Missouri Democrats Propose Statewide Building Code

Almost every state legislative session will find at least one brave Missouri politician from the Senate or the House who will put forth a bill that would require minimum basic building standards throughout the state. These bills all die from inattention and loneliness due to the fear that the remaining elected representatives have from the special interest groups —like the Missouri Association of Realtors (MAR) and Missouri Builders Association— who have spent a lot of their money to fight the bills.

It seems to make little difference to them that any Third Grade elementary school student from St. Louis with barely passing grades has actually met all of the requirements that is necessary to wire a five-story hotel in dozens of city and county jurisdictions that avoid having any basic minimum building standards.

Nor does it seem to matter to them that the loss of lives and properties in residential or commercial structures is considered to be so common they rarely even make the area news broadcasts.

Independence from minimum basic building and safety standards is not only economically beneficial to builders but is a treasured “right” and passage of any legislation that would implement these standards are the “kiss of death” to any representative hoping for reelection.

This is why I support the agenda set forth this year by the Missouri Association of Realtors in their step toward their goal of licensing home inspectors, particulary Missouri HB 122, presented by Democratic Representatives Webber and Kanter.

For the first time in many Missouri counties and cities a state licensed professional would be inspecting buildings and applying a state-wide minimum basic standard in the written report that he produces for any home buyer, lending institution, insurance company or other party who retains his services.

In MO HB 122, a written test is required for potential inspectors to pass in order to demonstrate their knowledge regarding the basic minimum standards to be applied when building or remodeling a home. Every test presently being used in states requiring licensing test the inspector’s knowledge of exisiting building standards. In addition to the test,this bill also requires potential inspectors to be trained in a classroom in order to know how to apply these standards so that they can discover and accurately report “defects” left behind by builders and contractors.

While MO HB 122 does not specifically reference any particular standard, it leaves it up to the autonomous inspectors appointed to a licensing board (whom the bill grants total authority to write an inspection “standard”) and it refers to “defects” and the accountability of an inspector to find them and report them. . As anyone who has ever evaluated something to consider whether or not it is defective knows for a fact — you cannot have a “defect” without first having a “basic minimum standard” to apply it to.

**This latest law, if passed, will put a state recognized professional in every jurisdiction in the state who will then be able to offer and sell his services to insurance companies, lenders, lawyers (and their plaintiffs or defendants they represent), as well as anyone else needing a report on the ability of a certain building or contractor to meet these standards…and to provide their official state licensed expert opinions in any case where these standards are not met. **

Banks can withhold draw payments to builders who are building inferior buildings until the defects are remedied. Insurance companies can increase rates or deny coverage where buildings fail to meet the minimum basic standards for safety and occupancy, as reported by the state licensed inspector.

In addition to this is the fact that consumers who are purchasing homes that were built by unlicensed contractors using unskilled labor will be able to hire a state recognized professional to closely examine the product and report on any “defects” that fail to meet the minimum basic standards that they are tasked by the state to apply.

There is little doubt that this generous act toward the best interest of those who purchase private and commercial real estate is an unintended contribution by the special interests who have consistently fought against anything that would or could interfere with their commissions resulting from the sale of such properties. That is why, in order to fine tune their legislation to the necessary degree to where it will benefit all who are wanting to use a home inspector to inspect their prospective homes —there is one more adjustment that must be made.

Once the insurance companies, lawyers, lenders, real estate agents, and consumers have access to a complete list of all state recognized (registered, licensed, or otherwise) inspectors there is no longer a legitimate reason for real estate agents to have a role in the process of referring, scheduling or otherwise recommending home inspectors or arranging them for their clients. There are, however, many obvious illegitimate reasons for their doing so.

Since all inspectors who appear on the state recognized list have met or exceeded the criteria of making that list, then each of them is equally qualified to perform the service that the salesman’s client would require. What is there left for a salesman to “prefer” about any specific inspector if not his willingness to write a report that would “favor” a house to help a salesman close his deal?

Thus, any home inspection regulatory bill that is presented to the legislature that represents itself as being in the best interest of the public must ALSO prohibit real estate brokers, salespersons, or anyone employed by them to involve themselves in the process of referring, recommending, or otherwise engaging the services of a state recognized home inspector.

With only that very practical and minor adjustment that no legitimate real estate salesman (or entity representing such) should object to, I fully support the application of a statewide minimum basic standard to be used by state recognized home inspectors to provide services in areas throughout the state — particularly where there are presently no standards or enforcement presently in place.