State program, mandated in 2001, designed to protect buyers
by Liza Gutierrez | Staff Writer
A state home inspector licensing program mandated in 2001 has finally begun.
Under the program, prospective homebuyers now know they are getting a technical expert, said Elwood A. Mosley, executive director of the state Real Estate Appraiser and Home Inspector Commission. The licensing program strengthens the quality and professionalism of the business, he said.
Now, if the consumer has a complaint about an inspector, state officials can help sort it out, he said. ‘‘We’re going to protect the consumer, but we’re also going to protect the home inspector.”
Although the General Assembly voted six years ago to launch the program, it was deferred because full funding was not available until nearly last fall, Mosley said.
But lack of funding did not stop the group from working internally to position commissioners on the board to work on policy and regulations, he said. ‘‘There was a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” Mosley said.
When the time came to start licensing, procedures were relatively straightforward, he said. The program began in April.
‘‘Buying a home is probably the most expensive purchase a person will ever have,” said Frank Lesh, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors. ‘‘To spend a few hundred dollars to make sure the house is OK is money well-spent.”
Home inspections have been performed since the mid-1950s, but more buyers began to consider it an essential part of the purchasing process by the early 1970s, according to a society report.
Texas was the first state to regulate home inspection, in 1985. Six years later, it was the first to establish a full licensing law. Now 31 states have adopted some form of regulation for the profession.
Regulations vary widely, from laws dictating what is required in a home inspection to those requiring inspectors to be registered, certified or licensed, according to the report.
The trouble with establishing state regulations is that often they set the bar too low, whereas his organization’s standards ‘‘far exceed the minimum,” he said. The American Society of Home Inspectors is a nonprofit with more than 6,000 members.
Lesh would ‘‘absolutely” recommend that buyers look for an inspector with more than just the state license requirements. ‘‘I want someone who exceeds the minimum,” he said. ‘‘Who wouldn’t?”
***An unforeseen consequence of a state license program is that schools spring up and market to people who may not have normally chosen this industry, Lesh said. Usually home inspectors come from construction trades, he said. ***
***In Illinois, there were about 450 home inspectors before state regulations, he said. After the rules were adopted, more than 3,000 became licensed. ***
***A consumer may think all licensed inspectors are the same, but some may never have done any work in a home before, he said. ***
Ilene Kessler, president of the Maryland Association of Realtors, said she does not know exactly how the licensing program will affect the industry, but additional licensing or certifications are ‘‘always a better thing.”
Kessler, a 22-year practitioner, has referred buyers to inspectors her clients have used and been happy with, she said. ‘‘I won’t put anyone on my list who is not … certified” by the Lesh’s organization, she said.
Many people think brokers will recommend home inspectors who will just help push the deal through, Kessler said, but brokers want a good inspector on the job to minimize liability.
‘‘If we do make recommendations [for an inspector], it’s [for] risk reduction,” she said.
AT A GLANCE
Home inspectors in Maryland must be licensed by 2008.
Violators could face criminal charges, up to a one-year jail sentence and a $5,000 penalty.
Cost of a home inspector license is $400; it remains valid for two years.
Applicants must have 48 hours of an on-site training course approved by the commission, a high school diploma and general liability insurance of at least $50,000.
No examination is required to obtain a license at this time.
Once home inspectors are licensed, similar to home appraisers, the commission will provide a service where people can search for active licensees who may practice in the state.
Source: The Maryland Departmentof Labor, Licensing and Regulation