Covid-19 – Association Opinion

Following advice from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, on April 3, 2020, Ontario updated the list of essential businesses that can remain open. The restrictions are aimed at further reducing contact between people and stopping the spread of COVID-19.

By 11:59 p.m. Saturday, April 4, 2020, businesses that are not identified on this list must close their physical locations.

Non-essential businesses that can continue to operate remotely, via electronic means will be allowed to remain open.

Essential business

The government of Ontario’s list of essential businesses that will be allowed to remain open can be found here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces

Home Inspection is still not specifically listed.

Our first commitment as a Home Inspectors Association must be to the safety of Home Inspectors, the consumers we serve and everyone’s family.  We have heard from many inspectors that they think there are areas where Home Inspectors might be included on the list of essential businesses.   Here’s what we’ve heard, and our opinion of the various statements.

The sections below contain the various essential numbered business lines that are in the Ontario document published above. Click the ‘+’ sign to open each section.
1 - Supply Chain - Businesses that supply other essential businesses or essential services within Ontario or businesses that supply services to other businesses that have been declared essential in a jurisdiction outside of Ontario, with the support, products, supplies, systems, or services, including processing, packaging, warehousing, distribution, delivery, and maintenance necessary to operate

The updated list shows that Real-Estate agent’s services are still considered essential businesses (Financial Activities Businesses clauses 16 paragraph v).  Inspectors are using the argument that they provide support services to them and therefore are cleared to work under this auspice.

Our opinion is still that Professional Home Inspectors DO NOT provide support services to Real-Estate Agents.

If one suggests they are supporting a Real-Estate agent, it implies they are providing Realtors with a service which introduces a conflict of interest.  Home inspectors work for the client to provide an objective opinion on the condition of a property.

If a Home Inspector operates their business on the premise they are supporting Real-Estate agents, they may find themselves out of compliance with the essential services regulations for Covid-19 and in breach of the Home Inspection Code of Ethics.

Banking activities and insurance are also still classified as essential services (Financial Activities clauses 16 paragraphs ii and iii)

If a Home Inspection is performed for these types of businesses, with either a Bank, other lender or Insurance company as the client, then we believe it is legal for a Professional Home Inspector to provide the required services, but we still feel it is morally wrong, because of the risks of performing such a service poses to the Inspector, their family and the public in general.

20 Maintenance, repair and property management services strictly necessary to manage and maintain the safety, security, sanitation and essential operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings.

This clause replaces the old clause 16 which was vague.  Any argument that Home Inspectors performing Home Inspections fall into this area has now been removed.

34 Businesses that deliver or support the delivery of services including (v) Environmental rehabilitation, management and monitoring, and spill clean up and response.

We believe that this area still allows for specific ancillary inspections to be carried out.  For those that are qualified in Indoor Air Quality, we believe mould, allergen, asbestos and other toxic air assessments could be carried out.  The emphasis is on qualified.   OntarioACHI members that have achieved the OCIAQA certification would be considered qualified.

As people with pre-existing conditions are particularly sensitive to Covid-19 and other coronaviruses, we believe ensuring the home has a safe indoor air quality is an essential service to provide extra protection to consumers.

67 - Other businesses - Land registration services, and real estate agent services and moving services

Home Inspectors do not provide ANY of these listed services.

We do not believe that a general Home Inspection is covered under this section.

Given the tightening of the list of essential businesses, the opinion on the validity of performing Home Inspections, and the risk of doing so is borne solely by the Home Inspector or  Home Inspection Company.  We no longer see any allowance for Home Inspectors to perform a Residential Home Inspection for a consumer.  Performing one for a Real Estate agent may be considered a breach in the code of ethics and a possible conflict of interest.

The question we continue to base our opinion on is “What is an Essential business?”

From what we are seeing from the Ontario and Federal governments, and recommendations made by jurisdictions around the globe, we identify essential and non-essential business like this: “Essential businesses are ones that the public relies on for their day-to-day lives. This includes banks, hospitals, supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, post offices, and the like. They carry supplies and services necessary for survival, both in the long and short-term. In contrast, non-essential businesses are those that people frequent for pleasure, like gyms, bars, restaurants, movie theatres, museums, and concert halls, among others”.

Based on this, our view is that Home Inspections are not necessary for survival. 

The ultimate decision, until the Real Estate Agent’s clause is removed from the list of essential business, is still left to each inspector.   However, the argument for continuing to work is wearing thin, and we strongly advise all inspectors to think seriously before agreeing to perform one.

Regardless of each Inspector’s view, they should bear in mind the reasoning behind the closure of a business.

Any Inspector who chooses to continue to perform inspections should ensure they follow all protocols recommended for the Covid-19 outbreak, and we recommend IN ADDITION treat each property inspected as a hazardous site.  Inspectors should

  • Wear full personal protective equipment, includingproperly fitted

    full-face respirator certified to NIOSH-N95 or higher,  with HEPA (PURPLE) or organic vapour (BLACK) filters, sterile gloves and, where deemed necessary, a class C hazmat suit.  Gloves and suits should be properly disposed of at the end of each inspection

  • Sanitize hands and all non-disposable equipment prior to and at the end of each inspection
  • Sanitize any surface that is touched prior to and following inspecting it
  • Request clients DO NOT ATTEND the inspection but allow extra time to talk to the client about the report, remotely via phone or video
  • Request Realtors that are present at the inspection to practice social distancing procedures.  Realtors are required to be present at all inspections, but they do not have to be in the property.  They can be outside in their vehicles.
  • We strongly advise that inspector provide a health questionnaire to property occupants prior to performing the inspection to ascertain the likelihood of elevated risk and make an informed decision on whether to proceed
  • We understand that making a living is important, but we strongly advise all inspectors to perform NO MORE than one inspection per day to reduce the chance of transmission of any viruses from one property to another.  By reducing the number of inspections, it allows for proper cleansing of equipment between inspections.

Above all, use common sense and be safe.  You owe it not just to yourself and your family but to all who might come into contact with you or something you have touched.

While refraining from inspections could cost you money, performing them could cost you and those closest to you much, much more.