MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota does not have a statewide system for licensing home inspectors.
Some consumers are saying it's overdue.
Many cities in the Twin Cities metro area require licensing and minimum training and insurance for inspectors that do the required truth-in-housing inspections for home sellers.
But there's no licensing system in Minnesota for prospective buyers seeking an extra layer of protection before they close on a home.
KARE has heard from several viewers recently who asserted that a licensing system would provide home buyers with a neutral third party if they believe an inspector has missed a major defect.
Some viewers have also suggested that Minnesota should also require liability and errors and omissions insurance be carried by home inspectors, to help offset the cost of fixing the problems they missed.
Wisconsin and 20 other states require testing, licensing and insurance for all home inspection contractors. But the last time the Minnesota legislature considered the idea, in 2006, the bill stalled and didn't make it out of any committees.
Case in Point
One viewer said she spent thousands of dollars making repairs to a home after she purchased it and moved in, because of mold and dry rot caused by water intrusion. She believed the home inspector she hired before she bought the house should've been able to detect the hidden damage.
Before the viewer bought the home she pointed out to the inspector that some of the windows were rotting, and there was discoloration on some of the bricks under a window. The sellers agreed to reduce the price of the home by $7,000 to pay for replacing those windows.
But after she moved into the house her window contractor discovered more widespread problems inside the walls. He said the original siding contractor had made critical errors when he installed the siding, so rain water wasn't properly channeled away from the exterior walls.
The home inspector's report came with the standard warning that it's not a warranty, and that the inspector is not legally responsible for problems he didn't detect. The inspector's lawyer said the most he was responsible for was the $375 cost of the inspection report, and he has not admitted any fault.
Home Inspection Industry Viewpoint
Several inspectors consulted by KARE said that drilling into walls for a more thorough moisture probe is beyond the scope of most home inspections paid for by buyers. Typically it happens if there's visible evidence or mold or mildew.
Veteran home inspector Ken Goewey was one of the members of the Minnesota Society of Housing Inspectors who met with lawmakers back in 2006 when the idea of licensing was proposed.
The professional association wanted to make sure that if the state adopted a licensing system that it would conform to national standards.
"We said if you're going to do this you need education and experience to get the license," Goewey recalled.
"And they just didn't see a need for it. The bill just didn't go very far."
Goewey has thousands of inspections under his belt since joining the profession in the mid 1980's. He said the professional organizations are crucial to continuing education, and helping inspectors learn from one another.
In order to join the American Society of Home Inspectors, Ken had to pass the same type of rigorous exam used by states that do have licensing. And he had to inspect 250 homes before he could be gain the ASHI certification.
But the first question he hears from many of his potential customer is about the price of the inspection.
"Your first question should be, 'What's your background? How much experience do you have? How long you been doing this'?" Goewey said.
He noted that many of the states that require licensing or at least certification by a national organization, model their examinations after the same tests created by the national groups.
And, if given a choice, most people in the home inspection business would prefer that the state doesn't institute a licensing system.
"Any time the government gets involved it seems like there's all kinds of strange rules and regulations, and it costs more money," Goewey said.
"And that gets passed on to the consumer."
Chris Galler of the Minnesota Association of Realtors echoed that sentiment, telling KARE that in Wisconsin licensing caused many inspectors to drop out of the profession. And based on the law of supply and demand that will drive up prices for inspections.
But Ron Miller, a home inspector in Verona, Wisconsin who helped craft that state's licensing legislation, said he believes the change has been good for consumers.
Miller, who is active in the Wisconsin Association of Home Inspectors, said his prices are still in line with the costs of home inspections in Minnesota.
More than a dozen cities in Minnesota require home sellers to go through truth-in-housing inspections before listing a property for sale.
Many of those cities required inspectors to be licensed and carry either liability insurance or errors and omissions coverage. They are: Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Golden Valley, Hopkins, Maplewood, Minneapolis, New Hope, Osseo, Richfield, Robbinsdale, St. Louis Park, St. Paul and South St. Paul.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota told KARE that complaints to the BBB aren't that common, considering the volume of home sales in the state.
In the 2012 calendar year the BBB received six complaints from consumers who were unhappy with their home inspectors. In four of the cases, the issues were resolved and in two cases the inspection companies went out of business.
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