How to Hire a PI Firm in BC

Some Private Investigators (PI’s) are a member of the Professional Investigators’ Association of British Columbia (PIABC).  PIABC members have their license credentials verified by PIABC annually and they agree to adhere to a code of ethics, professional conduct, responsible business practices and are subject to the associations discipline panel where required.

Licensing is very important and there are PI’s who claim to be licensed and may not be.  If your matter may end up in court, or is otherwise important to you, Investigators must be engaged through a licensed PI Firm.

PI’s are regulated under the BC Security Services Act and Security Services Regulations. They are also covered by the BC Personal Information Protection Act, PIPA, and in some cases the Federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act may apply (PIPEDA)

Not every PI offers all services and some have specialties.  Consider talking to a couple of firms.  One will likely feel like a better “fit” than another.

We recommend at least four steps in hiring a PI firm:

  1. Ascertain that they are licensed as a PI firm by the Security Programs and Police Technologies Division of the Ministry of the Solicitor General. VERIFY A PI FIRM LICENSE
  2. Ascertain that the firm is a member in good standing with PIABC by searching our directory for Current PI Corporate Registrant Directory
  3. Ensure that the firm can supply the investigative resources appropriate for your unique needs.
  4. Have a written contract for services or engagement letter – outlining retainers, budget, and the purpose and objective of your investigational requirements.

It is important to understand that you cannot hire an Individual Private Investigator to work directly for you. By law, you can only hire a License PI Firm. It is illegal for an individual PI to work directly for a client. A PI must not only be licensed as a Private Investigator; they must also have a Security Business License issued by the Solicitor General of British Columbia before working directly for you.  A municipal business license is not sufficient.

Hiring a PI to do security busines who is not properly licensed by the Solicitor General may incur a high liability risk. Unlicensed PI’s cannot obtain valid insurance which may protect you against potential civil liability.  Any insurance they have may be invalid because they are not operating as a legally licensed security business and are in contravention of legislation.

To verify a PI Firm License you need to have its full business name or Security Business Licence number.  To verify an individual PI License you can ask them to provide you with their individual Security Worker License Number and you can verify that license through the same Link.  VERIFY A SECURITY LICENSE 

For Security Reasons an individual PI’s name cannot be searched.

The advantages to hiring a PIABC Firm:

Our members agree to be bound by a code of ethics and professional conduct which has PIABC professional oversight and discipline. This helps ensure you receive honest and confidential investigation services.

Our members have met education and skills standards and have ongoing opportunities for more professional development.

Consider hiring PIABC member firms. They can be found using our PI Corporate Registration Directory   Be cautious in dealing with a PI firm that inaccurately promotes themselves as members of PIABC.  Some firms displaying our PIABC logo may never have been members; may no longer be members; or may have been required to withdraw from the Association for discipline reasons. Non-member firms do not provide you with the benefits of relying on our ethics and standards as well as the discipline process.

It is important for you (the client) to clearly articulate your investigational objective.  Ask what investigation expertise or skills will be needed to fulfill your needs.  You should also request a service contract or written quote which describes the specific services that will be delivered.  It should include;  assurances that all investigators working on this file are properly licensed and have appropriate experience or training, hourly rates, mileage rates, administrative costs, report writing costs, printing and digital media costs and any other potential fees.

A firm should explain how they would approach your matter, what expertise they bring.  Most firms will require a retainer and engagement letter prior to starting.  In cases where solicitor client privilege may be an issue, it may be preferable for the PI to work under the direction of your lawyer.

PIABC has a complaint process in the event of a dispute. There is also a complaint process through the British Columbia  Security Industry Licensing Program