In July 2002, ASHI issued its inaugural Position Statement on Regulation of Home Inspectors. This groundbreaking document—the first of its kind produced by a professional inspector society—coincided with ASHI’s first participation in the Annual Meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. It was a natural match: a white paper from the preeminent professional inspector society, with critical information state lawmakers need to ensure consumer protection, delivered to the largest gathering of legislative movers and shakers in North America. And, it has proven beneficial to consumers, legislators and inspectors.
The Position Statement outlines the critical components that any legislation purporting to protect the homebuying public must contain: professional standards of practice and code of ethics, a high-stakes exam developed according to accepted psychometric standards, and experience, education and continuing education requirements.
Understanding the needs of legislators and staff and their habit of sharing with each other, ASHI put those components in a template Model Home Inspector Licensing bill. And, we graded all existing inspector legislation according to a weighted point system correlating with the critical components. We wanted legislators to borrow from the best, not the worst. In this way, we marketed ASHI as the preeminent private-sector source of expert information on any important legislative issue, offering to work with legislators to promote worthwhile regulations.
The Position Statement is a living document because statutes and rules are constantly evolving and new bills are introduced every legislative session in the 50 states. So, in June of every year, the ASHI Legislative Committee (LGC) looks at what’s new and revises the Statement accordingly.
The 2006 edition is the fifth version, and much has changed since 2002, when 25 states were regulated. Today, 31 states have some sort of inspector regulation in place. Given that 27 of those have enacted laws in the past nine years alone, the trend is clear: it’s only a matter of when, not if, in every state.
What’s new in the 2006 Position Statement?
Following are the substantive changes the ASHI Board of Directors approved at its July meeting:
• The LGC changed the language on exams. It removed all reference to a specific exam, the National Home Inspector Examination, and replaced it with language requiring an exam developed pursuant to psychometric standards and proctored securely on-site. The LGC felt that in today’s environment, it is no longer advisable to advocate exams that member societies use for membership purposes. This creates an easy target for unethical groups to use to demand acceptance of their flimsy membership exams.
• The LGC changed the makeup of a model governing board to seven members—five inspectors and two public members. The LGC felt that a diverse governing board with non-inspectors is a better board with more experience and is not seen as self-serving to the profession.
• Supervised inspections must be on-site.
• The number of training inspections was changed from a range of 25 to 100 to a minimum of 50.
• Language about “business management” was removed from the education requirements.
• A brief forward was added to explain what inspectors do.
• The LGC included enforceability as a factor in rating the key criteria in a law.
That last change is important. The LGC decided to include “none of unenforceable” to explain why a provision in a law might be Bad. If a provision is unenforceable, it may be worse than no provision, as it may give false comfort to the public. An unenforceable provision is now identified by two asterisks—**—in the report card.
This made a real difference in the grades of two states. Pennsylvania has a law that looks great on paper. ASHI had it ranked number 5 out of 30, with a grade of 105 (of a possible 123). It turns out the Experience requirement is not enforceable. That, and some other adjustments, dropped Pennsylvania to number 26, with a grade of 52. That’s something we will discuss with Pennsylvania lawmakers at NCSL.
Likewise, California dropped from 28 to dead last because several of its provisions cannot be enforced. This is a serious issue.
There were several other changes in the Report Card. Beginning August 1, 2006, West Virginia became the thirty-first state to regulate home inspectors. We reviewed the W. Va. law in the August Reporter. The LGC rated this law as Good, giving it a grade of 93, putting it in the top ten of regulated states.
Other states made changes in their statutes or rules and regulations that affected their grades. One of the most significant was New Jersey, which lowered its Experience requirements to approximately 15, significantly lower than ASHI’s suggested 50. That dropped N.J. from the top-ranked law to number two.
Tennessee jumped up from 23 to 12 by adopting strong standards of practice and a valid exam. Kentucky improved its rank from 24 to 18 by adding Experience, Education and Exam requirements. Maryland’s license law is now funded and it added good standards of practice and prohibited acts that moved it from 25 to 23.
The top five graded states are now, in order, Louisiana, New Jersey/Texas, Arizona and Massachusetts. If legislators want to know what laws to emulate, those are the ones.
All in all, it was a busy legislative year, with almost 90 bills affecting inspectors introduced in 29 states. And, it’s not over yet, with important legislation pending in key states like Michigan. Any additional changes will be noted by the LGC when it reviews what’s new in June 2007, and releases a new Position Statement at the NCSL Annual Meeting in Boston in August 2007.
In the October issue, we’ll review what happened at the Nashville meeting. Stay tuned.
Download a PDF of the ASHI Postion Statement on Regulation of Home Inspectors.