Home Inspections have been a part of the real estate landscape for over 40 years. In Ontario, the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors [OAHI], was established by Ontario law in 1994 in order to assure a professional level of performance and conduct in the industry. Registered Home Inspectors, or RHIs were the first inspectors required to have; a minimum educational background, training in building inspection and reporting techniques, and professional liability insurance – also known as Errors and Omissions coverage.
This past Spring the Ontario Government’s Consumer Ministry passed Bill 59, a consumer protection act that will require Home Inspectors in this province to be licensed. This is a result of over a dozen organizations springing up over the last 30 years, many of which, “Certify” persons to function or operate as building inspectors even though they were not able to attain the status of RHI and gain admission into Ontario’s premier inspection association. It will likely take several years to establish all the necessary administration and reviews to remove unqualified persons from practicing in this province.
Consumers expect Home Inspectors to protect their best interest, however, the inspection is only as good as the inspector you hire.
When looking for an inspector ensure that the inspector is a member of a professional organization that includes a requirement for building trades related background and training, ongoing Continuing Education, mandatory E and O coverage – in case the inspector makes an error in the course of their duties – and choose someone who has many years of experience in the industry. The home inspection itself will not be a guarantee or a warranty against defects that may be discovered after the inspection and possibly months or years after taking possession of the home.
A professional inspection is going to cost anywhere from $450 to $600, or more, depending on the age and size of the building, as well as any special features that may exist on the property such as apartments, detached garages, rooftop terraces, etc. The standards of practice typically require that the inspector only observes and report on the major systems of the building, the components that make up those systems, and whether or not there are any immediate major deficiencies or expenses anticipated for the buyer of the home. The roof, structure, electrical and plumbing system, for example, would be inspected and reported on. The inspector would be required to look in the attic, open the electrical panel, and operate the heating or cooling systems. The inspector would not be required to test for indoor air quality or identify environmental hazards through a thorough inspection backed by experience could rule out the need for additional investigations.
Your building inspector may be qualified and capable of exceeding their standard of practice, however, it is best if you view your inspector as a GP or general practitioner. They can give your building a “Physical” but depending on what they can observe during the relatively short time that they can attend at the property, they will often be limited in their ability to provide any absolute judgments regarding the building. They may need to refer you to a specialist, someone either licensed in a particular trade or trained and qualified to assess the likelihood of specific hazards such as indoor air quality. Your inspector may not provide cost estimates for additional investigation or for remediation of deficiencies discovered and reported under their scope but many, especially those with trade experience, will do so in spite of the fact that this is a very inexact practice, especially as they are not permitted to disturb or damage the home and its finishes in the course of their inspection.
When choosing your inspector, ensure that they will remain available in the future to consult regarding the home you purchase or own. Their unbiased opinion and broad experience can be invaluable as you decide to make changes to your home, deal with any deficiencies that exist, or as you prepare the home to put it on the market and perhaps have it inspected by another inspector or purchaser.