Home Inspection: Raising the Bar

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by Jill Ellis

Bill Mullen has high hopes! The Ontario-based home inspector is also the director of external relations for a new organization, the National Home Inspector Certification Council (NHICC).
The NHICC is pushing for nation-wide licensing of home inspectors, but at this time Ontario, the Atlantic Provinces and Saskatchewan are just looking at this possibility.

Alberta and British Columbia already license home and property inspectors. B.C. led the way, endorsing inspectors since April 1, 2009, while Alberta came onside September 1, 2011. Neither of these came about without a lot of pushing from interest groups within those provinces, and Mullen doesn’t expect it to be much different in Ontario, though he hopes that the timeframe to have licensing passed into law could be shortened because of the groundwork done by those first two provinces.

According to Peter Link, manager of house and property inspection registration for the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C. (ASTTBC), his organization lobbied for two decades to make this happen.
Helene Barton, Executive Director of the B.C. branch of the Canadian Association of Home and Property & Inspectors, (CAHPI), agrees. “We lobbied the government for eight years to have our industry regulated because prior to that anyone who bought a ladder and had a business card could say they were a home inspector. Many were charlatans.”home-inspection

Though there are training courses and college programs in all provinces, in most provinces there is no onus on someone who calls him/herself a home inspector to take such education. In the two provinces that currently license, the several certifying organizations that exist require some or all of the following to become licensed: specialized education (number of hours varies from organization to organization), a practical (or field) test, written exam, a peer inspection process, and, finally, an application to the provincial licensing body. In the case of B.C., that’s Consumer Protection B.C. For Alberta, it’s Service Alberta. The outcome of the application process is not ideal, according to Darcy McGregor, secretary and founding member of CAHPI Alberta. “We thought they (the government) would raise everyone to the highest level, like our members follow, but they said that wouldn’t be fair.”

While the expectations aren’t as high as he’d like, McGregor says, “Licensing at least gives homeowners a bit more assurance that the person they are dealing with has some education and the ability to look after them as a home inspector.”
Link echoes this sentiment: “We pushed for one certifying organization and one standard of practice, but there are four in B.C.” So buyer beware is still in force, and homeowners must research any home inspector they are thinking of hiring. “The onus is still on the homeowner. (They should ask) where did they get their education; do they have experience in the field to have the ability to recognize problems.”

Barton, though, feels that the process has been overall positive. “It got rid of a lot of people who are unqualified. We are still trying to get the consumer to ask about the licence before hiring a home inspector. It gives them peace of mind knowing that they (inspectors) are qualified.”

Though there is mixed reaction to the outcomes in B.C. and Alberta, there’s one point that McGregor, Link and Barton all agree on – home inspectors in those provinces are now required to carry errors and omissions insurance. They must be insured up to $1 million, so if they miss something during an inspection and this results in a costly repair, the homeowner may have financial recourse.

One piece of t he puzzle that is still missing, according to Nigel Trevethan, of Harper Grey LLP and legal counsel for CAHPI B.C., is a “cooling off period, like many other large purchases.” He thinks it’s regrettable that the “government hasn’t mandated that every real estate transaction must involve a home inspection. This is especially important in an overheated housing market, like Vancouver.” He feels that this is key to consumer protection.

So, though Mullen’s hopes for the future of licensing in Ontario – and throughout the country – are high, experience tells us that the outcome may be less than stellar but better than the status quo.
Link for Government Report on NHICC site
Originally published in Our Homes Magazine, Winter 2013 www.ourhomes.ca

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