North Carolina legislative update...

Hello to all NC-InterNACHI members!$

Below is an un-polished, choppy, bulletined memo containing a legislative update. It is the best I can do in short order to keep you all up to date.

The way this bill was introduced and quickly substituted gave rise to feelings that it is like the fox guarding the hen house, and I agree that it certainly began like that. In its current version, however, all inspector associations have been given a voice and our major concerns have been addressed. Some will say we got into cahoots with the bad guys, but this could not be further from the truth. We all sat down and had peaceful discussions and negotiations and we did the best we could to make this a good piece of legislation. Much of the remaining criticism comes from people who did not request to become a part of the debate, and they are criticizing a process they would not join. The NC Home Inspector Licensure Board continues to oppose this bill and especially section 6, and they may get further concessions. I support the board in their efforts, and I think their arguments have real validity. I connote, however, make my final stand on the points that seem to concern our members the least as long as the major points of concern are being addressed in the best way we could maneuver.

The bill S1007/HB979 is scheduled to come before the House Committee in Small Business Commerce, and Economic Development this Wednesday and will likely pass. This is the last major hurdle to it becoming law, so it will probably become law this legislative year.

This is how the bill stands:

  1. The high school diploma/equivalent requirement was re-inserted. It was probably removed by a clerical error in bill drafting down at the state building.

  2. The proposal still not really address the Architect, Engineer, General Contractor “loophole” by which most inspectors enter the profession with little more than a dream and having passed two tests as was the original desire of our licensure board in bringing new legislation. The only concession we were able to get from the very powerful lobbyists of NC Home Builder’s Association is a 6 month waiting period in which new GC’s cannot apply for their inspector’s license. They also committed in very loose language to revisit this in a couple of years if the problem still continues, in the opinion of our licensure board.

  3. The proposal increases the financial requirements section to require general liability insurance, just to apply for the license, with no business being generated! Further it requires also that we have:
    a) Errors an Omissions
    b) A bond for between $5,000 and $10,000 (a bond that does not even exist in the insurance industry, to escrow money for claims for damages).
    c) A minimum of $5,000 and $10,000 worth of net assets, this measure is remaining the same, thanks to vigorous debate and compromise!!! (REMEMBER: there is MUCH legal debate about what “net assets” one can claim: jointly owned assets like vehicles, home equity, and the like may not qualify, as they are jointly owned by someone not applying for or maintaining the license if the licensee is married. Depending on how this is interpreted, it could engender the NEED to carry un-necessary overhead like cash on hand or property not really required for performing a home inspection, just to continue to qualify. Your best bet is to make sure you have personal property like your business property and your personal vehicle(s) in your own name without a joint owner like a spouse, and do so before this law takes effect.)

  4. The proposal adds an additional 48 hours of required continuing education over the next three years. Every inspector will have to take the required 12 hours which applies to this, so we are really being asked to do additional 4 hours for the three next years, that is all. Although it is change, it is not dramatic nor permanent, so let’s savor the victory.) In order to really benefit the public, I have gone on the record at the July 10 NC Home Inspector Licensure Board meeting that some of this additional training should involve ethics training and much of that about how to deal with realtors and the public ethically; this is a great place for such a proposal to be inserted, as I have proposed. If you agree, please express your feelings to your licensure board.

  5. Section 6:a1) of this proposal removes the inspector’s ability BY LAW to place items we deem negatively affect the habitability of the dwelling onto the summary pages! Okay, there has been much vigorous debate about how this will help or hurt our profession. I personally think it will have little effect if our reports are well written, because things that are being argued about in the gray areas of this stature’s current and future wording will easily pass the muster of a review board, hearing, or courtroom if you always act in the best interest of the public and state in writing why you did so. If you disagree, you need to petition your representative. As a negotiator with much more powerful groups than our industry, I have had to pick my battles, and this one just does not seem to be substantial in nature.

  6. Section 6:a2) of the proposal requires that if an inspector makes reference to building codes he or she must cite them specifically. Okay this is another one I could not substantively oppose, because the interest groups who favor it are too strong and numerous. The main things to consider here are:
    a) Can you even find a copy of the old codes for the house in question? If not, well, do not quote code.
    b) If the house was built in year A and remodeled in year B and again in year C, which code applies. Do not quote code.
    c) Are you a licensed code enforcement official or do you want to be interpreted as one? do not quote code.
    d) Can you state with any certainty that the local code officials did not accept what you see as a violation, under an interpretation exception? Do not quote code.
    e) Is code the only reason the item is in your report? Aren’t there some overriding structural or safety concerns? If so, do not quote code.
    f) There are VERY FEW REASONS an inspector should quote code, we are generalists performing a visual inspection.

If you are unhappy with this bill or with the work performed by me or other association groups’ representatives in trying to get this bill changed in such a way as to be manageable, please accept that this was our best effort. I originally set about dealing with this bill with the goal of finding a way to stop it. With time, I began to see that the legislature was NOT going to permit this: once a bill makes it as far as legislative sponsorship and is assigned to committees, it is almost a slam dunk that SOMETHING with that bill number will be passed, or it will be re-proposed with minor changes next year, and the year after, and the year after… until it does pass. When I began to see that what our legislators most believe they are elected to do is to pass laws, I had to change tactics. It became necessary to use whatever means were at my disposal to become part of the negotiations, so I could speak my part for our membership. This was not any fun, nor was it done without great personal expense and sacrifice of time. I have done the best I can and I am satisfied that this bell is about as good as it gets, excepting any progress our licensure makes on the concerns they have. If you do not agree or you still have questions/comments, please email or call me and I will get back to you as soon as I am able, but DO NOT KILL THE MESSENGER.

Secretary/Legislative Liaison for NC-InterNACHI
Christopher L. Ferguson
(919) 625-2382

So, tell me, in plain language, why is licensing needed?