Home Inspector Licensing one step closer

With the passage through second reading, and referral to the Standing Committee on Social Policy, Bill 59 – Putting Consumers First Act takes another step forward to becoming law.  The Home Inspection Act is a major part of this Bill, and the passage of the Omnibus Bill will also bring into force, at some time yet to be determined, regulations to license Home Inspectors in Ontario.

OntarioACHI will continue to work with the Government teams to assist in the development of the regulations which will include a new Code of Ethics and define what is likely to be a different Standard of Practice, that may include portions or all of CSA-A770. 

We will also be working, in conjunction with the Government and other stakeholders to ensure that the regulations are not able to be circumvented in a way that limits the protections intended for the consumer.  It is our utmost focus  that our Profession finally be shown to provide the needed support for the consumers that we know our CCHI Certified Members already do.

The Home Inspection Act is just the first step in removing the physical risks associated home ownership.   We have much work to do to ensure Home Owners are also protected from unseen risks in the Home that could equally be detected as part of a Home Inspection.  We are already working with other major stakeholders in these fields.   The outcome of these development will ensure that a Professional Home Inspector, with the CCHI designation will be able to perform not just the services the Profession is recognised for at present, but also other ancillary services that provide consumer protection against health risks and some of the ongoing financial risks associated with home ownership.

This is not going to be a fast process, but your board of directors and committee volunteers believe that with your ongoing support and assistance we will be able to make you proud of your decision to become a Professional Home Inspector and generate the trust of the public, the media, the government and other professions that has been so elusive to date.

The Road to Regulation

The “Early Years”

The principle of Inspecting properties dates back to 1792 in the U.K. with the founding of the Surveyors Club.  By 1868 this “Club” had grown to 49 members and changed from being a Surveyors Club, to the Institution of Surveyors.   The requirement for this organisation was driven by similar needs that drove the development of the Home Inspection Profession we have in North America.  These were rapid development of infrastructure and housing.  As the development increased in pace, so did the need for checks and balances.  The U.K. successfully managed this through the self-regulated body known now internationally as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.   The Institute received it’s Royal Charter from Queen Victoria in 1881, and the change to the current name was made in 1947 after King George VI granted the “Royal” title to the institute.  For 140 Years RICS has managed to be successful in the self-regulation of the profession.

Here in North America, the Home Inspection Profession as we know it, started life as a paid service by people utilizing the services of general building contractors to perform a “Contractors Inspection” which was an opinion of the structural soundness of the home.  As the costs and complexity of the material and their inclusion in residential properties increased it became apparent that general knowledge of all the homes components and how they operated together and a single system was required.  From this was born the term “Home Inspection” and the term “Home Inspector” describes a professional consultant with the ability to examine and offer an opinion on all the Home as a complete system.

The formalisation of the profession in north America can be traced back to the foundation of the California Real Estate Inspection Association  (CREIA) in 1975.  Between 1976 and 1977 the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) was formed and in cooperation with CREIA the first Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for Home Inspectors was developed.  In 1984 California passed legislation requiring Realtors to conduct a reasonably competent and diligent inspection of the Residential property to be listed and to disclose all material facts discovered that might affect the value of the property.  To circumvent the law Realtors altered the contract form to include a provision for the Home Buyer to hire their own professional inspector.  This had three effects.

  1. It moved the onus from the seller to the buyer, maintaining the “Caveat Emptor” or “Buyer Beware” conditions on a real-estate transaction.
  2. It spawned the birth of the Home Inspection Profession as a viable business
  3. It transferred the liability for establishing the condition of the property from the Listing Agent, to the buyer and through them to the Home Inspector.

In 1985, Texas enacted the first Act to regulate Home Inspectors.  In 1987 the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) was formed, and 3 years later, in 1990, the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI) was formed.  A year later still, Texas implemented full licensing requirements for Home Inspectors.

Why is regulation required?

Legislation is usually only applied if a self-regulatory system is not working.  When the self-regulation is not transparent, proportional, accountable, consistent and targeted it is deemed to have failed and at that point the government normally steps in to provide external regulation.  This has been the case in Ontario and other parts of Canada.

