By the end of next year, home inspectors will have to meet a standard set of professional criteria to be licenced in British Columbia.
Housing Minister Rich Coleman said Friday the improved requirements will help safeguard home buyers who rely on the inspections for making what is likely the largest investment of their lives.
Consumer Protection BC will set the education and training requirements and be responsible for testing and licensing home inspectors.
"At the end of the day, buying a home is one of the biggest purchases somebody ever makes, and we've always been very supportive of any move toward consumer protection in this area," said Tayt Winnitoy, vice-president of operations for Consumer Protection BC.
In 2009, B.C. became the first jurisdiction in Canada to require licences and insurance for home inspectors, and there are now about 440 licensed in the province.
A few months later, a North Vancouver couple won an unprecedented award in the civil lawsuit they brought against their home inspector.
Three years earlier, Manuel Salgado and Nora Calcaneo bought a home for $1.095 million.
They paid $450 for an inspection, which found a number of structural deficiencies. The inspector, Imre Toth, estimated the repairs would cost them $15,000 to $20,000.
They closed the deal.
When the bill came in, it totalled $213,000.
They filed suit against Toth, the sellers and the real estate agents, but settled with the previous owners and dropped their claim against the agents.
Justice Grant Burnyeat said Toth's estimate was "woefully inadequate."
The purpose of the inspection is to provide a homebuyer with expert advice about any significant deficiencies, the judge wrote.
"I have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the plaintiffs relied upon the report received by Mr. Toth to decide whether they would purchase the property," he wrote.
"Plainly, if prospective home purchasers did not believe that they could secure meaningful and reliable advice about the home they were considering purchasing, there would be no reason for them to retain an inspector to inspect that home."
Currently, inspectors must pass regular examinations to obtain and keep their license but there are four different associations that can licence, each with its own evaluation process.
In a survey by the provincial Office of Housing and Construction Standards, 78 per cent of home inspectors felt the requirements for a licence are too lax.
"It is clear ... that action is needed to increase consumer protection and to address the challenges in the current model," the report said.
The Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors — one of the four groups that licence inspectors — said non-existent standards improved with the 2009 regulations, but loopholes remain.
Winnitoy said home buyers can rest assured that the inspectors they're dealing with now have met minimum training and education requirements.
"What we see now and what we're looking forward to is a deepening and an improving of the framework to help ensure that there's a level playing field for all home inspectors and a clear set of expectations for consumers to have."