August, 2010
Washington Watch
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



ASHI Takes a Stand for Consumer Protection

SANDY BOURSEAU

Did you know home inspection counseling provisions are in the federal government's H.R. 4173 Act?

Working with Randall Pence of Capitol Advocates, Inc., ASHI sent a letter in support of those provisions in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Drafted by Pence on ASHI's behalf, it was addressed to
Honorables Barney Frank, Christoper Dodd, Spencer Bachus, copied to the Honorable Nydia Velazquez, and signed by David Tamny, ASHI president and Jeffrey Arnold, ASHI
executive director.

Here is the letter in full:

--------------------------------------------------------------------

To:  THE HONORABLE BARNEY FRANK

THE HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER DODD

THE HONORABLE SPENCER BACHUS

THE HONORABLE RICHARD SHELBY

 

CC:  THE HONORABLE NYDIA VELAZQUEZ

 

From: MR. DAVID TAMNY, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF HOME INSPECTORS

MR. JEFFREY ARNOLD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF HOME INSPECTORS

 

 

Friday, June 18, 2010

 

 

On behalf of the members of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), we are writing to express our strong support for the Home Inspection Counseling provisions (Sec. 1451) in the base text of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which is currently in House-Senate conference. 

 

ASHI represents more than 6,000 professional independent home inspectors and 80 chapters across the United States.  ASHI maintains the most rigorous standards of practice and code of ethics enhancing professionalism in U.S. home inspection services.  It is the largest, oldest and most respected professional association for home inspectors in North America.  ASHI is the key resource for policy-makers on Capitol Hill and HUD with respect to all matters relating to home inspection issues, and is pleased to offer its views once again.     

 

Professional independent home inspectors play a vital role in helping homebuyers understand the physical conditions of their homes.  In this sense, home inspectors offer key services to protect consumers as they make the most important purchasing decisions.

 

In brief, home inspection is a form of consumer protection for your constituents. 

 

The decision to obtain a home inspection is voluntary.  While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development urges homebuyers to obtain a home inspection, a home inspection is not required. 

 

Of course, the voluntary nature of home inspection creates a commensurate need to ensure that millions of homebuyers  -- as many as possible -- are fully informed about the utility, availability, and need for home inspections, as early as possible in the homebuying process. 

 

The General Accounting Office has determined that the vast majority of homebuyers are confused and ill-informed about the nature of home inspection.  ASHI believes that this confusion, and lack of information, is a pervasive impediment that prevents homebuyers from obtaining home inspections to help them make informed decisions at critical intervals. 

 

The Home Inspection Counseling provisions in Sec. 1451 will enlist HUD and HUD housing counselors to address these problems: 

 

1)  In terms of basic outreach, the Home Inspection Counseling provisions will invoke the vast communications resources and the authority of HUD and its housing counseling network to provide homebuyers with valuable information on home inspection.         

 

The Home Inspection Counseling provisions will require HUD to inform potential homebuyers of the availability and importance of obtaining an inde­pendent home inspection.  HUD will be tasked to take such actions as to –

 

-- publish the HUD/FHA form "For Your Protection: Get a Home Inspection", in both English and Spanish languages;

 

-- develop and publish a HUD booklet entitled "For Your Protection-Get a Home Inspection" that does not reference FHA-insured homes, in both English and Spanish languages (designed for homebuyers who do not use FHA-insured financing);

 

-- publish the HUD document entitled "Ten Important Questions To Ask Your Home Inspector", in both English and Spanish languages.

 

HUD will jump-start the widespread availability of these messages by making them available for electronic access and, where appropriate, inform potential homebuyers of such availability through home purchase counseling public service announcements and toll-free telephone hotlines of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

HUD shall give special emphasis to reaching first-time and low-income homebuyers with these materials and efforts.

 

2)  Each mortgage lender approved for participation in the FHA mortgage insurance programs under title II of the National Housing Act shall provide prospective homebuyers, at first contact, whether upon pre-qualification, pre-approval, or initial application, the home inspection materials named above.  This provision addresses the critical need that is not being met today – making sure that homebuyers are fully informed on their home inspections options very early in the homebuying process so that they may make the greatest use of home inspection -- and seek to include a home inspection as a contract condition. 

 

3)  Perhaps most important, every HUD-approved housing counseling agency certified to provide housing counseling services shall provide each of their clients, as part of the home purchase counseling process, the detailed home inspection materials specified above.

 

Further, housing counselor training provided by HUD for housing counseling agencies --  whether such training is provided directly by the Department or otherwise -- shall include training to counsel potential homebuyers of the availability and importance of getting an independent home inspection. 

 

Training shall include specific information about the home inspection process so that counselors can fully and accurately educate their homebuying clients, including the reasons for specific inspections such as radon and lead-based paint testing.

 

Also very important, training will provide information on advising potential homebuyers how to locate and select a qualified home inspector. 

 

Further, counselors will be fully trained on the home inspection outreach documents developed by HUD. 

-----

 

ASHI has developed a strong, productive working relationship with HUD.  We look forward to serving as a resource to the Department as it develops procedures to implement Sec. 1451.  ASHI would be happy to assist in a number of roles to develop or offer training modules on home inspection through ASHI's education/training program and the ASHI School.  

           

Thus, ASHI strongly supports the provisions in Sec. 1451.  We urge its retention without amendment in the conference report that will be sent to the President to be signed into law. 

 

As an aside, we would also like to express ASHI's support for a provision in Sec. 1450 that would require the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to publish materials that, among other things, explain the differences between appraisals and home inspections.  This is an issue on which ASHI has been active for many years, another matter of widespread homebuyer confusion identified by GAO.  The confusion is especially detrimental to home inspection inasmuch as appraisals are required, whereas home inspections are voluntary.  The language in Sec. 1450 has been recommended by ASHI in the past.  We are pleased to support it in the Wall Street Reform Bill for use by the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

 

Thank you very much for your kind consideration.  ASHI stands ready to be of further assistance to Congress as would be helpful.


Mr. David Tamny
President
American Society of Home Inspectors               

Mr. Jeffrey Arnold

Executive Director

American Society of Home Inspectors



--------------------------------------------------------------------

Through its federal lobbying program, ASHI continues to speak out on consumer protection issues and enjoys a unique position of influence in Washington. Regardless of the fate of the H.R. 4173 Act, ASHI again has represented the profession at the highest levels of government.