Indira Gandhi, the first and only female Prime Minister of India, said “There are two kinds of people in this world, those who do the work and those who take the credit.” In other words, there are those in that will pass themselves off as hard workers, while really their only skill is their ability to lie.
That’s somewhat like the situation in the HVAC world right now. There are two kinds of HVAC technicians, unlicensed and licensed. And while, it’s true that unlicensed HVAC contractors can at times do a fine job, they’re to be avoided at all costs. Why? Because where heating and cooling is concerned, you really want someone qualified working on your home. It’s not something you want to trifle with.
When Unlicensed HVAC Work Goes Wrong
Having an unlicensed tech service your HVAC system is a big risk. At the very least, you’re leaving your wallet exposed: you may end up paying twice for the same repair!
However, in many cases, unlicensed technicians have actually caused severe injury or death by their negligence. There was recently a major court case about this in the Toronto area. In 2013, Guildwood Furnace Services pled guilty to involvement in an accidental death. The death occurred as a result of irresponsible behaviour, behaviour which contravened the TSSA’s standards (TSSA: Technical Standards & Safety Authority, the body that regulates HVAC licensing in Ontario).
The incident happened in Scarborough in 2011. Guildwood Furnace Services responded to a call about a furnace repair by sending an unlicensed technician. The technician took a look at the repair, realized he’d need a part for the job, and left, telling the homeowner he would return.
Meanwhile, the house was filling with deadly carbon monoxide gas.
When the tech returned the next day, he found the owner sprawled on the floor, unconscious. 911 was immediate called but the furnace was not shut off. The homeowner was taken to hospital, and was stabilized.
However, later that day, the homeowner’s son came home. Unaware of the danger, he spent the night. He was found dead in the home 3 days later.
Had the technician followed TSSA guidelines, the tech would have shut off the furnace immediately, understanding the danger. Instead, a young man died.
Protect Yourself: Hire Licensed Techs
In 2013, the case was settled. The technician was given 60 days followed by 2 years probation, and the company was fined $20 thousand. To some, that hardly seems like a fitting punishment given that negligence causing death was involved.
It’s situations like this that makes us so uncomfortable when we become aware of unlicensed technicians operating within the GTA. Occasionally we find ourselves doing work that was improperly done the first time around. Needless to say, the homeowners are not particularly pleased that the unlicensed tech didn’t do the work properly. We usually tell them we aren’t surprised.
So, why not just hire someone licensed the first time around? Well, it can be difficult to tell if your tech actually is licensed. How can you tell? They will tell you.
In other words, you should be able to tell if an HVAC company uses certified techs simply by looking at their website. If you don’t see a certification on their website, just ask. They’ll tell you if they’re certified.
However, sometimes companies have been known to shirk their responsibilities in this department. Occasionally, it’s difficult to tell if a company’s certification is current or has lapsed. Again, if they are using a lapsed certification they are subject to legal penalty.
But it gets even more difficult to tell when it comes to independent contractors. Perhaps you know a “handy” friend who’ll help you with your HVAC work. In these situations, there is almost never any certification and you are running the risk that you’ll end up with work that is not to code.
Take, for example, the recent case of Huntsville Alabama woman Connie Ibarra whose house was left in shambles after an unlicensed contractor failed to do the work he was hired to do.
So while we have laws in place to prevent this kind of thing happening, the responsibility is still on the homeowner to ensure that you’ve hired the right person. So, ensure that you’re hiring someone who’s licensed.
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