The home inspection sector in Ontario is primarily made up of several volunteer organizations going through various stages of organizational maturation. The home inspection sector continues to establish standards on a volunteer basis. Even these volunteer organizations do not have the majority of home inspectors aligned as members in the province. There are estimates in the range that 35-50% of home inspectors are individual practitioners that are unaligned with a provincial home inspection association.
In the discipline of compliance frameworks, there is self management, which involves the industry taking the lead in initiatives to control business practices, as well as to educate the public towards good consumer or safety habits. Self-management is practiced in varying degrees, but ultimately this can lead to all of the activities associated with industry regulations (licensing, compliance monitoring, enforcement, complaints or dispute resolution) just to name a few.
Self-management means public accountability and accessibility, but government continues to play the participation role being unintrusive or inextensive as possible.
As an example TARION is a self-management corporation where no one can build or sell new homes in Ontario without being registered. There is legislative statute to support the program.
A self-regulatory framework includes legislation whereby the sector has total control of the sector and the government is not involved. There is no such legislation for the home inspection sector in Ontario. One home inspection association in Ontario was recognized in the mid 1990’s and has the right to manage and discipline its members, but it was clearly articulated that they did not have the right to restrict others outside of that association from practicing. They merged with another provincial association and the association grew, however given time some left and followed a different path.
Finally there is the government regulation. In short the government introduces legislation if it believes there is public concern (safety, economic, consumer protection, unfair business practices, etc.). In the case of the home inspection sector the provincial government could introduce legislation if it believes consumers are at risk. The key point being to always consider that this is the only participant in house purchasing transaction that is not regulated.
Based on statistics gathered by qualified home inspector applicants in the practical “test inspection with peer review”, the practical performance measurement of 80% minumum accuracy is met by approximately 85% of all test takers. That in itself should provide a bit of substance that some level of improvement is required. It does
not speak to those 1000 plus other home inspectors in the province that choose not to be tested. Nor does it speak to the other 20% that even the successfull inspectors met. It also alludes to the fact that a high percentage rarely would achieve the 100% mark. If anything, there is a huge gap and need for constant improvement to better our sector.
Given the reality of the state of affairs within the home inspection sector, few home inspectors want to really admit that a real potential problem already exists. One thing became evidently clear through the first licensing symposium in London Ontario, that there are other stakeholders such as the realtors, financial institutions, Better Business Bureau, and lawyers and yes even consumers that point out and speak out about that it’s just matter of time before this becomes a critical concern.
As I noted earlier home inspection associations in this province are volunteer run organizations. That in itself often leads to inconsistencies and often varying levels of support and service to members as well as response to the public when issues arise. Standards for certification are inconsistent, an overall lack of accountability to assure conformance to a minimum Standard of Practice, and even a certain number of “certified” inspectors cannot pass a test inspection with peer review. Often discipline within an association can sometimes be based on personal prejudices against an individual member rather than the actual quality of the inspection.
At this point, self-management or self regulatory mandate would be difficult to achieve, because that involves major organizational restructuring, costs, resistance to change, etc.
Regulations on the other hand are intended to enhance consumer protection and give consumers confidence that a set standard of qualification and performance are in place.