ESA Inspection contents

I’m a homeowner in the process of selling my house. The buyer has, at the recommendation of his agent and home inspector, added an amendment to the offer stating:

“The owner agrees to order an ESA general inspection of the premises and correct any and all deficiencies noted in the inspection report before closing.”

I am fairly confident that the electrical in my home is “up to scratch” - we had a CG renovate our basement about 6 years ago and his electrician upgraded our service from 60 to 100AMP, relocated the panel, ran all new wiring for the basement as well as added several new circuits for the existing kitchen. The electrical was inspected at that time, but for whatever reason there is no ESA sticker on the panel which is part of what incited the home inspector to prompt this amendment to the offer.

Two other items that were found during the home inspection which also lead to the ESA amendment were:

  1. double-tapped circuit in the pony-panel (our “old” panel became a pony-panel when the electrical service was upgrade & relocated)
  2. kitchen receptacle for the fridge is not a dedicated circuit

My concern is that, by signing the amendment as-is, while fairly confident in my electrical, I feel like I could be signing a blank cheque (yes, this is a Canadian post :slight_smile: ). I’ve never seen an ESA inspection report and don’t know what may be classified as a “deficiency” (to use the word from the amendment) - will it only include items that are “wrong”? Or could it cite a deficiency as I don’t have receptacles every 6’? My home is approximately 55 years old…

Any help or advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Sounds like the person who did the wiring in your home did not take out a permit.
The double taps is not a big fix .
When your home was built a separate circuit was not required for refergerator.
I would not sign any thing at any time with out the advice of your lawyer . It is much easier for him to protect you before you sign ant thing then after . This goes from Listing home for sale to excepting an offer or amendment. The lawyer is your friend .
Agents want your signature now before you get to talk to your lawyer.
ESA Report is not a big deal about $200;00~
Where do you live .

… Cookie

We know there was a permit obtained (although we do not have a copy). We live in Waterloo, ON…does anyone know if copies of permits or inspection reports are kept by any central agency (i.e. city hall)?

Does anyone have a copy of a sample ESA report? What kinds of things will ESA reports include?


I expect they could look it up but the cost if the did could exceed a new inspection .
I do not think the original report would have done the whole home just the upgrade and how can you prove what is there now was there many years ago.
They just come in make a token check to confirm what they see and give there recomendations.

… Cookie

Understand most of us are Home Inspectors and some do have an electrical back ground .
Even then it is the electrical inspector who has the say.
Never argue with the Electrical inspector easier to do as they wish .

If I were your realtor, I would recommend countering with an extension of the inspection contingency to allow the BUYER to purchase an ESA inspection and report if they feel they really need/want one. Where I am at, it’s the buyers responsibility to provide almost all of the inspections if they want them.

If so, then you will be in a position to address any specific issues that that report uncovers. When the electrician is there doing that inspection, (if they are qualified to do the repairs) mention the double tap to him/her, and ask what it would take to “fix” it right then and there. (Who knows he might do it for free, or he might say like Cookie did that it’s not a big deal and not to worry about it.) As for the refrigerator not being on a dedicated circuit, who cares? That wasn’t code when the house was built, and you as a seller aren’t required to make code now.

You are correct that they are asking for a blank check (US :p) on the electrical system. Let them put out the funds for the extra inspection. Then with that report in hand you have the negotiating power of knowing exactly what they are asking for, and you can decide what to do then.

This is similar in concept as a buyer asking the seller pay for a home inspection and then fix everything the home inspector calls out. No seller (or sellers agent) should ever agree to that.

(By the way, as you are probably aware, if you do counter with a different proposal than the buyers requested, they may be in a position to walk away from the deal. If you think this is a good idea, be sure to discuss the possible consequences with your Realtor. I’m sure things in Canada are more differerent than just the way we spell the word “check”.)

Hope that’s helpful. Good luck to you.

The issue of who will pay the fee is between the buyer and seller period.

In my experience the severity or report from ESA - really depends on the electrical inspector. It sounds like the home inspector is reporting “concerns”, and may have some suspect issues that seems out of the ordinary if the electrician was doing upgrades. Likewise, if there is a double tap - it sends a mixed message of competency of the previous electrician. Have the electrical receptacles been updated - are we talikg 2-wire or 3-wire system or a mixture? Your comment regarding the spacing - brings to mind the issue of the number and adequacy of circuits. - Hence the double taps.

