March 7, 2016 by Canadian Underwriter
A bill proposing to introduce home inspectors’ licensing in Ontario – and to provide for regulations mandating liability insurance – was recently referred to a committee of the legislature.
If Bill 165, the Licensed Home Inspectors Act, is passed into law, it would be illegal to perform a home inspection in Ontario without a license.
The private member’s bill – tabled by Liberal MPP Han Dong – proposes to let the government make regulations “prescribing the types of insurance they must have, which must include coverage for errors, omissions and commercial general liability,” and setting minimum coverage levels.
“There should also be some sort of liability insurance, in the same way that most of us have liability insurance,” said Gilles Bison, NDP MPP for Timmins-Thunder Bay, in the legislature March 3 in Toronto. “I’m an electrician by trade. I worked in construction and maintenance in the mining sector, but if I was in the construction sector, I would have to have liability insurance on the work that I do.”
Bill 165 passed second reading March 3 and was referred to the legislature’s Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.
“Should you choose to do so, you can go online today, fill in some forms and pay a fee, of course, and get a certificate suitable for framing mailed to you within a matter of days,” said Percy Hatfield, NDP critic for municipal affairs and housing, of home inspectors in Ontario. “You don’t even have to buy a flashlight or a ladder, and you’ll be a home inspector.”
Hatfield – who represents the riding of Windsor-Tecumseh – said Ontario “should have trained inspectors adhering to an established code of ethics,” and home inspectors should also be required to have insurance.
“We should make it mandatory for home inspectors to have to take and pass a formal course at a community college,” Hatfield said. “If plumbers and electricians have to spend up to 9,000 hours learning their trade, shouldn’t the men and women who are going to go in and inspect their work, who tell me, ‘Yes, the home is worth buying; it’s not going to burn down and the toilets are going to flush,’ know what they’re looking at?”
Progressive Conservative MPPs suggested March 3 they are in favour of requiring licensing for home inspectors but expressed concerns about governance.
Bill 165 proposes to let the government designate, by regulation, a non-profit corporation as an administrative authority for home inspectors.
“While we acknowledge that it is important legislation, we are very concerned that this bill creates an agency with so much power and so little oversight and accountability,” said Jim McDonell, the Progressive Conservative critic for government and consumer services.
“The new authority is under no oversight by the Ombudsman or any other officers of the Legislature, except the Auditor General, who will be unable to review any of the individual cases that arise,” added McDonell, who represents the riding of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry (which includes the city of Cornwall) at Queen’s Park.
The PCs are asking, among other things, that a delegated administrative authority for home inspectors be subject to the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, 1996. That law requires the annual disclosure – on the “sunshine list” – of the names, positions, salaries and total taxable benefits of employees paid $100,000 or more in a calendar year. The PCs are also asking for “ministerial power to review and modify the authority’s regulations and bylaws as required,” McDonell said.
“Regulation by an industry-funded [delegated administrative authority] is a way to ensure a more level playing field for home inspectors to operate with similar qualifications,” Dong said March 3. “By enforcing a single standard, the DAA would provide greater transparency and consumer protection in the ever-changing market.”
Bill 165 proposes to have the delegated administrative authority carry out licensing and other regulatory responsibilities “at arm’s length to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services,” added Dong, who represents the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina.
“There are several hard-working home inspector associations that are dedicated to the professionalism of the industry,” Dong said. “However, these associations have varied governing systems and requirements that could be confusing to average consumers.”
Dong added he has “spent a long period of time speaking to a variety of stakeholders in the home inspection industry about issues such as getting complaints from consumers about an individual calling himself a home inspector; searching for the individual in the association records only to find out that they don’t belong to their association; and needing to refer the consumer to make a complaint elsewhere because the person is not part of their association.”
With a delegated administrative authority, Dong said, “either they are licensed and can be found through the [delegated administrative authority], or they’re not licensed and are breaking the law.”