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ASK THE INSPECTOR COLUMN FOR APRIL 27, 2017 HEADLINE: HOME INSPECTION ACT 2017 Back in 1999, I sat in a room in Quebec and listened to the folks from CMHC as they laid out their plans for a National Home Inspection Licensing Program. It was a draft proposal and, after reading it, I remember thinking, “it’s about damn time!” Fast forward to 2017, when only two other provinces have been licensed and that excellent CMHC document is now managed by the National Home Inspection Certification Council (NHICC), whose certification is called NHI (National Home Inspector). This because CMHC walked away in disgust and frustration over the infighting that took place with associations in most every province where attempts were made to bring it in. In those presently licensed provinces, Alberta and British Columbia, the NHICC certification is recognized, as is the RHI designation.  Unfortunately, as I see it, both these provinces got blind-sided by the InterNACHI internet home inspection association and have had to make some costly corrections. This is something that I hope, and from what I know, that Ontario will not fall prey to. On April 10th the Ontario legislature gave third and final reading to the Ontario Home Inspection Act 2017. It received royal accent on April 13, 2017. The next step is to take this act and develop a Designated Administrative Authority (DAA).  This type of authority is commonly used for government acts to ensure an independent administration that has some overview by the ministry responsible for its operation. The DAA concept is presently the operating structure for such provincial regulatory bodies like the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) and the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA). I had the pleasure on April 19th of talking to two of Minister of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS) team, as to how this process is now handled. Mahreen Dasoo, Communications Advisor to Minister MacCharles, was in on the conversation, as was the senior policy adviser for making this DAA into a regulatory body. The present plan is to have this Act in effect by January, 2019. Building a DAA is a long process. A representative board of individuals who understand the industry, along with other professionals, has to form first. They then proceed with the actual governance inside the DAA and the necessary regulatory operations. Back in 2013, a panel of professionals from all sectors of this industry, home inspection associations, the insurance industry, real estate and representatives from the ESA and TSSA, developed an excellent document called, “A closer look-Home Inspection in Ontario.” This document will form the ground work for the actual DAA regulations and standards that will then govern home inspectors. The MGCS needed the act in place before they could begin the “heavy lifting,” so to speak. To quote the comment from the Senior Advisor on the teleconference, they are very excited to get this to the point where the Lieutenant Governor can proclaim the date for enacting this legislation into a functioning Authority. The days of the “buy a flashlight and you are a Home Inspector” are now dated. The next 18 months will pass quickly and, at some point, once the license process is announced, every home buyer in the province can have some comfort in selecting a home inspector. The license is proposed to be an LHI (Licensed Home Inspector) designation and those with that designation will be allowed to practice. The LHI that walks through the door to guide you in the purchase of your new residence will have the background and education, along with proper insurance, to advise you on the single largest purchase most people make in a life time. So what do we do until that time? I will quote a section from the act: “entitlement to license: 4) on application in accordance with the regulations, an applicant for a license shall be deemed to be entitled to the license, if, as of a prescribed date, he or she is a member of, or holder of a prescribed class of license from, a prescribed organization, association or other entity, and is in good standing.” Right now in Ontario, there are only two associations that offer third party confirmation of education and background investigation. They are The National Home Inspection Certification Council, designation NHI and The Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, designation RHI. Implementation of proper professional insurance that must be carried by the individual home inspector is also part of the new Act. Based upon information I have from the insurance companies that provide this coverage in Ontario, less than a third of home inspectors in this province are insured, currently.  Most NHI’s and RHI’s carry proper insurance. If in doubt, ask. I am sure they will confirm for you. It has been a long, often frustrating, battle to see this legislation come to completion. Special “Thanks” to the folks at the Whig Standard, Kim Popovich to whom I file this every week, Whig News Editor Jan Murphy and Editor-in-Chief Steve Serviss. All of these responsible Whig team members have stood by me for years as I have pressed this issue. They gave me the opportunity to tell the “real” story and supported my every step. While the press is going through tough times, it’s still a recognized, respected medium to tell the whole story and for that I am eternally grateful to be allowed to write this weekly column, now in my 16th year! Cam Allen L.I.W. NHI ACI can be reached at alltechconsultinggroup@gmail.com for questions or comments.      

