Home inspection standards closer to reality
Would boost consumer confidence in what has been a largely unregulated industry
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.
Without national standards, it’s too easy for someone to buy a flashlight and clipboard and hang up a shingle as a