Insurance companies can get sticky on electrical items and deny coverage. Afterall, electrical safety is a primary concern.

General fee info may be viewed at: ESA

Under the fee tab - with a document indicating the fee structure.

Replies to all questions & comments thus far (and thanks to you all for your help, it is greatly appreciated):

Have the electrical receptacles been upgraded?

  • yes, all receptacles in the house are newer “Decora” models

2- or 3-wire system or a mixture?

  • a mixture - all of the original (1954) wiring is 2-wire, everything since we bought in 1996 is 3-wire and grounded. When we bought the house in 1996 we had an inspection done and the double-tapping was not noticed by the inspector at that time (it was done years ago, not as part of any of our renos). Likewise when we bought the house, the fact that there was no ground wire throughout concerned us so we had an electrician come out and install GFCIs as the first receptacle on every circuit in the house.

Comment re: spacing - number and adequacy of circuits

  • again, the house was build in 1954 and, as is typical in a house of that age, there are not “enough” receptacles in each room by today’s standards (for instance, the 11’x22’ living room has only 3 receptacles). As well there are 3 bedrooms (1 light and 2 receptacles in each) all off of a single 15-amp circuit. These things I believe to be very typical in a house of that age and should not come up as decificiencies that would need to be rectified to secure house insurance upon sale. Granted that’s an educated opinion rather than fact…hopefully someone out here can confirm for me :wink:

Now a question back to you guys re: the refridgerator on it’s own circuit. When we had the basement finished we had the electrician put the fridge receptacle on it’s own circuit (we figured, for the $75 what the heck), but it’s not a split receptacle (at least I don’t think it is…I’m going from memory as the basement was done 6 years ago) and we also have the microwave running off the same receptacle - is that an issue?

Oh, and as a bid to get some simpathy here, this is all happing right now real-time while I’m on vacation in China with my wife…I’ll tell you one thing, a 12-hour timezone difference is having a major impact!

You can do a search at City Hall, it takes about a week and costs $5. I live in cambridge and just did that this year.

I have a client at present, who is trying to buy an older home. There is some knob and tube still in the house and her insurance co requires the system be inspected and deemed as safe by an electrician before she can get insurance. I don’t imagine to many electricians will take that risk. Has anyone else run into this situation?

Yes I run into this all the time most electricians do not want the risk of saying it is OK.
I tell people ,to make sure and check with their insurance companies re coverage and I verbaly say I have heard of any where from $4.000;00 to $18,000:00 to have an electrician come in to upgrade the home .
yes that is correct and I am not joking.
Many electricians do not want this work as it is dirty and very time consuming.
This is only going to get worse so remember Write hard talk soft and miss nothing.

… Cookie

That is why insurers want an ESA certificate. Some insurers will be comfortable with an ESA, while others will not be and want the house rewired regardless what ESA says.

The insurers end up calling the shots. That is not the way its suppose to happen. And by the way K&T, 60 amp service, and Aluminum have never been band or condemned by Ontario Hydro/ESA.

Last 1+1/2 years, found 2 houses with substantial K+T that had been missed by previous inspectors…one had been inspected twice within the past 5-6 years by 2 of the “better inspectors” claimed the vendor’s agent. He wanted me to hire an electrician to verify the condition of wiring. The buyer’s agent (30+ years experience) wouldn’t put up with this as I’d showed her some K+T. Cost to vendor= $9,300. About 2 months later, vendor’s agent hires me to do an investment property for he and his brother…they didn’t buy!!! The other house was marked down $10,000!!

4 years ago- Inspected a very small house for a single lady retiring and wanting out of her condo. Found a fairly recent (10-15 yearsold) 60 amp service in excellent condition. Did a load calculation from Section 8 of the CEC and found that 60 amps was more than adequate (no washer/dryer or electric heat) but told her the insurance company may “get involved”. Sure enough she only closed the deal about 2 months later when she and vendor agreed to split the cost of the new 100 amp service.

A gent I was doing inspection for had gotten $6,000 reduction on a 1,200 sq ft bungalow for rewirng as it contained aluminum wires. I told him to check with his insurer as to whether they would want full rewiring …No, just use copper pigtails or replace recepts with AL approved type and have electrician check all terminal connections in panel- cost $1,200. A winner folks!!!