NATIONAL CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

Claude Lawrenson, RHI, National Certificate Holder, NCA Chair

Is There a Need for Two Credentials? I am sure that many home inspectors wonder why “we” have a system that seems to promote two similar but different credentials. Often in my travels and inspection discussions I am asked many questions about this, such as:Is one better than the other?Why do we really need both? To start with I will use what was deemed the logical starting point.CMHC and HRSDC looked to CAHPI some 13 years ago to resolve a number of concerns within the “home inspection” sector.The finds spawned a response.In November of 1996, representative members of the home inspection profession in Canada convened a meeting in Toronto to develop a long term “national” strategy for the profession.The finds resulted in a “rationale for change” which would be coordinated through a “national initiative.”Recorded comments included a look at the current scenario, long term goals and the expected benefits to the profession.The report was issued in June 1997. Through these deliberations a few key points in that report were identified that included:

(1)Fragmentation within the profession.

(2)Existing associations do not represent the entire home inspection sector.

(3)There is no mechanism in place allowing the different groups to work together towards achieving a common goal.

(4)Create a system to develop national standards for industry regulation, standards of performance for training and base qualifications for individuals entering the profession.

The steering committee indicated “we believe that unifying the professions around common goals is desired not only by members of the profession, but also by a host of stakeholders in the Canadian housing and financing community.We believe that the profession is capable of coalescing around a common strategy and that the merits of accomplishing that strategy will provide significant benefits to all.” This vision not only forged the creation of the CHIBO Steering Committee, but later resulted in the formation of the National Certification Program.The organizational objectives identified included:

(1)To elevate the status of the profession in the minds of the consumer, home inspectors, government and key stakeholders across Canada.

(2)To establish one recognized body speaking on behalf of the Canadian private sector home inspection profession at the national level.

(3)To establish performance standards for home inspections, a code of ethics and criteria for inspector certification that will give the general public confidence that all home inspectors have met the requirements of the national certification process.

(4)To ensure that inspections comply with that standard throughout Canada.

(5)To approve, support and coordinate provincial/regional accrediting agencies to administer, certify and provide disciplinary control of private-sector home inspectors.

