Home inspector regulation long overdue
Toronto real estate lawyer Daniel Bernstein welcomes the provincial government’s announcement that it plans to regulate home inspectors later this year.
“It is about time that the home inspection industry became regulated,” says Bernstein, partner with Weltman Bernstein. “The problem is anyone can call themselves a home inspector in Ontario. There is no training required — and there is no requirement for home inspectors to carry insurance.”
The Toronto Star reports that Ontario first started discussing plans to license home inspectors back in 2013, when it assembled a panel of experts to draft a report.
“The panel made a number of recommendations, including that inspectors be required to pass a written exam and a field test in order to become licensed. The panel also recommended having a single, clearly defined standard for all home inspections,” the Star reports.
Under the current regime, inspectors can obtain a license by becoming accredited through one of several industry associations, but the standards they must meet to obtain accreditation can vary from one association to the next. Currently, the only provinces that regulate home inspectors are British Columbia and Alberta, the article states.
Bernstein tells AdvocateDaily.com that there needs to be some objective form of a standard of practice to protect the public interest. In addition, there should also be some form of a complaint process.
“Right now the only way a person can claim against a home inspector’s actions is to sue,” he says. “It’s important to note the government will be consulting with the home inspection industry before establishing minimum standards for home inspectors.”
There needs to be a way in which the public can safely choose a home inspector based on uniform standards and qualifications rather than simply based on a referral from a real estate agent, for example.
“This can be problematic, given the possible conflict of interest,” Bernstein says. “Agents want the deal to close and building inspectors want continued referrals.”
Bernstein points to the 2013 recommendations an expert panel made to the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services, including:
- Home inspectors should be regulated in Ontario and be called licensed home inspectors;
- There should be a clear definition and standard for home inspections;
- Qualifications to become a licensed home inspector should include passing a written exam, a field test and experience requirements;
- Only licensed home inspectors should be allowed to conduct home inspections; and
- Ongoing professional development should be required so home inspectors stay up to date.
“Hopefully, having this legislation in place will protect consumers in Ontario just like those in B.C., where a home inspector was ordered to pay $192,000,” he says.
“In that case, the home inspector failed to inspect the entire home and estimated the cost of repairs to be $20,000 as opposed to the actual repair bill of $212,000,” Bernstein says. “The judge ruled that the home inspector should have advised his clients to hire a structural engineer before buying the house.”