On a reno I’ve ben working on, I asked for an elec. inspection as the job just didn’t look right to me. result was 17 deficiencies, since corrected. No. I did not do the wiring, a licensed sparky did.
One of the items cited was the frig rec. The ESA inspector stated that the frig had to be on a dedicated circuit by itself. it did not have to be a split. Microwave had to be on a split and apart from the frig.
Even though this was a reno, the owner and friends had re-did all the wiring which meant that it had to be brought up to the current code, including AFCI’s and GFCI’s, wired in smoke and of course the frig circuit.

Usually the microwave has to be on a separate circuit but it does not have to be on a double pole breaker (or split with 2 separate circuits). I see the fridge and microwaves on splits often. Asked the chief elecrtical inspector here; he said they could be on a double pole or split breaker. I don’t recommend it. If the microwave cause a trip, your fridge is shut off also!!! Doesn’t make sense to me but code allows it.

According to the ESA inspector in my area, as of Jan 01, 07, frig has to be on dedicated circuit. A split was not reccommended, nothing else on the circuit, just the fridge.

Is it our place to know this I do not do code inspections.
Safety yes ,Condition yes .

… Cookie

Irregardless, it is still good to know. It also is good to know about a lot of things that can make an inspector potentially look incompetent, or possibly attract a complaint or ergo lawsuit. Often inspectors offer comments regarding electrical issues that “may” cause hardships for the client. Or possibly the fact that the receptacle for the refrigerator has been around for some time now - albeit maybe not strictly enforced.

As issues like this are brought forward, it adds more information to our skill sets. We have a responsibility to continue in our quest for knowledge of providing a top quality inspection, based on sound information and changes that are being demanded by other “experts” in the inspection field.

Often inspectors shy away from code - but at the same time we use the base of code to define what determines a defect. We also use other standards as well, such as property standards, and or acceptance levels based on sound construction practice.

I am constantly updating my knowledge on code issues. As a designer it is the guide for construction of buildings - be it a home or other larger building structure.

I am not stating that we need to quote code per-se; I am simply noting that many decision made by the home inspector with respect to deficiencies - likely is based on reference to code.

That is why many associations, as well a training providers include code related training as a pre-requisite in their inspection programs.

Yes but where do we draw the line the building code is about three inches thick with lots of different codes in it.
Then the gas code and Electric and many more … Cookie

The mandate of our codes is minimums for public health and safety. So, I believe we should be doing more than property condition or mainly structural reports (as one company claims but only after you get the report) that may gloss over older wiring practices (and heating also- the more dangerous systems). Is it OK to only say “All lights and receptacles were working”??

I try to give my client, in a general way, (and sometimes with many examples) an idea of how close to current electrical code is their prospective house. I have write in sections or check boxes for kitchen counter receptacles (split, 20 amp T slot, GFCI), other GFCI’s-(bath/washrooms, jet tubs, outdoor recepts), AFCI’s, extension cords in use, 3 way light switching at stairs, and on. And yes I have the code books!!!

How can anyone do a PDI without knowing the codes?? What can you tell your clients about a new house without having code knowledge and good installation practices?

Just last week, I inspected a 10 month old house and found a situation you usually don’t find here- a jet tub not on a dedicated circuit with GFCI protection but on a combined circuit with, and protected by, the vanity basin GFCI receptacle. Remembered something from 2006 CEC…checked my pocket reference book which wasn’t fully clear on the issue but it looked like it was alright. It still recommended that the tub be on separate circuit but this was not the case I was looking at.

I then checked with 2 licensed ,practicing electricians, one of which was an inspector just 4 years ago; both said you needed a dedicated circuit. Still felt what I found was correct. Then called the Chief Electrical Inspector’s office and got his assistant who said it was correct. If I hadn’t had code knowledge, I would have called it wrong. This was the first time in 23 years that I found a tub that was not on a dedicated circuit. The local electricians were actually going beyond code for many years!

On a new $300,000 house last year, I found 6 code violations in electrical, plumbing and ventilation after the house had been issued its “Occupancy Permit” by the municpality. I don’t know what I would could’ve found if I could open up the walls.

So what do we do in PDI’s?

How can you expect the electrical Inspector to find these things when they do not even open the electrical panel .
You as a home inspector are not to open the electrical panel either .
You as a home inspector are not allowed to walk the roof unless you have taken the course and wear a properly fastened harness.
Most new homes never even see an electrical inspector the electrician is the one who inspects his own work.
Why would we epect them to not be perfect.