February, 2010

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

There Ain't No Sunshine in Florida


It is the best of times and the worst of times. Like so many states before us, Florida will become a licensed state for home inspectors by July of 2010. The legislation is not great when compared to other states, and it got mixed reviews from our industry when it was passed. Nevertheless, it is here and we need to try to build on it.

To paraphrase the law …

To be certified as a home inspector, a person must be of good moral character and complete a course of study of no less than 120 hours covering the components of a home. 

I know what you’re thinking. What about the existing industry? Those of us who have been around for 15- or 20-plus years? Well, the state is trying to sort that out.

The Department of Professional Regulation (DPR) sees a potential problem if they proceed exactly as the law is written. For one thing, the 120-hour classroom requirement is ambiguous when it comes to quality of education.

It is the best of times because the state, through the DPR, has taken the unprecedented step of asking our opinion as home inspectors on how we would like them to proceed. The state has never before done such a thing. When contractor licensing was implemented in the 1960s, there was no industry input. This has been true of every other profession regulated prior to us. So, why ask us home inspectors?

Well, because they want business to continue after July of 2010 without disruption. The state wants to be able to “approve” existing home inspectors on or after July 2010 so the public is not without inspections and the industry (that’s us) is not affected.

DPR held stakeholder meetings at four different locations throughout the state to get input from the inspection industry on three specific subjects. I attended one of those meetings. The subjects were:
Three-hour sessions were scheduled at each venue to discuss the three topics and to try to gauge what would be best for the industry. At the meeting I attended, there were 100 to 150 inspectors, some from established organizations, others who were not affiliated with any organization. The entire three hours were spent discussing grandfathering, with no discussion of the other two subjects. Keep in mind: Grandfathering is not accounted for in the law. The Florida Legislature, through DPR, is planning to entertain what they call a “glitch amendment” in the spring legislative session to allow for grandfathering. It may or may not pass, and its impact will have a tremendous effect on whether we will be in business in July of 2010 or whether we will be breaking the law.

From what I heard at the meeting I attended and from reports of what occurred at the other meetings, I’ve come to the following conclusion.

It is the worst of times because the presentation was embarrassing. It later would be described as a bunch of yahoos acting like buffoons. A state representative characterized the meetings by saying, “Their lack of professionalism was hugely embarrassing, to say the least, and much worse than I am describing.”

Speaker after speaker berated the governor (who is trying to allow the continuation of business without interruption), the Florida Legislature, DPR (who did us the courtesy of asking for our input) and inspection organizations.

Did I mention the general appearance of most attendees? The majority were proudly dressed in shorts, sneakers, cut-offs and T-shirts touting their individual companies or affiliations. The audience cheered or applauded whenever a particular inappropriate comment or jab was delivered. Speakers went off-subject on every occasion and treated the meeting as their individual soapbox for whatever agenda they brought with them. Most of the conversation was on how the law as passed should be repealed, changed, modified or somehow made to conform to standards already in place in other states. None of which had anything to do with what this meeting was about.

DPR has no authority to address or affect any of those suggestions. Those are things that should have been brought up during the framing of the inspection law.

Personally, I think our profession was set back 20 years, not to mention how the state may react to our industry. It’s ironic that when the legislation was first going through committee, various Standards of Practice might have been adopted, but weren’t because of all the backbiting and infighting among the stakeholders.

Only a few of us at the meeting were dressed appropriately and addressed our comments to the subject matter. I’ve heard about similar responses to licensing in other states, but it’s something else to see it firsthand.

We claim to be professionals. But are we? There may be approximately 600 inspectors in Florida who want to be recognized as professionals whether we have licensing or not. But when it comes down to it, we have a long, arduous way to go. We don’t help ourselves by dissing others or by acting as a mob.

It is the best of times because, although all of this happened, the state may usher in us “professionals” as we now are in order to make for a smooth transition. Or, they may postpone the law’s implementation in order to figure out what they want to do.

Either way, it will be in spite of us when it should be because of us.

I write this for a reason: We should learn from our mistakes and change our mind-set for the future. Whatever happens will only marginally affect us today. The law will greatly affect future inspectors and that is who we are representing. Future inspectors who will have to meet the criteria we, as home inspectors, are setting today.

So, fellow home inspectors, I beseech you: Quit your carping and let’s act as one voice for the sake of professionalism and the betterment of our industry.