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Meaningful change coming to home inspection industry

By Robert Hof

Happy Holidays to all of my readers. Thank you for all of your emails and good wishes throughout the year. I wish all of you and your families good health and continued success in 2014.

Today anyone can call themselves a home inspector in Ontario. That is a scary proposition since most consumers depend on the opinion of a home inspector before making one of the biggest purchases of their lives. There are over 1500 home inspectors operating in the Province yet there are no mandatory training or technical standards for them to meet. The results are often a leaky roof, cracked foundation or outdated electrical wiring or plumbing that was missed and which ends up costing unwary consumers thousands of dollars to repair after closing. In extreme situations, consumers have lost their homes. Many inspectors do not carry errors and liability insurance, meaning that if they make a mistake, even if you win a lawsuit, you may recover nothing later.

The Ontario Minister of Consumer Services formed a panel of industry experts to make recommendations to change the home inspection industry, which included home inspectors, educators, a Realtor, a lawyer, educators, engineers and an insurance broker.

Their report is aptly titled “A Closer Look: Qualifying Ontario’s Home Inspectors”.

The main goal of the recommendations is consumer protection. This is proposed to be achieved through the following main principles:

  • Home inspectors should be regulated and called “Licensed Home Inspectors”;
  • There will be minimum qualifications to become a licensed home inspector, including a written exam, a field test and experience requirements. Ongoing professional development and education will also be required so that home inspectors stay up to date;
  • Increasing consumer awareness by providing information as to what service is or is not provided by a home inspector; for example, some inspectors may provide additional services such as energy audits, new home warranty inspections, chimneys, well, septic, mold, drainage or termite testing, while others may not. Home inspectors should not be required to enter any area of a home that is unsafe or not readily accessible.
  • Access to a centralized registry of licensed home inspectors;
  • A code of ethics that outlines expected behavior of home inspectors, including disclosure of any referral fees or incentive programs.
  • Mandatory errors and omissions and general liability insurance to be carried by any licensed home inspector;
  • A complaint and dispute resolution process for consumers; and
  • A delegated administrative authority, similar to the Real Estate Council of Ontario that regulates real estate agents, overseen by the government, to license and regulate home inspectors; For example, the code of ethics referred to above would be written by the government, but the administrative authority would enforce it, with the power to penalize or suspend any home inspector who violates the code of ethics. This authority would pay for itself through the fees charged for licensing and education.

The goal is to move to this new regulatory environment within the next 18 months, to permit home inspectors to become licensed.

I spoke with Graham Clarke, an experienced home inspector with Carson Dunlop who was on the panel. As Graham indicated, almost everyone involved with the home building and selling business, from real estate agents, lawyers, mortgage brokers, lenders, builders and appraisers are all regulated by the government in some manner. It is time for the home inspection industry to become similarly licensed and regulated.

The government is also asking for feedback. If you go to the government website at

http://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=14645&language=en

then scroll down, you can get a copy of the form to complete.

If you have your own views on this important issue, send in your feedback to the government now. Change is coming to the home inspection industry, and the consumer should be the winner.

Click here to read the article:

http://www.thestar.com/business/personal_finance/2013/12/22/

meaningful_change_coming_to_home_inspection_industry_weisleder.html

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