Home Inspectors – Who, What, Why

Who inspects the inspectors? Published by News Real for Reators

BC and Alberta are currently the only jurisdictions in Canada that regulate home inspectors through legislation. In BC the approximately 480 home inspectors are regulated by Consumer Protection BC (CPBC) as are many other businesses including debt collectors, fitness gyms, telemarketers and travel agencies to name only a few. The CPBC is an agency of government responsible for administration of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. (BPCPA). CPBC also administers the Home Inspector Licensing Regulation which together with the BPCPA governs the home inspector trade.

Licences

CPBC licenses home inspectors, (whose licences must be renewed annually) and responds to consumer inquiries, investigates alleged violations of consumer protection laws and educates consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities. The CPBC has an online directory where you can confirm whether the person you want to hire is licensed.

Education and Training

A licensed home inspector must meet certain education and training requirements, be insured and have a criminal record check. They spend a minimum of 150 hours to learn about topics such as roofing, flashing, chimneys, heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical and structural systems, etc. The education must be completed at one of the approved home inspector programs in BC.
Once a person passes a home inspectors exam, she/he is provided with a certificate demonstrating competency in home inspection, which is followed by 50 hours of training.
Next comes a CPBC evaluation, followed by a letter of recommendation based on the home inspector’s knowledge and demonstrated ability.

Insurance

The home inspector must obtain insurance coverage to protect against errors, omissions, personal and property damage. The policy must include:
• $1 million occurrence/limited/aggregate professional liability (E&O) coverage
• $1 million occurrence/limited/aggregate general liability coverage
• coverage for common issues to home inspection in BC including water ingress
Only then can they apply for a home inspector licence.

Contracts

A home inspection must begin with a signed contract that includes:

  • Exactly what will be covered by the home inspection including garages and carports, and whether the inspector will look for mold and asbestos and other hazardous materials. Detecting mold and asbestos is sometimes difficult and may require a secondary mold/asbestos specialist to establish whether it’s present in a home.
  • Inspectors are not limited to residential property inspections. They also provide commercial inspections, indoor air quality investigations, new construction deficiencies, building envelope surveys, WETT (wood stove) inspections and so on.
  • Most home inspections comprise a visual examination to determine if there are problems with specific aspects of the home. But for invasive inspections, the contract must state what methods will be undertaken. (A seller will not appreciate coming home to ripped out wallpaper and plaster lying on the floor unless previously agreed to)

Fees

Home inspectors can charge what they like but they must give customers a firm quote along with a detailed contract. The fees vary depending on several factors including the scope of the inspection and the experience of the home inspector but likely it will cost a few hundred dollars.
A typical home inspection takes from one to three hours depending on the size of the home, the scope of the inspection, and the number of areas they are inspecting.
The inspector must provide a detailed report of their findings which the client may retain to direct repairs or for disclosure purposes.

Home Inspectors Association of BC

On its website the Home Inspectors Association of BC (HIABC) includes this disclaimer.
“A home inspection does not guarantee future condition, efficiency, or life expectancy of systems or components. It is not [necessary for] an inspection to verify compliance with any applicable building codes, municipal bylaws or other regulations. A home inspection will not reveal every problem that exists or could ever exist and is not a technically exhaustive inspection.”

Professional standards

The home inspection industry did not come under provincial regulation until 2009 and when it did HIABC claimed some of the credit for the change, having lobbied for regulation several years. However, the association was not so happy when in September 2016 the Ministry responsible for Housing under Rich Coleman, had the CPBC remove the need for mandatory continued education for home inspectors. As a result, there are no longer any continuing education requirements, Standards of Practice or Scope of Inspection which they must adhere to, though HIABC still requires it of their members. Note that in its Code of Ethics HIABC says: ‘No member shall be actively engaged as a broker or agent in the sale, purchase or listing of Real Estate’

Consumer protection

If a person is unhappy with the conduct or performance of a home inspector, they can seek to have the issue resolved by communicating with the home inspector, or go directly to the CPBC for information and advice, or to submit a formal complaint, and in some cases receive a refund for monies paid.

Through its investigative / inspection process, the CPBC may impose a financial penalty on a home inspector for violating the laws it oversees. Every contravention has a base penalty amount, determined by the seriousness of the infraction.

If the claim is under $35,000 customers may also seek redress in Small Claims Court. Claims above that amount would usually require a lawyer to pursue.

If a home inspector is a member of an association, the association could also assist with service complaints that do not fall under provincial laws.

Referral tips

The CPBC recommends checking its website to confirm that a home inspector is licensed, or if they have had any enforcement actions against them. It also suggests a minimum of three written estimates from different home inspectors before choosing one.