The birth of the National Certification Program (NCP) occurred in 2006 after successful completion of the committee work.The vast majority of concerns noted were met.As such the NNCP is self-funded by applicant members and National Certificate Holders.It is governed by the NCA – Nation Certification Authority.The NCA is primarily comprised of National Certificate Holders.The identification of National Certificate Holder became the certification mark based on the creation and development of the NCC – National Certification Council, and also the NAC – National Accreditation Council.The creation of the NCP is supported by a good number of stakeholders across the country.Even the recent announcement and recognition of the National Certification Program – National Certificate Holder as one of the three organizations accepted for licensing in British Columbia is a positive indicator that there is significance to the credential. In order for an inspector to obtain their National Certificate, an applicant needs to complete a significant amount of classroom and field training – and they also need to complete, among other things, a minimum of one year as a practicing home inspector and 150 fee-paid inspections.Clearly, the National Certificate Holder level is not something that should be professed as an entry level, since you have to be an experienced home inspector before you can obtain it.This doesn’t sound like an entry level to me! The Registered Home Inspector (RHI) designation is the well-known and common certification mark used by CAHPI associations across the country.That is where much of the commonality of the RHI stops.Each CAHPI association has a uniquely different set of certification standards for a member inspector to achieve the RHI certification.This is based on expectation and largely without outside expertise.Each province established functional metrics for benchmarking their own effective certification criteria.On the other hand the NCP spent approximately a year in developing and completing those “in working condition metrics” – the DACUM of what are known as the “National Occupation Standards” for Home and Property Inspectors.Thus completed utilizing outside consultants and shared expertise from across the country.In fact a set of common core competencies are also shared between Canadian home inspectors and building officials – hence the acronym – CHIBO was also developed. Therefore, the certification organization needs to deliver a recognized standard for benchmarking home inspection abilities on which all consumers can depend.Equally, training providers need to offer academic and practical experiences in their offerings to assure that their home inspector training provides learning outcomes that develop the requisite skills for conducting a successful home inspection.As an educator that means developing or redesigning courses for home inspectors that at least meet the National Occupational Standards (NOS).The NOS identifies certain job tasks and skills that have been identified as important, by an accurate job-task analysis. To my knowledge only ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) has done so.The key thing to note here is that standardized assessment does not necessarily reveal whether the candidate can apply what is being regurgitated to actual job processes and onsite practical applications. Additionally, new entrants into this field should not be fooled by the hype – the education and training offerings are truly recognized and accredited.Unfortunately some get caught up in only partially preparing for the real job at hand.Chances are very high that some candidates will not be able to meet even the nationally recognized certification standard.This brings us to another vital tool that the NCP developed:the Test Inspection with Peer Review (TIPR).So in order to hire the right home inspector, consumers should also consider inquiring about who has actually inspected (validated) the inspector and who has independently validated the reporting and accuracy assessment skills of the inspector.Therein lays the role and value of completing a TIPR – scrutinizing the inspector. Recognized benchmarks of provincial validation must not only rest on the laurels of meeting antiquated psychometric testing standards, they must also rise above what is identified as traditional assessment methodologies.The goal should be to set new standards for providing bona fide benchmarks of ability.If experience coupled with knowledge and ability to perform are the keys, which truly should be recognized as the standard that is provided by the certifications you earn.To accomplish accurate benchmarking, certification programs need to look at testing on-the-job experience, not just pieces of it or terms about it. As home inspector certification and testing is brought to a new level of legitimacy with widespread adoption of performance-based models by the inspection sector, both credentials will in my opinion collectively serve as the definitive benchmarks.Equally those entering the profession will need to make sure that the education programs they choose will be recognized, and additionally provide them with hands-on experience, along with the required academics, when preparing for certification.These are all critical elements that must be considered to properly prepare for performing the actual job.At least for the next while there will always be a need for both credentials to exist, in mutual respect and reciprocal value to all home inspectors practicing in Canada.I look forward to your feedback. Re-printed with permission from Claude Lawrenson, Chair NCA

The Ottawa Citizen; Testing the testers

Many welcome national standards, regular reviews for home inspectors

Randy Ray, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Saturday, November 22, 2008

If anyone knows the value of investing in the services of a home inspector, it’s Julie Fournier.

In 2006, Ms. Fournier fell head over heels for a new townhome in Orléans. But after hearing rumblings about poorly drained land and unstable foundations in the east-end community, she paid $500 to have her dream home examined by a professional.

The inspection found serious cracks in the foundation and cracked walls in other townhomes in the same block. Spooked, she nixed the deal, and eventually bought in another Orléans neighbourhood.

“The home had a crack that had been patched, and re-cracked and patched again,” she recalls. “I really wanted the place, but the inspector said ‘You better be aware of what you are getting into.’ So I walked.”

Small wonder that Ms. Fournier favours the recent establishment of the Professional Home & Property Inspectors of Ontario (PHPIO), a new provincial umbrella group for home inspectors headed by Paul Wilson, the Ottawa home inspector who found the cracks in the townhome.

The association, which has been operational since mid-October, is the only provincial group of inspectors in Canada that requires members to adhere to the rigorous requirements set out in the National Certification Program (NCP), a professional standard for Canada’s home inspectors.

