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B.C. home inspector standards to be overhauled

Premier Christy Clark makes her way into a ceremony with Rich Coleman in tow who was named Natural Gas Minister and Deputy Premier in Vancouver June 7, 2013

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Major players in British Columbia's home-inspection sector will take the first step this week toward overhauling qualification requirements for inspectors that some have called "woefully inadequate."

The move to introduce uniform standards was part of Liberal Premier Christy Clark's successful election platform, and is spelled out in a June 10 mandate letter to B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman.

Ms. Clark's letter directs Mr. Coleman to "implement a new home-inspector accreditation [system] to ensure consumers buying a home can be assured that their inspector is qualified and trained to help them purchase the largest investment in their lives."

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Representatives of Consumer Protection B.C. will meet this week with some of the four groups that assess inspectors' qualifications.

"It means, finally, it [accreditation] is going to be addressed," Helene Barton, executive director of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (B.C.), one of the four agencies, said in an interview on Friday. "In our estimation, they didn't do it right the first time. Let's get it right the second time."

Ms. Barton was referring to inconsistencies that have emerged since 2009, when B.C. became the first jurisdiction in Canada to require home inspectors to be licensed. Since then, Alberta has introduced licensing.

B.C. took that step to protect consumers in a sector that had garnered increasing profile and public acceptance in the 1980s and 1990s – largely as a result of a leaky condo crisis that affected thousands of B.C. homeowners. However, it did not require uniform qualifications for practitioners.

But almost since the licensing requirement came into effect, there were concerns about who was hanging out their shingle.

Currently, home inspectors must be licensed by Consumer Protection B.C., which approves four groups – all with different standards – to assess inspectors' qualifications.

CPBC has implemented basic criteria for licensed home inspectors, including a minimum 50 hours of supervised field training and 150 hours of formal home inspection education.

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But almost since the licensing requirement came into effect, there were concerns about who was hanging out their shingle.

In March, CAHPI – which wants training to be more extensive – issued a press release calling the qualification requirements "woefully inadequate."

"Our concern is the oversight," Ms. Barton said. "We got what we wanted when we got the licensing – however, the criteria is simply not sufficient."

That means consumers may be hiring a home inspector who is licensed, but has less field experience or academic training than one from another agency.

One of the other players in the field is Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of British Columbia, which would like one association authorized to regulate home inspectors.

"You've got four different standards for certification," ASTTBC executive director John Leech said on Friday. "The differences are substantial enough to be worrying to the consumer – and to government, which has the responsibility to make sure we have a good regulatory framework to make sure consumers are protected."

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Mr. Leech said he also would meet with CPBC this week.

Mr. Coleman was not immediately available for an interview.

In an e-mail, a ministry spokesperson said the province recognizes the need for greater regulation of the home inspection industry.

"The Office of Housing and Construction Standards will work with all stakeholders in developing a regulatory model that will better protect home buyers' interests when purchasing a home; however, it is still very early in the process," the spokesperson said.

The two other companies in the B.C. home inspection sector are the Canadian National Association of Certified Home Inspectors Inc. (CanNACHI) and National Home Inspector Certification Council (NHICC), which are both based in Ontario.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More


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