Another veteran HVAC contractor feels his livelihood is under attack by Ontario College of Trades
"I learned the trade hands on, so I have my gas fitters ticket only... Now I am being threatened that I will get big fines... unless I hire 1-2 licensed guys
Last week we wrote about a Toronto area contractor who got $750 in fines from the Ontario College of Trades for installing a simple air handler. The apparent reason? There were non-licensed mechanics involved in the work (as there are in 99 per cent of all construction activities, probably, but we digress). This was a “plug and play” high velocity AC unit with no ductwork involved. Read it and weep here. Predictably, the resentment against the heavy-handed OCOT enforcement regime has come out in force in our Comments section. Here is another one…
We are a HVAC contractor that installs simple residential heating and air conditioners. I have been in business in Ontario for the past 25 years. I was a guy that learned the trade hands-on, so I have my gas fitters ticket only (this ticket is important and all our guys must have it that work for me). I have a lot of experience in the AC and sheet metal field but now I mainly manage and train the guys. I can do circles around most licenced guys with under 5 years experience. And the majority of the guys fresh out of college that passed and have their refrigeration licences are actually theory-minded only and are useless for the first few years until they have guys like me show them the way.
Our company has an outstanding reputation for doing great work but I am being threatened that I will get big fines – which may close down my business – unless I hire 1-2 licensed guys. I have tried to do this… but there just are not many that want to do residential AC. Or they want extremely high pay rates that would make us unprofitable. So that means I have only one other option and that is to go and get a refrigeration licence myself just to keep operating. I don’t agree with this, due to my age and the fact that… I just don’t feel I should have to!
I can challenge the course but then they make sure they include tons of useless theory in their exams that you would never use in the field. So I would have to go back to school to learn all the useless HVAC terminology and calculations just to pass. And no, that is not fair.
So my question is, can I completely tell these OCOT guys to hit the road and force my employees, as a company policy, to never give them any information? I would of course tell my employees to tell the enforcement officers to call or come back only when they can talk to me personally. At which point I would love to tell them to hit the road. If they give me a fine, can I challenge it or just rip it up and ignore it? Do you know anyone that has done this and succeeded in the past year or so? Your reply would be greatly appreciated and think these questions are on the minds of thousands of other contractors in Ontario. I looked online and there does not seem to be anyone else that is giving advice on this from a legal standpoint.
Editor’s Reply: Jake, thanks for your enquiry. Sorry to hear about your dilemma. About 4 years ago, when OCOT was just getting going, word began to disseminate (through Canadian Contractor and elsewhere) that you did not have to let an Ontario College of Trades Inspector into your premises, or answer their questions, without them having good reasons to believe a violation had occurred. They could go and get a warrant from a Justice of the Peace, to come and search your property, but they couldn’t just come in on no pretext whatsoever. To this extent, this information appears to remain true, because OCOT officers are Provincial Offences Officers, like police officers. A police officer has to have a reason to come in and start asking you questions in your own home or office, too. They can’t just bust in and interrogate you. BUT… and here is the rather large caveat… in our recent dealings with the Ontario College of Trades over the hydronics contractor who was fined $750, we have found absolutely no willingness by that organization to discuss what powers they do and don’t have. No surprise. They view non-compliant contractors, from our viewpoint, with no particular humanity. This is a legalistic, regulation-quoting, bureaucratic organization. Sorry we can’t be more helpful on your legal questions. Anyone else out there with stories of refusing to cooperate with OCOT inspectors? And what happened to you?