NCP was established in 2005, when Canada’s minister of housing announced that a national body, the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors, would be given the mandate to administer a certification model for all Canadian home inspectors. The program has the blessing of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Canadian Real Estate Association, the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Canadian Bankers Association.

The national program was intended to rid the system of inequities that allow anyone to call themselves a home inspector by taking a quick course on the Internet or simply printing business cards and advertising their services.

“Some inspectors out there are not qualified. They become certified online, or pay for business cards and go to work and the consumer doesn’t have a clue,” says PHPIO vice-president Wayne Fulton of Napanee.

PHPIO, on the other hand, trumpets the fact that its members can’t inspect a home unless they enroll and pass national certification courses that take two years and promise to have their skills field tested before a panel of their peers.

“To be a member of PHPIO inspectors have to show a group of seasoned inspectors they know what they are doing,” says Mr. Fulton.

The peer review costs $300.

Mr. Wilson says PHPIO is not attempting to do battle with other home inspectors’ groups in the province, including the 21-year-old Ontario Association of Home Inspectors. OAHI bills itself as “the voice” of the Ontario home inspection profession and grants its members the Registered Home Inspector (RHI) designation if they complete a series of baseline courses, technical background in the building field and successful completion of hundreds of actual home inspections.

On its Web site, OAHI says its members require a peer review to achieve the RHI designation, but Alrek Meipoom, the organization’s director of external affairs in Toronto concedes “a few hundred” of OAHI’s veteran members have not had the review.

The arrival of PHPIO is good news because the organization welcomes inspectors regardless of their past or present affiliation and qualify for national certification. This will improve the credentials of all home inspectors in the province, says Mr. Fulton.

“Because home inspectors in Ontario are not licensed or regulated we felt there was a need to provide a direct path to national certification,” says Mr. Fulton.

“We’ve raised the bar in Ontario by giving candidates a clear route to the national standards that will give the province a better breed of inspector,” he adds.

PHPIO, unlike other home inspectors’ groups, requires members to have additional peer reviews every five years to prove they are up to date on current practices and products, “just like members of the health care profession,” says Mr. Wilson, whose company, Home Inspectors, has been in business since 1980.

“Things are changing out there … green housing and energy efficient housing is all the rage and a lot of inspectors don’t understand the ramifications because they are not keeping up to date on new developments. We are saying this is not good enough.”

PHPIO’s bid to produce a better brand of home inspector in Ontario is welcome news for homeowners including Ms. Fournier who works in health care sales, but maintains her nursing credentials in case she returns to her former profession.

“As a nurse, I have to prove annually that I have kept up with reading and the latest information. Part of my licensing includes peer review. Why shouldn’t it be the same for the home inspector who is looking into my home, which is my major investment?”

For more information about PHPIO, visit www.phpio.ca

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The most frequent problems found by home inspectors

1. Improper surface grading/drainage: Responsible for the most common of household maladies: water penetration of the basement or crawl space.

2. Improper electrical wiring: Includes insufficient electrical service to the house, inadequate overload protection, and amateur, often dangerous, wiring connections.

3. Roof damage: Old or damaged shingles or improper flashing, which causes water leakage.

4. Heating systems: Broken or malfunctioning operation controls, blocked chimneys, and unsafe exhaust disposal.

5. Poor overall maintenance: Cracked, peeling, or dirty painted surfaces, crumbling masonry, makeshift wiring or plumbing, and broken fixtures or appliances.

6. Structurally related problems: Damage to foundation walls, floor joists, rafters, and window and door headers.

7. Plumbing: Old or incompatible piping materials, as well as faulty fixtures and waste lines.

8. Exterior flaws: Windows, doors, and wall surfaces responsible for water and air penetration. Inadequate caulking and/or weather stripping are the most common culprits.

9. Poor ventilation: Over-sealed homes resulting in excessive interior moisture that can cause rotting and premature failure of structural and non-structural elements.

Source: The Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

Learn more about the National Certification Program for Home Inspectors at: National Home Inspector Certification Council