Adopting statewide housing code will protect homeowners

So…a state passes a law to license home inspectors and, still suffering from the same conditions, concludes that licensed home inspectors without building codes…solves nothing.

Every Missouri and Kansas Legislator needs a copy of this articlewhen the 2010 session opens.


Tennessee Voices

A couple buys a new home in a community without a residential code enforcement program. The couple does a walk-through, but the home is never inspected by a licensed home inspector until after they move in. Within the first year of owning the home, they discover stress cracks in the foundation blocks, improperly vented bathroom fans, rafters installed to span too far for their size and kitchen plumbing that allowed sewer gas to flow into the home. The couple pursue the only legal recourse they have — a lawsuit against the contractor — that may never lead to the outcome they desire.

I hear stories like this one from our Contractors Licensing Board program staff all too frequently. In addition to all too often being victims of substandard construction, Tennessee homeowners also have the distinction of leading the nation in residential electrical energy consumption. Gov. Phil Bredesen, in signing into law the Tennessee Clean Energy Future Act of 2009, observed that while we like to be at the top of many lists, this is not one of them.

Adopting and enforcing a residential code ensures safer construction and adds energy efficiency that literally pays dividends to homeowners over time. In fact, under the newer editions of the International Residential Code, the savings in energy costs more than make up for any increase in construction costs within just a few years. Adopting and enforcing an up-to-date residential code has been recognized by affordable housing advocates as wise public policy.
Energy efficiency is critical

After meeting with contractors, builders, codes officials, and city and county officials, and in conjunction with the Governor’s Energy Task Force, our state fire marshal division recently filed a notice of rulemaking. True to our governor’s call to lead by example, we will be requiring all state building projects to meet the most energy efficient building standards. We will also be adopting the 2009 International Residential Code, which will apply to all new residential construction in any city and county that either hasn’t adopted its own residential code enforcement program or has decided to allow the state fire marshal to implement the state’s program. We are designing this codes enforcement program to be implemented statewide at absolutely no cost to local governments.

As an added incentive, working through the state’s energy office, we will be providing to participating municipalities free materials and training in the 2009 code, as well as recent editions of the codes. Federal grants of up to $100,000 for energy improvements have criteria designed to give incentives to communities making, or allowing the state to make, progress in codes adoption or enforcement.

We are excited to be a part of the efforts to align policy with our governor’s vision for a safer and greener Tennessee, and we hope that by setting the standard for state building projects, Tennessee cities and counties will participate in this statewide initiative to help make our homes safe and energy efficient.

I believe Missouri, and just recently, Kansas, has an “energy audit” program in place due to the Federal Government stimulus money rolling into those states. The Feds are looking at all aspects of homes, now that so many are in forclosure, mortgage fraud, and high energy usages. It is just a matter of time before national home inspection laws, rules, and regulations will become a way of life. HUD, FHA, appraisers, all have some national rules in place. See Cap and Trade. More governement regulations, less freedoms. The feds could force the new 2009 RBC onto the states that accept this money. Just adds more confusion IMO.

Jim, this article is not about home inspectors and the home inspectors license program in TN. It is about the lack of a state wide building code and code inspectors in TN!

Home inspection licensing has help to rid the market of hobbyist home inspectors in TN, and in many other states. It established a single standard that inspectors can be held accountable for if they do not perform to it. It also established an education benchmark for a person wanting to enter the profession in the state.

…but, according to the article, it has not protected the consumer from buying bad houses.

Why? Licensing home inspectors in states where builders and contractors run amuck without any accountability or minimum basic standards is like taking a shower and putting your dirty underwear back on…thinking you are clean. It is bass-ackwards.

Consumer protection begins with a home that is built according to minimum basic standards and verified to be so by an AHJ…followed up by maintenance conducted by licensed contractors. Then, when it is being resold…it makes sense that the inspector making a report on its condition be licensed as well…

But to license the last guy to look at it…with the builder and the contractors totally unaccountable… still forces the consumer to guess right along with the inspector what lies hidden behind the drywall, the soil under the foundation, the framing under the attic insulation…

Can you understand this?

If the standard is weak, the results will be weak. If the
enforcement is weak the accountability will be weak. If
the benchmark is low, the results will be inferior.

Higher standards produce better results. Not all inspector laws
produce good results. Some states have such low standards
that they are actually promoting hobby inspectors into a
position of deceiving the public that they are now qualified
by the state.

We all know standards, accountability and education are good
for everyone, but most inspectors do not want it enforced.

Enforcement cannot filter out all bad inspectors, but it does
help, if the standards are high enough to be meaningful IMHO.

With that said, there will always be corrupt and lazy people
that make it into the profession. In a licensed state, were
the laws are enforced, the negligent inspector can be punished
when discovered, which is a good thing.

My son wants to be an inspector, but Texas demands a lot
of training, education and testing to become an inspector.
It is not easy and he has learned a lot in the process. He
has chosen the path that requires him to do 200 ride alongs,
and put in several hundred hours of education and a very
stringent state exam (two). Then he must carry E&O insurance
as well.

This is a much better process than allowing him to hang out
a sign and start inspecting with no requirements IMHO.

TN does license home builders and most of the larger towns do have code inspections, but TN also has many rural areas that do not have code inspections outside of a state electrical inspection which is required.

If you are in a state that does not license builders then I would think that it would be very important to have a home inspector who is licensed and is required to follow a mandated standard, verses a person who was greasing the Tilt-A-Whirl yesterday at the county fair.

Folks should not be scared of licensing, it actually does have some benefits for the inspectors. One being that your job duty is spelled out along with what is expected of you as an inspector.

I’m not trying to change your mind about licensing, that would be like trying to keep the Sun from shining.