Make It Right Blogs - Feature Image - Mike Holmes Blog - Filing For Electrical Permits In Ontario
Make It Right Blogs - Feature Image - Mike Holmes Blog - Filing For Electrical Permits In Ontario

Filing for Electrical Permits In Ontario- Why It’s Important and What Happens When You Don’t

By Mike Holmes

Mike’s Advice / Buying & Selling Your Home

Friday, May 24th, 2024 @ 4:29pm

Do You Need An Electrical Permit For The Work Being Done On Your Home?

I talk a lot about permits because they are an essential part of any major renovation or system upgrade to your home. Permits also protect you, the homeowners, and ensure that the contractor’s work is done correctly and according to the current national and provincial codes. Permits help keep us safe, and that includes filing for the right permits. In Ontario, this includes filing for electrical permits, building permits, HVAC whatever your reno needs. 

I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I love having a team of experts that I can call upon when needed, like my friend Frank Cozzolino, a licensed electrical contractor, and my friends at ESA, Electrical Safety Authority.

I also love sharing the knowledge I’ve learnt with homeowners, and I’m happy to say that you are listening. In fact, in Ontario, our messaging about hiring a licensed electrical contractor has increased the usage of ESA’s Find a LEC search tool by 41%. That’s a significant increase from past years of homeowners being aware of the ESA and double-checking to see if the electrician they are hiring is legit! 

In my books, this is amazing news and this is why I do what I do because this also means we are helping keep Ontarians safe and I love that!

So, let’s talk about filing for permits and why that’s important.



Why is it Important to File for Electrical Permits?

In general, permits protect homeowners – no matter what kind of permit you need to get. There are building permits, plumbing permits, HVAC permits and electrical permits. 

Building permits, plumbing permits and HVAC permits are ALL required by law to be posted on a job site, they are often seen posted in the window, for example. However, electrical permits do not need to be visible but they do need to be filed or you must ensure your licensed electrical contractor applies for the necessary permit.

Now while I do not recommend this, homeowners can legally do the work on their own homes. If you do that, however, you are the one responsible for filing the permit and getting a Certificate of Acceptance from the ESA for the work completed.  Also, as a homeowner taking out the permit, it is YOU that is doing the work, not a friend or a cousin. 

Mucking around with electrical can be very dangerous and at the end of the day, you want the work done to be completed safely and correctly. That’s why I recommend getting a Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC). They have the equipment, training, and expertise to do electrical work safely the first time and file for notification of work directly with the ESA. Think about your safety and that of your loved ones.


To file a notification, call 1-877-ESA-SAFE (372-7233).



5 Electrical Permits Myths – Understanding Electrical Permits



Getting Your Work Reviewed

You must get your work reviewed by ESA before concealing it behind drywall and when completed. The inspection process may vary depending on the project so here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Complicated installations may need an inspection at several stages.
  • Do not conceal the work before ESA has reviewed it.
  • If you already filed a notification, you may submit an online Request for Inspection to ESA.
  • Once your work has been reviewed and approved, ESA will issue a Certificate of Acceptance. It’s an important document for insurance purposes and resale. 



Electrical Considerations When Renovating (The Process)


How much is an electrical permit?

That depends on the circumstances. Electrical permit costs and lead times for approval depend on the complexity of the project. For contractors, permits can start at $100.00 for smaller jobs. This fee includes a rough-in and several inspections. Permits taken out by homeowners can be a bit more expensive as there are more inspections involved to ensure the work is done correctly and safely

However, think about it this way. The cost of a permit is nothing compared to the cost of a potential electrical hazard. It is also often the least costly part of the project but will help guarantee your safety.



How Much Should You Budget for Home Renovations?


When do you need a Permit?

Almost every time you do electrical work,  an electrical permit will be required with a few exceptions. However, a homeowner can change a light and a light switch under 30 AMPs without a permit. Anything else, including smart switches, requires a permit.

An LEC can change all your switches and lights without a permit, but the best advice is to check with the ESA first before you start the work. Be safe and smart, and don’t mess around with electrical.



PRO TIP: Licensed Electrical Contractors are insured and bonded, providing you with peace of mind. It’s important to know, that General Contractors are NOT permitted to perform electrical work in homes, unless they possess an electrical contractor’s license.



Mike Holmes’ Top 5 Biggest Electrical Fails


How Can You Verify That An Electrical Permit Was Filed?

Imagine this. You’ve had some kitchen renovations recently done in your home, including some electrical work. The contractor has arranged for an electrician to come in and do the work. When the LEC is at your home, they also notice some electrical violations that have been done in the past and encourage you to get this address. Yes, it’s beyond the scope of the initial work request but advises you should get the work done. 

You are advised by the contractor that the LEC has submitted the work request (permit) with the ESA and once completed and inspected you will get a certificate of inspection and completion. 


