June, 2006
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Safeguarding the Credibility of the Canadian Inspection Industry

BILL MULLEN

Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors National Certification Program for Home Inspectors

Every occupation has many levels of training, competence and education. In most, there is one plateau that stands above the rest and is
coveted by all others.

In the home inspection industry, we toss around words like “Registered,” “Certified,” and “Master” hoping that the public and other stakeholders will be impressed enough to hire us over obviously lesser mortals. Unfortunately, the overuse, misuse and abuse of these terms have caused them to lose their value and importance. Anyone with some cardstock and a computer can now become an instant “Certified” home inspector. Far too many organizations provide official-looking “Certifications” that can be earned, in some cases, by writing a cheque.

This has been a problem for almost as long as the industry has existed. For years, homebuyers have relied on ‘qualified’ practitioners to advise them on the wisdom of their biggest lifetime investment. Many of these inspectors were lacking in experience, related education and training. It now has reached epidemic proportions in what is basically a bait and switch on unsuspecting consumers. There is no consistent national standard in Canada for performance, and an uneven quality of service can lead to a lack of credibility for the inspection industry.

Almost ten years ago, the Canadian government, with the cooperation of several home inspection associations, franchises, educators and practitioners, decided that something drastic needed to be done on a large scale. Two federal government agencies, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), funded a number of focus groups and studies to determine the extent of the problems and investigate ways to correct them.

This became known as “The National Initiative for Canadian Home Inspectors.”
The general consensus at the time was that the only valid way to ensure consistency and fairness would be for all associations, individual inspectors, franchises and multi-inspector firms to agree on a “job description” for our profession. A steering committee called CHIBO (Canadian Home Inspectors and Building Officials) was formed with representatives from many corners of the country. Several meetings and a couple of years later, the National Occupational Standards (NOS) were created and ratified by all stakeholders in 2001. This process was referred to as CHIBO 1. These standards detailed the range and depth of skill, knowledge and ability that home and property inspectors need to perform their duties.

Those involved in this initiative also realized that the success of a project of this magnitude demanded that one umbrella organization would administer the program uniformly instead of many smaller groups reaching for different targets. This decision led to the creation of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI). In 2002, CAHPI was incorporated and tasked with a goal of guiding and administering the certification process.

The next chapter of the initiative was named CHIBO 2. Its purpose was
to determine what abilities, experience and knowledge home inspectors would need in order to perform inspections according to the NOS. The challenge was to identify a high and defensible standard of competence that would be the same in every province, but would still recognize certain provincial idiosyncrasies.

The CHIBO Committee, with CAHPI, CMHC, HRDC and the Construction Sector Council (CSC) then set up a process to allow home and property inspectors to be officially evaluated and certified as competent professionals by CAHPI’s National Certification Body, which was named the “National Certification Authority” (NCA).

The Certification Model for Canadian Home Inspectors became a reality in late 2005, when the Federal Minister of Housing announced that CAHPI would be “The Voice of the Canadian Home Inspection industry,” and would be given the mandate to administer the Certification model fairly and equally among Canadian Home inspectors, including members and non-members.

Practitioners now could learn what the requirements were for them to become legitimate, credible home inspectors. The requirements are not onerous or impossible, but they have enough rigor to be defended easily, and they are based on actual occupational standards that were developed through thousands of hours of study and debate. In this Certification Model, there are two levels:

1. Candidate: The entry point into the National Certification Program.

2. National Certificate Holder:  The completion of the National Certification Program.

Even before an inspector can apply for Candidate status, he/she must:

  • Complete a minimum of 200 hours of training courses specific to home and property inspection from an accredited institution. The NCA has appointed a National Accreditation Council (NAC) to review and evaluate courses for accreditation.
  • Complete a minimum of 50 hours of practical field training.
  • Pass all training course exams.
  • Pass one test inspection with peer review (TIPR).
It also is recommended, though not a requirement for certification, that applicants have a high school diploma and two years of practical experience in residential construction or renovation, plus one more of:

  • A diploma or degree program in a building science.
  • A journeyperson provincial or Red Seal trade ticket in a construction trade.
  • Substantial work experience in residential construction or renovation, or equivalent work experience.
Once technical training is complete, individuals may apply to the National Certification Council (NCC) for a background review. This council has five experienced home inspectors and three well-respected members of the general community. They will determine at which level a person should be placed in the certification program.

Candidates are allowed up to three years to qualify to apply for “National Certificate Holder” status. During this period, they must:

  • Perform inspections for a minimum of one year as a Candidate.
  • Perform a minimum of 150 fee-paid home inspections as a Candidate, using an inspection and reporting system that complies with the CAHPI Standards of Practice.
  • Pass a minimum of two test inspections (TIPR) of houses with known defects at least three months apart.
Once the above criteria have been met, applications can be made to the National Certification Authority for National Certificate Holder status.

In order to maintain that status, inspectors must:
  • Complete a Test Inspection with Peer Review every five years.
  • Continue to comply with the CAHPI Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
  • Complete a minimum of 20 hours each year of any of the
  • following:
  • Technical courses or workshops directly related to home and property inspection;
  • Courses in law, ethics, business practices, communication, conflict resolution or other relevant subjects; or
  • Service to CAHPI or a provincial association.
The National Certification Authority is conducting a Pilot Project during the first half of 2006 in which more than 100 inspectors from all parts of Canada have agreed to participate. The NCA has hired two professional consultants to ensure all documents and processes follow accepted guidelines. The NCA also has appointed experienced inspectors and members of the public to serve as Project Coordinator, Chief Examiner, Registrar, and as members of the NAC and NCC. Many more experienced inspectors have been trained to serve as Examiners for the Test Inspections.

The aim of the Pilot Project is to identify any problems with the Model and the process. It also will help the NCA to determine the actual costs needed to accredit courses and to certify practitioners. The project is on schedule to finish by the summer of 2006, at which time CAHPI and the NCA hope to invite all Canadian home inspectors, both members and non-members, to apply to become National Certificate Holders. The goal is to have about 500 Certificate Holders by the end of 2006, and many more in subsequent years, until most competent Canadian home inspectors have the National designation.