Home Inspections in Canada

In the Spring of 1992, a group of home inspectors from Alberta and Saskatchewan met to discuss the profession of home inspection with the vision of forming an association of professional home inspectors. The meeting was attended by twenty-five interested individuals, and it was concluded that an association would be beneficial both to the public and to the profession.   This group formed a loosely bound organisation which applied and eventually in January of 1993 achieved chapter status with the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and were named the Canadian Association of Home Inspectors (CAHI) and in March of 1993, the chapter was registered under the Societies Act in Alberta.  In 1994 CAHI National was formed to be an Association of Associations and meetings took place in Ottawa to discuss the future of the Home Inspection Profession in Canada.   Later October of 1996, CAHI and ASHI reached a formal understanding that they would operate as independent organisations, but work in cooperation with each other.  In 2002 CAHI changed its name to the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) to reflect the fact that their inspectors were inspecting properties which might not necessarily be homes at the time of inspection.

The Profession in Ontario

ASHI also had a chapter of Inspectors operating in  Ontario, and while these were loosely association with CAHI through the ASHI links they called themselves the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI).   This was unincorporated group and in 1994 they succeeded in their approach to the Ontario Assembly via a Private Members Bill to be officially formed as a Self-Regulating body under the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors Act.  Promises were made to the government that for the sole right to use the term “Registered Home Inspector” Inspectors providing services for consumers would be qualified, subject to disciplinary proceedings and, most importantly, carry liability insurance.  The regulations failed however to mandate the newly formed association would have the right to give a right-to-practice qualification.  This was done, presumably, because to attain the standards promised to the government, 250 paid inspections were required to have been performed by “qualified” inspectors. 

This was the first point of failure in the self-regulatory model.  It meant that in order to be recognised as “Qualified” an Inspector had to provide services, while unqualified, to at least 250 consumers.

The organisation was volunteer led and run.   The majority of early inspectors were either engineers or builders turned Inspectors.  The leaders of the OAHI were the backbone of the profession in Ontario, and were also the majority of the trainers, earning a living from training as well as inspecting.  The requirements for attaining the “RHI” were modified over the years, with multiple changes in the levels of membership, additions and deletions of membership types, and updated requirements to education, often without prior notice.   Inspectors, realising that membership and the RHI was not a pre-requisite for earning a living as an inspector chose to go it alone, and in some cases develop, or join existing U.S. based Home Inspection franchises. 

This was the second point of failure for the self-regulatory model.  It meant the any hope of regulating the whole profession relied on marketing the RHI as a qualification that could be relied upon but only having member funds to use to perform this marketing.   This pushed the cost of membership up and offered no great benefit to the individual inspector who was on the path to certification other than a distant, and often moving goal.

Many Inspectors chose to remain instead as members of ASHI, newer Inspectors, looking for a more viable business model chose to join ASHI or InterNACHI, who offered a huge marketing machine and free Home Inspection education as part of it’s membership, all at a price lower than membership of the OAHI.   Additional to this, some senior members of OAHI had disagreements with the direction OAHI and CAHPI were taking with respect to the education and assessment of members and broke away to form other associations.  This led to the formation of the National Home Inspector Certification Council (NHICC), the Professional Home and Property Inspectors of Canada (PHPIC), and the Association of Certified home Inspectors (TheACHI).  The latter failed as it was tied to the Teamsters Union which inspectors saw as a direction they didn’t want to go to.

Members of InterNACHI operating in Canada decide to form a Canadian arm of the organisation and formed CanNACHI, which for all intents and purposes appears to be an Association front for Inspect4U who offers paid training courses in an f2f environment.   The courses are derived from the InterNACHI training material.  It has 39 members.

In 2011 a group of InterNACHI members realised that although the education from InterNACHI was phenomenal there was no way to identify the inspectors had actually taken examinations.   In addition it was realised that as an International organisation, Ontario was a small part of the overall focus, and they decided an Ontario specific focus was required.  The Ontario Association of Certified Home Inspectors was founded in March 2012 to advancing the Home Inspection Profession in Ontario with accessible education and expert peer support.   Without need to have physical location, OntarioACHI has taken advantage of the tools of the 21st Century and developed a system that helps members and the administration of them develop their careers in the profession regardless of their location in Ontario.  OntarioACHI has also concentrated on providing unbiased and transparent information Consumers and Inspectors alike and at the same time soliciting discounts on products and service needed for an Inspector to operate professionally.

OntarioACHI has worked in collaboration with a number of other Associations and Franchises as well as Real-Estate Boards and Brokers to ensure the message regarding the importance of a Home Inspection and referring only properly qualified Professional Home Inspectors for their clients.

Licensing the Profession - the process through the Assembly

While home inspectors have been discussed in the Assembly since 1992, since the inception of the Ontario Association of home Inspectors in 1994, and the subsequent failure to provide a self-regulatory function for the Home Inspection Profession.

What comes after?

Content to be completed as more details emerge