Home inspectors in Ontario are lauding new legislation that would require them to be licensed, have insurance, and abide by a code of ethics — and potentially face discipline if they don't.
The Putting Consumers First Act, which was passed last week at Queen's Park, will impose new rules upon one of the few professionals involved in real-estate transactions that have not been historically subject to provincial regulation.
"It's terrific news," said Michael Levitan, a home inspector who also teaches home inspection skills at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
"Right now home inspection is not a regulated industry," Levitan told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "So if you hire a home inspector, you're not exactly sure what's going to happen during your home inspection."
Last summer, Ontario's Liberal government announced plans to introduce legislation to regulate home inspectors, of which they said there are approximately 1,500 in the province.
Marie-France Lalonde, who was Minister of Consumer Services at the time, said the legislation would protect consumers by ensuring they benefit from quality advice and are aware of safety issues before buying a home.
The legislation, also known as Bill 59, was based upon recommendations made by a 16-person expert panel.
It will also introduce minimum standards for home inspection reports, contracts and disclosures. Inspectors who breach the code of ethics could face fines of up to $25,000.
The legislation comes one year after Toronto Liberal MPP Han Dong introduced a private member's bill intended to license home inspectors, but his bill never made it past committee.
Will ensure industry's reputation
While the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI) has regulated its members since 1994, it supports provincial oversight as a way to give home buyers more security, president Murray Parish said — and also to ensure the reputation of the entire industry.
"A true professional is a professional. If you start cutting corners, you're going to end up cutting yourself or cutting somebody else," Parish said. "If you walk the straight line, you don't have to worry about that, right?"
Parish, who performs home inspections throughout the Greater Toronto Area and parts of central Ontario, said OAHI has its own code of ethics. Members who breach that code have been forced to take training courses, he said, or even end up being kicked out of the association.
Most of the OAHI's approximately 500 members give home buyers "the full gist of what's going on inside the house," Parish said. But in the current housing market, he added, it's not unheard of for inspectors — both inside the association and outside of it — to cut corners.
"If the member's not adhering to the discipline, or to the ethics, then we have to remove them," said Parish. "And we do."
'Their responsibility is to the home'
Levitan, an OAHI member himself, echoed many of Parish's sentiments.
"We're hoping they all follow the same standards of practice, the same procedure, so your home inspector is the same as my inspector," he said.
While most home inspectors are honest, Levitan said some "don't give this profession as much credibility as it deserves."
He said he knew of home inspectors who didn't carry insurance in the belief that, if something ends up going wrong with the house, the homeowner will call them for follow-up service instead of a lawyer.
"My job is not to tell you to buy or not to buy the house. In fact, a good home inspector will tell you that their responsibility is to the home," Levitan said.
"It's up to you to decide what to do with that information."