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Licensing of home inspectors welcomed Add to ...

When Vancouver builder Phil Van Drunen went to give an estimate on a renovation this week, he says he couldn't believe the house had been inspected.

"There are too many structural problems to list," he says.

The homeowner thought she'd been prudent by getting the house inspected before she purchased it. But the inspector didn't address the serious structural flaws, Mr. Van Drunen says.

He estimates that the homeowner will have to pay about $30,000 extra to correct the structural work that was done by the previous owner without permits.

The main floor could collapse if there were enough people on it, he says. "You can see the sag in it already.

"What that home inspector should have said is, 'You're looking at thousands to fix this.' "

The homeowner's unhappy predicament will be less likely now that British Columbia has become the first province to make it mandatory that all home inspectors be licensed.

As of March 31, inspectors will have to meet the requirements of one of the three home inspection associations that have been approved by the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority. It will oversee the new regulation and issue licenses.

Inspectors will have to carry a wallet-sized card showing they are licensed, and have insurance.

Inspectors will also have to undergo a criminal record check and pay an annual $100 licensing fee.

"The main concern was that there were people who had very little training and were not necessarily members of any industry organization out there," B.C. Solicitor-General John van Dongen says.

"They were representing themselves as qualified to be doing home inspections, when in fact, they had very little background.

"And in some cases, they were in direct conflict of interest by virtue of being associated with people in real estate sales," Mr. van Dongen explains.

The new regulation, which does not cover the agents themselves, will prohibit inspectors from participating in such an arrangement.

The authority will respond to complaints from consumers and enforce the regulation. Violations could result in penalties of up to $5,000.

It's welcome news for John Schiffer, who owns Quality Home Inspections Ltd. and has been an inspector since 1995. The industry worked with the government for several years to develop the licensing regulation, he says.

"The problem is that anyone who's unregulated could go buy a [business]licence in half an hour and call themselves a home inspector," says Mr. Schiffer, who is already a member of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors.

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