inspected.

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Date/Time11/24/2014 at 10:15:35 AM

Unfortunately this happens far too often. The best way to protect yourself is to withhold funds and make appropriately sized progress payments.

The same can be said for the Contractor. Personally we invoice based on progress 2-3 times throughout a job. That way I dont end up doing work I won't get paid for.

I'll be honest and say your situation is bleak. The legal system (small claims court) is a joke. It'll end up costing you more than any settlement you get and most likely drag on for a year or 2.

The best action you could take would be exploiting social media. Does he have a Facebook page or a website that will allow you to leave comments?

If so leave an honest but unemotional account of your situation.

Continue to call and email him. Pressure sometimes works over time.

Aside from that you're looking at hiring a new contractor to finish his work. This is usually expensive as the new contractor is going to want to inspect all previous work and most likely charge a premium for finishing a job he wasnt initially awarded.

Option B is to finish the work yourself under a homeowners permit.

Best of luck.

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Date/Time11/24/2014 at 12:21:36 PM

I'm sorry to hear this has happened but there is one big flag here. In Ontario people are required to hire licensed contractors or do it themselves with a permit. It's good that you have a permit, but why is it in your name if your electrician was doing the work? One of two reasons.... the electrician isn't a licensed contractor and cannot pull a permit or a general inspection was done first and the electrician didn't want the defects to affect his ratio. I'm guessing it's the first reason. We see this all too often and it hurts everyone. Homeowners look at pricing from legitimate contractors with legitimate expenses and compare to pricing from trunk slammers with no insurance or overhead. We've gotten calls from homeowners on a 2000 dollar job and told us somebody will do it for 1000 dollars. We've tried to warn clients but usually the lower price wins out and about 3 weeks later they are calling us with the same issues. If it looks too good to be probably isn't.

In order to complete this work you will need to hire a licensed contractor, have them take out a permit to blanket the other permit and go from there. I get that licensed electrical contractors are expensive but we also have allot of overhead to carry. ie. trucks, insurance, gas, labour, permits, materials, shop etc. As well it takes 5 years to become an electrician legitimately and two more to become a master electrician. (I guess i could have been a doctor in that amount of time....)

A heads up.... This time and next time, hire a reputable licensed contractor and don't pay 90 percent of the bill until the job is done and you have an ESA inspection certificate in your hand. As far as a permit is concerned, even the best of electricians make mistakes on occasion. It's always good to have a second set of eyes that know what they're looking at take a look.

You may want to call ESA, come clean and report your previous electrician as well. You can find more info at They are the authority having jurisdiction in Ontario. Weigh you options. You made the mistake of pulling your permit and then have someone else do the work. The easiest way is to have a licensed contractor assess the work, provide pricing, pull their permit and complete the work to satisfy you and the permit.

Kindest regards,

Mike Astbury

Connex Electric Inc

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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time11/24/2014 at 4:05:44 PM

Call the local inspection department and report him, do not allow people to do this to you, it only encourages it to happen further.

illegal wiring and run-away contractors can leave serious shock and fire hazards if their work is left uncompleted.

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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time11/24/2014 at 4:14:51 PM

Here is a good example of what happens here in Ontario, BC should be similar:

People think wiring is a joke and simply buying a roll of wire makes you an electrician, not in wood construction, it makes you liable for unlicensed work.

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Judi in North Vancouver
Date/Time11/25/2014 at 1:16:43 AM

Thanks to all of you who have provided the valuable tips and advice.

There is one additional thing that I should tell you but I am a bit embarrassed about. The electrician showed me his red seal electrician certificate and I assumed everything was fine. I was not aware that this was different than the electrical contractor status. It turns out he is not an electrical contractor, but somehow gets permits through a friend who is an electrical contractor.

Although the building permit is in my name, apparently the BC safety authority requires electrical work to be through the electrical contractor. So my electrical permit is in some other guys name, whom I have never met. My electrician tells me this guy is suffering mental illness (guess he'd have to be to give out permits in his name).

Any further suggestions? I know this story probably sounds unbelievable but it is my personal hell.

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Dave from 360renos in Navan
Date/Time11/25/2014 at 5:59:41 AM

Hi Judi,

And if you know the name of the contractor who pulled the permit for your fake electrician you need to report him as well.

Ontario has had two high profile cases of workers doing illegal electrical work:


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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time11/25/2014 at 3:22:30 PM

2 issues here, the guy giving the permit is the one who takes responsibility of the work. So if the guy is giving permits without actually doing or seeing the work, he must really trust that person and their work ethics or he is a fool and only wants the cash and hopes the tiger doesn't turn on him while his head is in his mouth otherwise he will lose his contracting license and face serious fines, but that is his gamble.

You can easily call the inspector and report both people OR just hire someone to go and cancel the permit and start a new one, but he must also take responsibility of that other persons work as he is the one who will be turning the power on those wires.... good luck finding a contractor willing to do so as their license, insurance and name will rest on that permit, hoping an electrical fire or hazard never shows its ugly face.

Faulty wiring burns homes every day in our place of toothpick houses.

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