Permits for fuses and breakers? You've go to be kidding us!!
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Electrical Work in a Home

When inspecting a residential property, we are often expected to report on items that are outside of the scope of the Standard of Practice, or that are just impossible to opine on.   One of these areas is in the area of the Electrical System.

While the standards of practice currently do not require an inspector to open the electrical panel, in order to provide the best possible service to the consumer, with respect to their protection, the inspector we feel should, if they have been properly trained and feel it is safe to do so, be able to open the electrical panel to visually inspect the interior.

After many months of negotiations the Electrical Safety Authority have agreed. (Read more here) While we will not be mandating this visual inspection as part of the standard (because some inspectors may not have had the requisite training), we are suggesting it is a good thing for those that are trained to do so, because an internal inspection of the electrical panel can identify many things that may have a serious impact on the buying decision.

A question was asked of us about what an inspector should say to a client who may want to open the electrical panel.  We recommend the following is used as a standard narrative in your reports.

“In Ontario, electrical installation, repair and replacement work needs to be done in compliance with the Ontario Electrical Safety Code. The Code specifies how electrical work must be done. The Code is updated every few years to address emerging technology and improvements in safety practices. 

Any work in the panel requires an electrical inspection permit. This includes like-for-like replacement of a failed breaker.

Edison screw fuses do not need a permit to replace, but one should always isolate the panel BEFORE removing the old fuse to prevent arc-flash.

Wiring which is not properly inspected may void your homeowners insurance.

Incompetent or improper wiring work can result in loss of life limb and property. 

I am a Home Inspector and not a code inspector. While I have been trained to safely inspect residential electrical systems I am not an expert on electrical wiring. 

I recommend a qualified licensed electrician perform any work that involves electrical wiring”

While we are not required to check Permits for work carried out on a property, knowing of work that has been carried out, and alerting your clients as to the possibility that they should themselves seek the status of permits can only benefit them from the perspective of safety and peace-of-mind.

Knowing what does and doesn’t need a permit is a good start to identifying what to say to your clients.

With respect to this question, we would like to thank the electrical safety authority for their permission to reproduce the information on this page for your education and benefit.

What electrical work needs a permit?

If a home owner appears to have done work in the property (obviously amateur installations) or if an electrician has done it on their behalf, almost all electrical work requires a permit.  A permit creates a permanent record of the electrical work that has been done in the  home, and triggers a review process by the Electrical Safety Authority, which is an added safeguard for the occupiers. Without a permit, there will be no record of the electrical work or a Certificate of Inspection, which is an important document for insurance and resale. If something goes wrong, the person who performed the work can be found liable.  In addition the home insurance may not provide cover for resultant damage if the work was not conducted by a Licensed Electrical Contractor or done under permit by the homeowner.

Consult the following chart for answers to the most common permit questions.

Job Description

Permit or not?

Changing a light switch Simple like-for-like 2 wire to 2 wire change No permit needed
Single pole to three-way switch Permit needed
Replace an existing switch with a dimmer Permit needed
Installing new power outlets Outdoor Permit needed
Indoor Permit needed
Ceiling fan Installing a ceiling fan where no fixture exists Permit needed
Installing a ceiling fan where a light fixture exists Permit needed
Replacing any existing ceiling fan Permit needed
Receptacles: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) or
TR (Tamper-Resistant )

Replacing an existing receptacle

Permit needed

Installing new receptacle

Permit needed
Electrical panel Any work on the panel Permit needed
Installing pot lights

Installing pot lights in existing pot lights

Permit needed

Installing new pot lights

Permit needed
Installing a new light fixture Replacing a 2-wire fixture for a 2-wire fixture No permit needed
Installing a new light fixture where one didn’t exist Permit needed
Installing a chandelier where a flush-mount light or two-light fixture existed No permit needed
Installing outdoor light fixtures requiring new runs Permit needed
Installing outdoor fixture where no new run is needed Permit needed
Deck lights

Installing lights on a deck / low voltage deck lights

Permit needed
GFCI outlet Replacing old GFCI outlet with a new one with a cover on it Permit needed
Running wiring to a shed Outdoor Permit needed
Replacing or rewiring a pool pump Indoor or outdoor Permit needed
Installing a new electrical appliance Dishwasher Permit needed
Washer/Dryer Permit needed
Oven Permit needed

About OntarioACHI

Founded in 2012 the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors is a not-for-profit association of members with aims to improve the quality and standing of Home and Property Inspection for the benefit of consumers and our profession. The association is run by, and for, Home & Property Inspectors in Ontario. Our goal is to ensure all Home Inspectors are qualified to the highest standards and comply with the most exacting professional Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice and Duty of Care. A consumer hiring an OntarioACHI qualified Canadian-Certified Home Inspector (CCHI) will know they have they hired a truly Professional Home Inspector.
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