Home in­spec­tion stan­dards closer to re­al­ity

Would boost con­sumer con­fi­dence in what has been a largely un­reg­u­lated in­dus­try

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

Q— I am think­ing of hir­ing a home in­spec­tor to eval­u­ate an older house be­fore I buy. I un­der­stand there is no li­cens­ing in this area and I am con­cerned about hir­ing a qual­i­fied in­spec­tor. Is this still the case or are there any re­cent changes that I may have missed about find­ing a gov­ern­ment ap­proved in­spec­tor? AN­SWER — I have posed this hy­po­thet­i­cal ques­tion to high­light one of the mis­con­cep­tions about the home in­spec­tion in­dus­try in Canada and up­date read­ers on gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion. It has been quite some time since I wrote any­thing on this topic and at the risk of di­vert­ing from the norm with a rel­a­tively dry col­umn, I thought it would be a good oc­ca­sion to touch upon some changes that may be com­ing in the near fu­ture. Many home­buy­ers are still un­aware that home in­spec­tion re­mains a self-reg­u­lated in­dus­try, with no gov­ern­ment li­cens­ing or manda­tory stan­dards in most of the coun­try. Only the prov­inces of Bri­tish Columbia and Al­berta have manda­tory li­cens­ing, and that has only been en­acted in the last half decade, or so. While many ob­servers, in­clud­ing me, thought li­cens­ing would snow­ball across the coun­try soon af­ter Al­berta joined in, it has not yet hap­pened. There have been talks here in Man­i­toba, Nova Sco­tia, New­found­land, and longer fruit­less ef­forts in Que­bec, but the big­gest push yet may be hap­pen­ing in On­tario, where the gov­ern­ment seems to want to reg­u­late ev­ery­thing from soup to nuts. Since there are al­most as many in­spec­tors in that prov­ince as the rest of the coun­try com­bined, once they have suc­cumbed to reg­u­la­tion fever, it may quickly spread across the re­main­ing prov­inces. One of the big­gest chal­lenges fac­ing this is­sue is con­sis­tency of stan­dards from prov­ince to prov­ince, and within each in­di­vid­u­ally. There are sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions or as­so­ci­a­tions in each area or re­gion. Some have tough re­quire­ments for membership, such as the Canadian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors (CAHPI), and oth­ers where a valid cheque and a quick on­line exam buy you a “cer­ti­fi­ca­tion”. There are also sev­eral smaller groups that have qual­i­fi­ca­tions some­where in be­tween th­ese two pa­ram­e­ters. Be­cause membership in th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions is vol­un­tary, and they are mostly run by vol­un­teer mem­bers, stan­dards vary widely. De­spite this, al­most the en­tire in­dus­try has been us­ing a vari­a­tion of the CAHPI stan­dards of prac­tice, in use for over 30 years and mod­i­fied specif­i­cally for Canadian homes a few years ago. The big change that may be in the works is the Canadian Stan­dards As­so­ci­a­tion (CSA), which is very familiar for safety cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of ev­ery­thing from hockey hel­mets to toast­ers, is in the process of de­vel­op­ing a stan­dard for home in­spec­tions. This was orig­i­nally started in con­junc­tion with the Al­berta gov­ern­ment, which par­tially bankrolled the project in an ef­fort to de­velop a con­sis­tent stan­dard of prac­tice for use with li­cens­ing in its ju­ris­dic­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, CAHPI and sev­eral of the other in­spec­tor or­ga­ni­za­tions were not in­volved in the ini­tial part of the process, for sev­eral rea­sons. When ap­proached sev­eral years ago by CSA about pos­si­ble in­volve­ment and fund­ing for this new stan­dard, the CAHPI na­tional board of di­rec­tors, of which I was the Man­i­toba rep­re­sen­ta­tive, po­litely told them we were not in­ter­ested be­cause we had a per­fectly good stan­dard that was re­cently up­dated. Fur­ther­more, we in­formed them that there re­ally was no need for them to go through this ex­er­cise, be­cause our stan­dards had been suc­cess­fully used by the in­dus­try for decades. The CSA ef­forts seemed to stall for a while un­til Al­berta reg­u­la­tors de­cided it was time to com­plete their on­go­ing ef­forts for li­cens­ing home in­spec­tors. CSA then found a will­ing part­ner, one with deep pock­ets, to fur­ther their cause. The ini­tial draft stan­dard process, in­clud­ing public re­view, was com­pleted near the end of last year. Com­ple­tion of the stan­dard was some­what in doubt af­ter­wards, due to the end of gov­ern­ment fund­ing and the large amount of neg­a­tive feed­back from in­spec­tors across the coun­try in the re­view. The process got back on track ear­lier this year, when the On­tario gov­ern­ment picked up where Al­berta left off. This fur­ther sug­gests they are look­ing at com­plet­ing their li­cens­ing pro­ce­dures, with pos­si­ble adop­tion of the new CSA stan­dard, if they are com­pleted. This en­tire stan­dards process was done with only min­i­mal in­put from the home in­spec­tor com­mu­nity, as most of the CSA com­mit­tee mem­bers were from stake­holder groups. This in­cluded bankers, lawyers, re­al­tors, gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tors, and only a few in­spec­tors. While CAHPI was rep­re­sented by the na­tional pres­i­dent, and a few oth­ers from re­gional as­so­ci­a­tions, they had lit­tle in­put into the ac­tual con­tent of the stan­dard. That is why there was such an over­whelm­ing neg­a­tive re­sponse to the re­view. The draft stan­dard con­tained some ridicu­lous in­clu­sions and glar­ing omis­sions from the nor­mal op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure of most home in­spec­tors. The good news is that CSA is open to sig­nif­i­cantly re­vis­ing the stan­dards, with much more in­put from prac­tis­ing home in­spec­tors, be­fore it is fi­nal­ized. A pos­i­tive re­sult of this whole process may be the pos­si­ble uni­fi­ca­tion of a very frac­tured home in­spec­tor com­mu­nity across the coun­try. An un­prece­dented meet­ing was held in On­tario in early March. It in­cluded in­spec­tors rep­re­sent­ing most of the var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions across the coun­try. This ad hoc com­mit­tee for­mally con­demned the lack of in­put from the in­dus­try and promised to work to­gether, and with CSA, to en­sure any stan­dard de­vel­oped would be with the as­sis­tance of the in­dus­try, to en­sure proper con­sumer pro­tec­tion. One un­ex­pected ben­e­fit of a new CSA stan­dard may ac­tu­ally be to unite nu­mer­ous home in­spec­tor or­ga­ni­za­tions, pre­vi­ously at odds. As for Man­i­toba, a new stan­dard adopted by On­tario, Al­berta, and B.C. may be the foun­da­tion for lo­cal li­cens­ing and con­sumer pro­tec­tion in the fu­ture. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the past pres­i­dent of the Canadian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors — Man­i­toba (cahpi.mb.ca). Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out

his web­site at trained­eye.ca.

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

With­out na­tional stan­dards, it’s too easy for some­one to buy a flash­light and clip­board and hang up a shin­gle as a

home in­spec­tor.

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