In recent months, I have noticed a surge of realtors questioning the necessity of our Florida Law compliant inspection process and reports. The key complaint is that other inspectors reports are much shorter and less comprehensive than ours, inferring that they do not want their clients receiving any "unnecessary"information, which could "kill the deal". However, when questioned most Realtors have never reviewed the Florida Statutes governing Home Inspectors and are not aware of the strict minimum standards enacted by the Florida Legislature in 2013, and when the new statues came out, we painstakingly changed our 400 point process to ensure compliance for our customers and Realtors that rely on our advice.
This is a common problem in the industry when realtors have not been formally educated on the Florida Statutes regarding home Inspection, and home inspectors, who are sometimes unlicensed, convince realtors (sometimes innocently) that their inspection process and reports are compliant, negatively referring to compliant inspectors as "cowboys" and "deal killers".
A common motivation for this behavior is inspectors seeking to maximise revenues, by shortening their process, thus enabling them to perform more inspections, with less legal exposure, which is why I will not perform more the two single family home inspections a day. However, many of the inspectors, which are being demonized by the non-compliant inspectors are actually just performing their due diligence in accordance with Florida Law, and unfortunately, a proportion of realtors tend to take the easy wrong over the hard (ethical) right as not to risk their commission.
However, it is fairly easy to determine the difference between a rookie inspector overkill and a thorough inspection by a experienced inspector, as the real material defects listed by the inspector will have a measurable standard to compare them against, such as Florida Building Code/IRC standards, and if they do, it is obvious that the inspector is just doing a better job. Many inspectors will downplay their lack of due diligence (errors and omissions), and lacking reports, by stating that the "minor"defects do not matter, but its either a defect or it isn't, and it's very irresponsible (at best) for an inspector to intentionally omit any tangible material defect.
With well over 1K inspections under my belt since the new statutes, and an average of 500 per year for the foreseeable future, I have concluded that in most cases inspectors have simply not kept up with the drastic changes to the Florida Statutes (2010-2013) regarding home inspections, and the Real Estate industry does not require a formal education in the statutes regarding home inspection, but alternatively teach a proprietary NAR/FAR inspection standard that does not parallel Florida Law.
Why should I care?
While a realtor is not technically responsible for their home inspectors lack of due diligence, I can assure you that you will feel the aftermath when a vendor on your referral list makes a major error or omision.
What is a Home Inspection and who can perform one?
First, only a licensed Florida Home Inspector may perform a fee paid "Home Inspection" for a Real Estate sale transaction or any other similar situation, and yes, a General Contractor, Engineer, or Architect must also hold a Home Inspection License to perform a fee paid home inspection. Additionally, a fee paid home inspection requires that the inspection process covers all 8 major systems of the home and the 4-point insurance inspection is not a Home Inspection as defined by Florida law.
A home inspection as defined by the 2013 Florida Statute is:
468.8311 Definitions.--As used in this part, the term:
(1) “Home inspection services” means a limited visual examination of the following readily accessible installed systems and components of a home: the structure, electrical system, HVAC system, roof covering, plumbing system, interior components, exterior components, and site conditions that affect the structure, for the purposes of providing a written professional opinion of the condition of the home.
Home inspectors must also provide customers with their licensure information, as well as the scope of their inspection, along with any limitations/exclusions of their inspection process. We and several other firms require a signed contract prior to performing the inspection as evidence that the customer has received all information required by florida law. However, this is sometimes a contentious issue when realtors are unaware of this requirement due to their usual inspectors non-compliance
468.8321 Disclosures.--Prior to contracting for or commencing a home inspection, a home inspector shall provide to the consumer a copy of his or her license to practice home inspection services in this state and a written disclosure that contains the scope and any exclusions of the home inspection.
History.—s. 2, ch. 2007-235.
The Home inspection report:
There are a few basic types of reports, which are the checklist, narrative, or combination thereof. Regardless of the type of report, all eight of the homes major systems must covered. Key omissions that I have observed from many inspectors are failure to provide a written report, evaluating the "why" part of the material defect, reporting systems that are at or nearing the end of their useful life. However, the most common point of contention from Realtors is the failure of the inspector to evaluate or place defects into perspective, and unfortunately, there is no requirement for a Home Inspector to have previous building trades experience, and many are unable to evaluate most defects, which ends with the homeowner having to hire another tradesman for "further evaluation". While no inspector is perfect, or has all of the answers, they should certainly be able to determine if you need to replace a light bulb, instead of referring them to an electrician for further evaluation, or whether the hairline cracks in a 1940's home is from typical settlement, instead of referring them to a structural engineer.
468.8323 Home inspection report.--Upon completion of each home inspection for compensation, the home inspector shall provide a written report prepared for the client.
(1) The home inspector shall report:
(a) On those systems and components inspected that, in the professional opinion of the inspector, are significantly deficient or are near the end of their service lives.
(b) If not self-evident, a reason why the system or component reported under paragraph (a) is significantly deficient or near the end of its service life.
(c) Any systems and components that were present at the time of the inspection but were not inspected, and a reason they were not inspected.
(2) A home inspector is not required to provide estimates related to the cost of repair of an inspected property.
History.--s. 2, ch. 2007-235; s. 9, ch. 2011-222.
Here is the part that I have seen the most egregious violations. For instance, I have seen a home inspector, who is also a general contractor/mold remediator. who has identified mold problems during inspections, then quotes a remediation from their construction company, which is a violation of Florida law. Additionally, any form of Quid Pro Quo with Real Estate brokerages or Realtors is strictly prohibited.
468.8319 Prohibitions; penalties.--
(1) A person may not:
(a) Effective July 1, 2011, practice or offer to practice home inspection services unless the person has complied with the provisions of this part.
(b) Effective July 1, 2011, use the name or title “certified home inspector,” “registered home inspector,” “licensed home inspector,” “home inspector,” “professional home inspector,” or any combination thereof unless the person has complied with the provisions of this part.
(c) Present as his or her own the license of another.
(d) Knowingly give false or forged evidence to the department or an employee thereof.
(e) Use or attempt to use a license that has been suspended or revoked.
(f) Perform or offer to perform any repairs to a home on which the inspector or the inspector’s company has prepared a home inspection report. This paragraph does not apply to a home warranty company that is affiliated with or retains a home inspector to perform repairs pursuant to a claim made under a home warranty contract.
(g) Inspect any property in which the inspector or the inspector’s company has any financial or transfer interest.
(h) Offer or deliver any compensation, inducement, or reward to any broker or agent therefor for the referral of the owner of the inspected property to the inspector or the inspection company.
(i) Accept an engagement to make an omission or prepare a report in which the inspection itself, or the fee payable for the inspection, is contingent upon either the conclusions in the report, pre established findings, or the close of escrow.
(2) Any person who is found to be in violation of any provision of this section commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
History.--s. 2, ch. 2007-235; s. 20, ch. 2010-106; s. 12, ch. 2010-176; s. 8, ch. 2011-222.