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Minimal standards needed for home inspections

I've been saying it for years. The home-inspection industry is like the Wild West - a lot of cowboys but not a lot of sheriffs. Throughout most of Canada, the industry is self-regulated by different associations with different sets of standards.

I've been saying it for years. The home-inspection industry is like the Wild West - a lot of cowboys but not a lot of sheriffs. Throughout most of Canada, the industry is self-regulated by different associations with different sets of standards. No one's playing by the same set of rules and it has caused some really bad outcomes. But this is starting to change.

More and more provinces are setting standards that will help make sure homeowners get what they pay for.

Alberta and British Columbia were the first provinces that required home inspectors to be licensed - B.C.'s licensing came into effect in March 2009.

But now Ontario is starting to set minimum industry standards, and I'm proud to be working with the provincial government to help push this forward. It's definitely a step in the right direction.

As part of its consumer-protection initiative, the Ontario government is beginning to set minimum qualifications for all home inspectors operating in the province.

The rest of Canada needs to get behind this, so we're all on the same page moving forward.

I don't care where you live - Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Nunavut or Saskatchewan - every Canadian should be getting a qualified and full assessment of their home every time they get a home inspection. There needs to be consistency between all home inspections performed in Canada, no matter where you live. Every home inspection should be good and protect the huge investment homeowners are making.

Too many homeowners have ended up in bad situations because a home inspection didn't turn up major issues. Believe me, I've met them. These are problems that should have been caught before homeowners bought their home. Things like dangerous electrical systems, mould, bad structure, asbestos, undersized HVAC - you name it, I've found it.

And this is after the homeowners have had a home inspection.

It's bad enough that homeowners are wasting their money - some home-inspection reports aren't worth the paper they're written on.

But the real danger here is all the problems homeowners are forced to face just because a home inspection didn't do its job, which is to protect the homeowner. I'm talking about thousands of dollars' worth of repairs. Do you think many homeowners who just bought a house will have that kind of money?

In most cases, homeowners - and their families - will live in a home that needs major repairs for years. Why? Because they bought a house that turned out to be a can of worms and they can't afford to repair it.

Sometimes these conditions are bad for their health. If we're talking about something like dangerous wiring, it can be life-threatening. Not to mention all the emotional stress these families are put through.

The argument goes something like this: Home inspectors can only comment on what they can see. So if they miss things like mould, faulty wiring or improper ventilation, they can't be held accountable.

Home inspectors can't go moving furniture, poking holes in drywall or ripping up floors. I get that. But I've seen plenty of homes where the clues on the surface tell me there are huge problems brewing underneath.

Every home inspector in the country should know where to look, what to look for and what it all means. For example, many people think icicles on the roof during winter look nice. But to me, icicles look like the outward sign of problems with the roof and insulation in the attic - and every home inspector should know this, too.

I've heard of home inspectors who will do an inspection in the evening after they finish their day job, and I don't know how well you can examine a roof properly in the dark.

Without a doubt, there are good home inspectors working in the industry. But we need to take the necessary measures that will make sure there are only good inspectors working in the industry. We can't afford not to.

We need more home inspectors who have a complete understanding of all of the components in a home and how they work together. Home inspectors who can see if a supporting wall has been removed or structure compromised. Home inspectors who are proud of their work and care about the people it affects. These are the good guys and there needs to be more of them.

I think a lot of us want the same thing. I know homeowners do. And I know good home inspectors understand that by raising standards across the board, we're honouring their skills, strengthening their industry and improving Canadian housing. It's a win-win, folks.

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right, premièring Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

mike@makeitright.ca