Florida home inspectors lambast state licensing law
Make sure you check to see if your home inspector is licensed. (Photo courtesy of Cj Tyree)
Florida's new law requiring home inspectors to be licensed appears to have little support.
The two largest national home inspection groups say the law makes it too easy to become an inspector. A construction industry expert calls it "disastrous." One state official says that with only six home inspector complaints in 10 years, the state didn't ask for licensing. Even the legislator who sponsored the bill says it's not ideal.
But as of July 1, home inspectors must be licensed. The law includes a one-year grace period to educate inspectors and finalize details.
Bill sponsor State Rep. Ritch Workman says state regulation is not his first choice for protecting consumers from bad contractors. "I'm not really a 'big government' guy," he says. "I think the free market can protect you if you are shrewd enough to shop around."
The industry, he says, lobbied to be licensed and he says it does give homeowners an extra tool. "Before, if you hired a bad home inspector and he missed stuff or didn't do his job, the only recourse you had was to sue," Workman says. "Now you can go after their license."
Home inspector credentials
At least two national and one state home inspection associations offer their own credentials and continuing education requirements. While not a guarantee of quality, membership can indicate the inspector is properly trained.
Angie's List member Ceridwen Taliesin of Temple Terrace, Fla. says she would have appreciated that resource when she was looking for a home inspector last year. "I knew that anybody could call themselves a home inspector in Florida and they may not be telling you what you need to know," she says.
In addition to going after a bad contractor's license, the new law requires contractors to carry at least $300,000 in liability insurance so homeowners can file a claim if a job goes bad. But critics say the false sense of security the new law gives homeowners outweighs those benefits.
The law's requirements — 120 hours of classes, an exam and a criminal background check, but no experience needed — are too low to make "licensed" synonymous with "qualified," they say.
"You can't take somebody who knows nothing about construction and three weeks later graduate them as a home inspector," says Bob Koning, director of the Contractors Institute. "What they've effectively done is lower the bar so low that anybody can get it."
Nick Gromicko, founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, says the law's grandfather clause is also appalling. Through February, people can get a license with an exam and 14 hours of classes.
"We hoped that licensing would strengthen requirements, but by the time the grandfathering clause was put into the rule, it becomes a hurdle that everybody can just step over," he says.
Koning says homeowners should look for inspectors with a residential contractor license, which has stricter requirements. Many of the top-rated Tampa inspectors on Angie's List hold that license.
However, Mark Cramer, owner of Mark Cramer Inspection Services in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., says the residential contractor license is not always a reliable indicator of quality because "inspection and construction are entirely different things." He holds a construction license, but says, "You don't know what you don't know" until you've been trained in home inspection.