Until recently, Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General John Les didn’t appear to be a great fan of the idea of regulating home inspectors. When NDP housing critic Diane Thorne noted during question period at the legislative assembly that there are no provincial certification requirements, the B.C. Liberal minister scoffed at the suggestion to regulate the profession.
“But even if they were licensed and regulated, there is nothing to indicate that the performance of the industry would thereby improve,” Les said, according to a November 23, 2006, Hansard transcript. “There are many licensed and heavily regulated industries where there are still unfortunate incidents.”
Thorne, MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville, told the Georgia Straight she had raised this issue several times before the legislature and got the same reaction from Les.
“He pooh-poohed me,” Thorne said in a phone interview. “Then he also was on television saying that if I could show some reason that it was necessary, he might feel differently. In this province, where we have the biggest example of bad buildings and leaky buildings, I would think that he has all the proof he needs that we need some kind of regulation. What more proof does he need?”
Now, in an apparent about-face from his previous position, Les has ordered the development of a regulatory framework that would involve the licensing of home inspectors. “Regulations are intended to enhance consumer protection and to give consumers confidence that standards of qualification are in place,” the provincial consultation paper stated.
The same paper also indicated that way back in 2005, a consultation conducted by the Home-owner Protection Office had determined that the regulation of home inspectors is supported by industry and consumer organizations.
What made Les change his mind? Les, according to ministry spokesperson Cindy Rose, is on a planning retreat and will not be available for comment until February 7, the day this week’s edition of the Georgia Straight hits the streets.
The move to regulate home inspectors is being met with some cynicism. Take the case of John Grasty, acting president of the nonprofit Consumer Advocacy and Support for Homeowners.
“It’s good,” Grasty told the Straight. “The only problem is, what teeth is it going to have? You certify these people, but how qualified are they? Can consumers sue them? If a person hires a home inspector, they have to sign documents which are full of disclaimers. What they’re finding out is they can’t rely on the information. There is no guarantee or warranty that that person’s opinion can be relied on.”
In June 2007, Bill Sutherland, the B.C. president of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors, told the Straight that because the profession is not regulated, essentially anyone can claim to be a qualified home inspector. At that time, Sutherland noted that the provincial government was resisting the recommendation from his group to regulate the profession.
When the Straight reached him again for his comment on Les’s new direction, Sutherland claimed that the standard being proposed by the provincial government isn’t good enough.
For one, Sutherland noted that the government didn’t adopt the rigorous Canada-wide certification standard developed by the CAHPI national office, which is recognized by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
“It’s hard for us to understand why the government doesn’t want to participate in a standard that has been adopted by the CMHC,” Sutherland said.
The consultation paper also suggested that because some working home inspectors may not have the educational requirements needed, all current inspectors may be automatically licensed. It added that new home inspectors wanting to get licensed would need to meet all the requirements.
But the document offers some provisions that could protect customers by suggesting a prohibition of certain practices. One such practice is providing repair services to a homeowner by the same inspector who examined the property.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is accepting comments on the proposed regulatory framework until February 22.