ESA Certificate, SPIS issues


Dear David,

Our home has aluminum wiring. We want to sell. How long does it take to get an ESA Certificate?  – WIRED

DEAR WIRED: If you’re planning to sell a home with aluminum wiring, obtaining an ESA (Electrical Safety Authority) certificate needs to be one of the first items on your to-do list. In the case of a home that I sold last month, my client waited five or six weeks to have their ESA inspection completed after having paid for the certificate, so it’s not something to leave until the last minute.

The ESA (Electrical Safety Authority) is mandated by the Government of Ontario to monitor and enforce compliance with the Ontario Safety Code and an ESA inspection ensures that electrical work is up to code. To start the process, you’ll need to apply for an electrical permit to proceed with the inspection. Should deficiencies be discovered, you’ll need to fix the issues and call the ESA again for a final review.  When all necessary work has been completed, the ESA will issue a Certificate of Inspection as proof the electrical system is in compliance with provincial code.

Your potential buyer will probably need a copy of your completed ESA Certificate; some insurance companies will want to see it before or immediately after closing. Cost-wise, you can expect a standard aluminum wiring inspection for a house or townhouse to set you back about $400. For more information, check out the Electrical Safety Authority online at or call 1-877-ESA-SAFE (372-7233).


Dear David,

We are trying to buy a home and the listing agent won’t provide the SPIS until after we put in an offer. Are they trying to hide something? – CONCERNED

DEAR CONCERNED: I assume from your statement that you’re buying from the listing agent directly. It’s not a practise that I typically encourage as I feel everyone should have their own representation. That said, it’s generally accepted that if a seller has completed a SPIS form, it has to be made available to any buyer that requests it.  It should not be contingent upon placing an offer, although the seller could make that stipulation.

A SPIS (Seller Property Information Statement) is a standard form that’s been around for a number of years. It contains information relating to defects, renovations and other pertinent information about the property. The form isn’t required by law, and I personally don’t encourage my sellers to use it because it increases their level of legal liability in the sale. Buyers tend to treat the SPIS like a warranty: even though the form contains a disclaimer, it may allow a seller to be held legally responsible for incorrect information, even if an error is unintentional (ie. an issue the seller isn’t aware of). Sellers are obligated to disclose pertinent facts, but the SPIS form opens them up to additional risk.

In my opinion, buyers shouldn’t rely on the SPIS anyway. They’re wiser to bring an attitude of “buyer beware” to their real estate purchase and be responsible for completing their own due diligence.