- Professional Standards

CSA Standards for Home Inspections

Single Common Standard

In Canada it is commonly believed that the Home Inspectors operate to distinctly different Standards of Practices. Similarly across Canada, there is a move to regulate the Home Inspection profession because of the perceived unprofessional behaviour of home inspectors, led generally by media hype.

Various Provincial governments have different approaches to a Home Inspection but again it is a widespread belief that a common approach is needed with respect to the way Home Inspections were carried out.

On the understanding that Inconsistency makes regulation difficult and the intent is to regulate the home Inspection industry across Canada, it was felt that a common approach (i.e. a common standard) would reduce work for regulators and reduce hurdles for home inspection associations.

At least three provincial governments invested taxpayer resources to fund the CSA to have them produce a common standard of practice.

December 2014 saw the initial draft publication of the Canadian Standards Authority A770 -Standard on Home Inspection.   This document, a development by the CSA was believed to be a Common Standard of Practice that conjoined the existing standards into a new Standard, adding clauses that were felt necessary to be missing from the exiting standard.

Effectively this standard was initially presented by the CSA in its proposals as being a “How to” document for Home Inspectors on the processes required to carry out Home Inspections.   The draft document produced is far from this.

The draft document that was produced blurs the lines between Home Inspection, Code Compliance Inspection and the tasks commonly carried out by Realtors, HVAC Installers, Electricians and Surveyors.   It asks the Home Inspector to follow a practice that would increase the length of time of a home inspection, or the number of inspectors required to perform a Home Inspection exponentially, and consequently increase the price of a Home Inspection many fold.

Secretive, Costly and too Technical

Members of the OntarioACHI board were present on the Ministry of Government & Consumer Services (MGCS) expert panel helping to reach consensus on the process steps that need to be taken should regulation of the profession be required in Ontario.   One of the most important concerns of your Board Members, as well as other panel members was the issue surrounding the use of a CSA standard of Practice.

Three concerns were identified in the panel meeting with respect to a CSA derived Standard of Practice.

  • Most CSA standards are technical manuals for technical trades
  • CSA Standard are restricted in their publication
  • CSA standards often refer to other CSA standards

The reason these three items were of concern was the fact that a Home Inspector is not a trade. It is a consultative profession, based upon visual inspection of accessible components of a home.   While certain skills are needed to perform a Home Inspection professionally, have a highly prescriptive technical standard ignores the fact that the clients of the Home Inspector are ordinary people who need to know what a Home Inspector will do as part of a Home Inspection, and more importantly what they might not do.   Home Inspections are required every day of the year on multiple home types with a multitude of components and components types. They are affected by the weather and by seasonal configurations of the home.   What a Home Inspector will do and not do (and why) must be presentable to the Consumer at the time of the agreement. Having a CSA Standard that is extensively technical, restricted from the public domain except at cost and has internal references that require yet further expenditure and even more detailed technical process to be followed is not considered in the best interest of the Consumer, or the Profession.

Part of the recommendations given to the Ministry of Government & Consumer Services (MGCS) was the recognition that a common standard of practice for Home Inspectors was required, but that should the CSA A770 Standard not be considered appropriate for inclusion in any forthcoming regulations, it did not have to be adopted.

Increasing costs to consumers

We would consider that while the current draft of the CSA standard would provide a detailed technical audit of a home the cost in person hours to complete would be closer to 15-20 hours as opposed to the current 2-3.5 hour Home Inspection.   This means an equitable increase in charges would apply. Given the MGCS estimate that a Home Inspection should currently cost between $350 and $600 for a typical single family home, the price would jump to between $2,625 and $3,450. This would not protect the consumer, because a Home Inspection is not a mandatory requirement to buy or sell a property. At these rates most purchasers who are already being squeezed for their closing costs would just not have a Home Inspection. Those that could afford a Home Inspection might consider the investment worthwhile but when the report still offers only a snapshot of what is apparent at the time of inspection, it is a serious doubt as to how many of these affluent people there would be.

In addition, anyone who wants to know what the standards are will likely have to pay to get a copy of them from CSA. Where further standards are reference, further purchases will be needed. It has been seen from recent legal action that the CSA protects its “copyrights” closely. So anyone wanting to provide a “Consumer guide to the A770 standard” will likely be blocked.

