But Who's Inspecting the Inspectors???
According to home improvement guru, Mike Holmes, “The home inspection industry is like the Wild West — a lot of cowboys, not a lot of sheriffs.” Across much of Canada, including Ontario, anyone who owns a ladder and a flashlight can call themselves a home inspector – no training required. Homebuyers have often been left to fend for themselves when it comes to finding an inspector. Where do they even start? And buyers can take firm hold of some of that blame as well. The first question I’m often asked is, “How much for a home inspection?” While it’s a valid question, it likely shouldn’t be the first, and certainly not the only question you ask! Yes, you might get the cheapest inspection, but you could end up in a costly nightmare, when all of the defects that your “bargain” inspector missed become all too suddenly clear – after you take possession of your home.
Your goal should be to find the best inspector, not the cheapest! I know the process can be pretty confusing, but that’s all about to change, thanks to new legislation by the provincial government. Forgive me in advance for all the mind-numbing and political info (aren’t they one and the same?!) to follow – but I think it’s important to understand the background.
Early in 2013, the Ministry of Consumer Services established a panel of experts with the mandate to create a report, suggesting some much-needed standards and qualifications for home inspections and inspectors. This group included consumer representatives, professional home inspectors, educators, realtors, lawyers, and insurance representatives – all individuals representing parties that have a vested interest in this field. Panelists were selected – based on their professional experience, knowledge, availability and commitment – with the understanding that the public interest was the key priority.
Following the report, Bill 165 (Licensed Home Inspectors Act, 2016 – an Act to regulate home inspectors in Ontario) was born and presented as a private member’s bill, and has now passed second reading in the provincial legislature. The bill has been ordered to the Standing Committee – once again with input from individuals linked to the groups previously listed. Once that phase is complete, the bill will go through final reading, and if it receives Royal Assent, will become law. Bill 165 would make it illegal for anyone to perform a home inspection without a licence or without appropriate insurances. This has also given the government the power to create a Designated Administrative Authority (DAA), which will set the standards for licensing: inspector qualifications, performance standards, code of ethics, insurance requirements, complaint procedures, and all matters related to home inspections in Ontario. You can read the Act in its entirety, immediately below this article.
That role is being fulfilled by the CSA (Canadian Standards Association), which has recently created a set of voluntary standards for the home inspection industry (CSA-A770). The CSA is a non-profit organization that specializes in the creation of quality assurance standards in various areas, including safety and performance, electrical equipment, construction materials, and more. CSA-A770 (with or without modification) would be adopted as the new set of standards for home inspections/inspectors in Ontario, once Bill 165 receives Royal Assent.
Legalities and background aside, what does this all mean for the consumer? The intent is to create a consistent standard, and more (or should I say some…) accountability in the home inspection industry, something that is long overdue. Hopefully, it will weed out the weekend warriors and cowboys from the profession and give consumers some peace of mind, allowing buyers the confidence to make intelligent and informed decisions about hiring an inspector and purchasing a home – a significant financial and emotional investment – before being parted from their hard-earned money!
As with change of any kind, there will be frustration and some time needed to adapt, as inspectors new and old wade into the new requirements. I’m hoping that an educational prerequisite and testing, or at the very least proof of experience, will be part of the new standards. Time will tell!
The next thing the government needs to look at is the separation of the home inspection from the realty transaction. There are many great realtors out there, but there are some who won’t use an inspector that points out too many defects during a home inspection, which inadvertently “kills” the sale and their thought-to-be-in-the-bag commission. A realtor should never be the one choosing or recommending an inspector – it’s a conflict of interest, in my opinion. But that’s another story for another day!
I got into this profession because I enjoy working with people and helping them understand houses, hopefully making home ownership a less scary proposition. It’s my goal and passion to be the best home inspector out there. So, if you’re ready to purchase a home, give me a call!
Bill 165 – Licensed Home Inspectors Act, 2016.