PRO TIP: It’s important to get a copy of the certificate of acceptance from your contractor (if he sub-contracted the trade) or get a copy from the LEC that performed the work.


Months later the job is complete, but you still have not seen the certificate of completion. The contractor says he doesn’t have it and the electrician is not answering his requests. Red flags? Perhaps, but the electrician could be just “too busy”. So, what do you do?

If you are in Ontario, I would suggest you call the ESA NOW. They can do a trace on your address and name and the ECRA license number of your electrical contractor. ESA will also be able to know if the work has been inspected and the permit is closed. This is the only way you will know that the work was done correctly and safely, inspected for code violations and closed.



It is an easy call to make, but you may not like the answer you receive. However, you will know if your contractor and electrician have followed the proper procedures and have done what is required. 


It’s important to note that while the ESA may not send you a copy of the certificate (as it will be made out to the electrician or the homeowner who took out the permit), they will have a record of all the electrical work done to date from your address


So, what happens if the homeowner doesn’t know to ask about getting a permit? 

In some cases, the homeowners have been taken advantage of by their contractor. It may also be they don’t know enough to do their homework, or the contractor “said” they would handle it and don’t. If you’re considering hiring a contractor, be sure to ask for proof of their license and ESA registration. This is a crucial step to ensure they’re qualified and understand electrical safety regulations. 

The good news is, that the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) is here to help. They’ll work with you to find a solution that brings your electrical work up to code. If you’ve been a victim of an unlicensed contractor they will work to find them and fine them. 

The ESA’s role is to ensure electrical safety in your home, not to penalize you. Yes, in some cases a fine may be incurred by both the homeowner and the contractor. However, it really depends on the situation. Remember, the aim is not to fine anyone, their main goal is protecting you and your loved ones from potential electrical hazards. 

There are consequences so let’s try to avoid that and do it right.



What You Need To Know About Filing For A Notification of Work With the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA)


What if Something Is Wrong with the Work and a Permit Was Not Created?

If the work doesn’t comply with the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, the Inspector will issue a “defect notice” outlining the necessary corrections to comply with the Ontario Electrical Safety Code.

There are different levels of “defects” depending on the complexity of the work being performed.

There are also various ways that the ESA can deal with these issues. Each circumstance will be dealt with on an individual basis. However, the ESA does have the authority to stop work, even shut off the power source, when necessary. They can also issue fines and can even prosecute.



Varying Degrees of Defects

The most serious defect is the Life and or Property (L&OP) Defect – the ESA inspector determines the installation does not comply with the OESC and presents a high risk of shock or fire.

The next level of Defect – is an installation that is non-compliant with the OESC and represents a moderate risk of shock or fire. Last but certainly not least, a Warning Defect is an installation that does not comply with the OESC but the likelihood of shock or fire is low, representing a low risk and exposure.


DID YOU KNOW: that an unlicensed electrician has found to have 4 times more safety issues when compared to an LEC?


No matter if your project is big or small, complex or simple, a Certificate of Acceptance provides peace of mind that your work has been reviewed by ESA and is done safely and to code.



19 Biggest Home Renovation Mistakes to Avoid


What Happens if you Suspect you Hired an Unlicensed Electrical Contractor?

Suppose you have suspicions and realize that you should have done more homework. Maybe you think you’ve seen some unlicensed electrical companies in your neighbourhood. In that case, you can notify the ESA anonymously but do it quickly. Unlicensed trades move fast and can be gone in the blink of an eye with our money and non-compliance work. 

PRO TIP: To avoid this always ask for references and more importantly their ESA  number. The company name and ECRA number must legally be visible on the electrician’s invoice, business card and company vehicles.


You can also check  ESA Find a LEC tool to verify they are licensed electrical contractors before you hire them or they start work. If they are registered, you are good to go; if they are not registered with the ESA, find another electrician. It’s that simple.


HOMEOWNER TIP: If your haven’t had your electrical panel checked out in awhile hire a lec and get a test and trouble-shoot done on your home. its worth it and costs between $450.00 – $700.00.




Hiring A Licensed Electrical Contractor In Ontario

When To Hire A Licensed Electrical Contractor

How to Hire a Licensed Electrical Contractor For Your Electrical Work

Why You Should Hire A Licensed Electrical Contractor


Electrical permits obtained through the ESA help keep you and your family safe, tracking the work being done from start to end. A permit starts the process of any electrical work that is being done in your home. Once completed the work will be reviewed and the job closed by an ESA  inspector. This process ensures the work done is code-compliant and safe. 

Our demand for electricity is increasing every day. Together we need to ensure that the electrical power in our homes is properly installed and safe to use. Always, confirm with the ESA (Electrical Safety Authority) that your LEC is registered and licensed to perform the work in Ontario. Together we can help keep everyone safe.

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