Florida home inspectors lambast state licensing law

Make sure you check to see if your home inspector is licensed. (Photo courtesy of Cj Tyree)

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."

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.


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Unlicensed contractors feel the sting of the law

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Police arrest an unlicensed contractor during a sting in California. (Photo courtesy of the California Contractors State License Board)
Police arrest an unlicensed contractor during a sting in California. (Photo courtesy of the California Contractors State License Board)

Each state and local licensing board across the country has its own procedures for catching unlicensed contractors. Some rely on consumer tips or work with building officials to ensure legality when a permit is pulled.

Comments

I personally do not hold a contractors license. I do have 4 years in the residential construction industry, 18 years as a maintenance supervisor and regional maintenance supervisor over seeing the construction, maintenance and operations of 8 multi-million dollar multi-family housing communities. I have 6 years experience in repairing appliances with General Electric. I have dealt with more contractors than I can count and there are very few of them that I would hire to perform a home inspection. Not only do I have experience in construction but also maintaining properties and their components. There is much more to inspecting homes than knowing how to build or remodel them. My entire time as a maintenance supervisor I've done the equivalent of tens of thousands of inspections but I also had to do the repairs on the properties as well. All of that experience would not qualify me to be a home inspector and after signing up with InterNACHI I learned why. When it comes to home inspecting nothing beats education and experience but more important is your home inspectors due diligence and attention to detail. When looking for a home inspector you should be looking for someone who not only knows constuction but someone that has a working knowledge of how to maintain a property and one who's willing to take the time to impart that information to you.

Many correct comments here. While it is true the law requiring state certification may not be without fault. It is a start and closer than anyone hanging a shingle that only knows how to cash a check calls oneself a home inspector. I am a state certified inspector and instructor for home inspection and we constantly strive to add and improve the knowledge base. Good luck to all.

Those that fought so hard for the law, while well intentioned, have the aformentioned consequences to deal with. I've been on both sides of the fence and these are 2 different professions.

I am a home inspector and hold a residential contractor's license. I agree with Mark, Building homes and inspecting them are two different things. I have been in residential construction for over 20 years and (by my best estimate) have built around 750 homes. I have also worked as a Quality Control Manager for a couple of builders where I had to inspect the homes that were under construction. When I took a course on home inspection, I was surprised to find that there was a lot I didn't know. Just because someone holds a contractors license doesn't ensure that they can build a good home and, while it is a plus, it doesn't mean that they are qualified to inspect one either.

Building contractors and home inspectors are two totally different things. Being a building contractor without the proper training does not qualify one to do home inspections at all. See a sample report from the companies you are thinking about hiring and see their work before you choose.

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