Lopsided legislation

The MGCS in Ontario, and other Provincial bodies are also considering making the liability for Home Inspections open ended with respect to litigation.   When placed in comparison with other programs for homes such as the Tarion Warranty program, which keeps builders on the hook for only 2 years. These are the same builders that actually construct the home and are supposedly overseen by tax-payer funded code compliance officers. After the first 2 years the builders effectively escape any retribution for poor building practices and the Tarion Warranty program picks up the costs of repairs to any errant properties.   The repairs are done at a cost to the Tarion Program, which is subsidised by taxpayer money. And who does Tarion pay for the repairs?   The Builder.

The CSA technical panel consisted of representations from the Insurance Industry, who only server to profit from more complex standards. The Home Inspection insurance premiums have already increased up to 28% in the last 18 months, with the Insurers citing “defence costs” as the main cause.   The Home Inspection E&O programs offered by Insurers here in Canada are some of the highest of ANY profession based upon earning potential, and any standard the exposes the profession to yet more liability will only serve to increases these costs, and the insurers profits, further.

Periphery Professions & Trades impacted.

In addition to asking Home Inspectors to perform tasks that are clearly outside of the Health and Safety guidelines given out by the WSIB, in the current draft standards the CSA are asking Home Inspectors to perform the work of other professions.

HVAC installers will be pleased to learn that Home Inspectors will be able to check HVAS and water heater flues for CO emissions. This negates the need of the consumer for their services.

Code compliance officers will no longer be needed because the Home Inspector will be required to know, not just the codes of today but the codes of past times also.  Home Inspectors will be required to document the Make, Model and Serial Number of every appliance in the property, leaving them liable to issues surrounding recall notices. This plays very nicely into the hands of those American companies, supported by the U.S. franchises who provide product recall services.

Realtors will no longer be required to attend a property when it is being inspected, because a Home Inspector, at the same time as focusing on the inspection at hand is going to be required to monitor the comings and goings of the consumers and their entourage. This means that the need to pay a full 2.5% to a buyer’s realtor for “babysitting” a home comes under question.

The CSA standard touches into areas already covered by electrical standards, plumbing standards and now extends into requiring boundary decisions which are normally part of the scope of a property surveyor.

Smoke & mirrors

The expert panel that made the recommendations for regulation of the profession to the MGCS were led to believe this standard would be something akin to a conjoined standard of the existing ASHI-CAHPI/InterNACHI/NHICC Standards of Practices, with detailed instruction on “How to” perform the tasks identified as part of a Home Inspection therein. The report was supposed to be developed by an all-party group of inspectors from across the spectrum of Associations.

What eventually occurred was a technical panel, heavily lopsided with members from a Single Canadian Association, and members of other professions on the periphery of Home Inspections, with no “Technical” knowledge of what a home inspection is, developed the current “consensus” document which is more of a wish list on how to off-load some of their responsibility into the Home Inspection arena, and cite “Consumer Protection” as the reason.

We hear politicians frequently espouse that the small business is the backbone of Canada’s economic. We know from statistics that consumerism drives over 70% of the economy in Ontario. This standard, should it be adopted will create a two tier system: one for those that can afford to have a home inspection and one for those that can’t. It will not protect consumers and therefore cannot be considered to be in the public interest.

It will drive small businesses offering Home Inspection to the brink of extinction and favor large multi-inspector companies and franchises, many of whom are based out of the U.S. and who, unlike Canadian Home Inspector Associations that have valuable input, were represented on the CSA technical panel.

In addition to the comments input to the CSA process which strongly criticized areas of the CSA –A770 draft, OntarioACHI will be making strong representations to the MGCS that this CSA Standard should not be approved or adopted in its current form.  Indeed as far as a common standard goes, we have merged compared the existing Standards used by Inspector members of OntarioACHI, InterNACHI, PHPIC, CanNACHI and the ASHI-CAHPI-OAHI triumvirate, and the majority of the differences we have found are in the grammar and location of content, and wonder if there is even a need for a CSA standard that expands the scope of a Home Inspection beyond that which was identified as part of the regulation process.

There are an estimate 1,900 Inspectors in Ontario, we hope those inspectors will join with our members and support us on this.

It is only with a united voice will we get what is fair for our Profession and the Consumers we serve.

About OntarioACHI

Founded in 2012 the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors is a not-for-profit association of members with aims to improve the quality and standing of Home and Property Inspection for the benefit of consumers and our profession. The association is run by, and for, Home & Property Inspectors in Ontario. Our goal is to ensure all Home Inspectors are qualified to the highest standards and comply with the most exacting professional Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice and Duty of Care. A consumer hiring an OntarioACHI qualified Canadian-Certified Home Inspector (CCHI) will know they have they hired a truly Professional Home Inspector.
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