BY LESLEY MITCHELL
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
Anyone can be a home inspector in Utah, where a lack of state oversight allows unskilled and uninsured people to operate, two of the nation's largest industry organizations report.
"You are an inspector in Utah if you say you are," said Nick Gromicko, executive director of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) in Valley Forge, Pa., which monitors state oversight of the inspecting profession. "Your pet could be a home inspector in Utah."
Home inspectors are typically hired by home buyers who pay about $300 to ensure they are purchasing a property free of major defects.
InterNACHI and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) in Des Plaines, Ill., require members to pass proficiency exams and meet other criteria, such as participating in ongoing education.
A number of Utah inspectors do not meet those standards. Only a handful of Utah inspectors out of the hundreds that operate throughout the state belong to the InterNACHI. Less than two dozen belong to ASHI.
Utah is among about half of the U.S. states that do not regulate home inspectors. But it is one of only a few states that have no plan in the works to do so, Gromicko said.
Scott Thompson, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Commerce, said no division is responsible for the profession. And he has heard of no efforts to convince legislators to enact some type of law requiring inspectors to be licensed or regulated.
Rob Paterkiewicz, executive director of ASHI, said that is puzzling given recent trends.
"Over the past five years we've seen a tremendous amount of home inspector regulation activity," he said. "Of the 25 states have some type of regulation, 21 enacted their laws in the past five years. There are a lot of other states having discussions about home inspector regulation."
Much of that stems from complaints from consumers who hired inspectors who failed to discover defects such as structural damage or faulty roofs.
Like Gromicko, Paterkiewicz does not want to see Utah -- or any other state -- regulate inspectors by simply making them pay a fee. He believes states should require inspectors to pass a proficiency test.
"If it's there for consumer protection -- great, we're all for it but let's make sure it's meaningful," he said. "It's not meaningful if they are just paying a fee."
In the absence of regulation, Utahns should check to see if an inspector is a member of an organization that requires they pass a test and meet other standards, said Ted Johnson, an an inspector and president of home inspection company AmeriSpec-Salt Lake said.
They also should ask for a copy of the inspector's insurance policy designed to protect consumers in the event that inspector misses a major defect. If they do not have insurance they should think twice about hiring them, said Johnson, a member of ASHI.
Finally, "Check with your real estate agent and your friends to see who they used," he said.