Following the passage of “Bill 59, 2016 – An Act to enact a new Act with respect to home inspections and to amend various Acts with respect to financial services and consumer protection” through the first and second reading, and through the presentations at the Standing Committee on Social Policy, the Bill has been passed back to the assembly, amended, and has been ordered for third reading.
|November 03, 2016||First Reading||Carried|
|November 16, 2016||Second Reading||Debate|
|November 21, 2016||Second Reading||Debate|
|November 23, 2016||Second Reading||Debate|
|November 24, 2016||Second Reading||Debate|
|November 28, 2016||Second Reading||Debate|
|November 29, 2016||Second Reading||Debate|
|November 30, 2016||Second Reading||Debate|
|November 30, 2016||Second Reading||Question put|
|November 30, 2016||Second Reading||Deferred vote|
|November 30, 2016||Second Reading||Carried on division|
|November 30, 2016||Second Reading||Closure|
|November 30, 2016||Ordered recommitted to Standing Committee||Standing Committee on Social Policy|
|February 21, 2017||Consideration of a Bill||Standing Committee on Social Policy|
|February 27, 2017||Consideration of a Bill||Standing Committee on Social Policy|
|February 28, 2017||Consideration of a Bill||Standing Committee on Social Policy|
|March 06, 2017||Consideration of a Bill||Standing Committee on Social Policy|
|March 07, 2017||Reported as amended|
|March 07, 2017||Ordered for Third Reading|
Public presentations to the Standing Committee on Social Policy, with respect to the Home Inspection Licensing.
We have chosen to re-publish the Hansard transcripts from the Ontario Assembly rather than paraphrase them. This ensure we do not provide any particular bias on what was presented.
Presentation: ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF CERTIFIED HOME INSPECTORS
Gentlemen, you will have up to five minutes to present and then we’ll have five minutes of questions from each party. Our Clerk is there, he can take your presentations and, when you start, if you would identify yourselves for Hansard.
Mr. Len Inkster: Good afternoon. My name is Len Inkster. I am secretary and registrar of the Ontario Association of Certified Home Inspectors, OntarioACHI for short, and I’m here with my colleague Patrick Auriol, who is the certification director.
OntarioACHI was formed in 2012, and is a not-for-profit association of members representing home inspectors across Ontario. We’d like to thank the committee for allowing us to speak to Bill 59, Putting Consumers First Act, and in particular schedule 1 of this act, the Home Inspection Act, 2016.
We have provided a brief presentation before you, giving you background on OntarioACHI and the home inspection profession in Ontario, but realizing that time is short, we want to concentrate our efforts here on addressing schedule 1 of the bill specifically, and its place with respect to consumer protection in the real estate marketplace.
First and always, we’re 100% behind the government’s approach to regulate the home inspection profession. We feel that this bill provides much of the groundwork to frame regulations that really protect consumers with respect to home purchasing. Some inspectors have concerns with clauses in the proposed bill but we see most as necessary to protect the credibility and enforcement of the regulations to drive the profession to necessarily higher standards unachievable without external regulation.
Self-regulation has failed because of the fractured nature of the profession and confusing routes to certification. Some certifications rely on association membership, compliance with a code of ethics and standard of practice, and strong, ongoing audited proof of competency; others rely on trust and are based upon self-certification.
Some are based solely on being entered into an association register and then coerced to entertain association-funded education. The last type are those that are attained solely from “education mills.”
I’d like to address first part I, section 2: non-application of the act. Some tasks performed as part of the home inspection may also be performed by an engineer or an architect. The extent of a home inspection, however, goes beyond the pure scientific investigation or opining of these professions for specific components. While we have great respect for civil and structural engineers and architects, their ability to opine on the condition of a home as a complete system, within the confines of their profession, is limited. The standards of practice and code of ethics that apply to a home inspector are of greater scope than would apply to a specific engineering or architectural engagement.
Exempting other professions from the regulations designed to regulate a home inspection waters down the consumer protection aspect of the bill. Doing so would require consumers to try to establish which regulator has jurisdictional control over the inspector—no different from the chaos that ensues today.
We ask that the committee strike the blanket exemption for engineers and architects and replace this exemption with an allowance for engineers and architects to be able to perform those tasks specific only to their professions that might coincide with the specific task defined as part of a home inspection.
Mr. Patrick Auriol: Bonjour. Good afternoon. Patrick Auriol, certification director for OntarioACHI. I’m going to address part IV, “Regulation of Licensees,” section 51: requirement for a written contract and legal protection for a consumer. The requirement for a written contract for home inspection services is sensible. Unless the consumer has sufficient time to read and digest and, where required, seek legal counsel on the terms of such a contract, the benefits of a contract are negated by the duress the consumer is put under in signing it.
Realtors drive the timeline for real estate transactions. Unless this timeline issue is fixed, or circumnavigated, by regulations allowing sufficient time for a home inspection contract to be reviewed, this condition of duress will be impossible to change.
(1) Mandate the length of time between the offer and fulfillment of a conditional home inspection to allow for a contract review period. This would require changes to the regulations overseen by the Real Estate Council of Ontario, RECO; or
The concept of mandatory home inspections was visited some 15 years ago, in 2002, by the CMHC and rejected because it was felt that the number of home inspections would increase voluntarily. This has not proved to be the case. Indeed, recent developments have shown that the number of inspections are diminishing for many of the reasons explained in the presentation before you. The subsequent risk to consumers is increasing.
If the intent of the bill is to protect consumers, we ask the committee to urge the minister to consider mandating home inspections to protect consumers, in line with other consumer protection regulations.
Mr. Len Inkster: Again, part IV, “Regulation of Licensees,” section 51, which deals with insurance: We believe it’s best practice to inform the consumers of the existence or non-existence of insurance coverage in the contract for services—
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Thank you, Chair. Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming to Queen’s Park today and for sharing your views on Bill 59. We’re proposing that home inspectors in Ontario be qualified and licensed, so we appreciate your insights and your comments on this.
Home inspectors are currently the only piece of the real estate transaction where you don’t have to be licensed. Tell us: What do you have to do to be a home inspector these days? How easy or difficult is it?
Mr. Len Inkster: Just to be a home inspector, you don’t need to do anything in Ontario. To be a professional home inspector is slightly different, and there is a large gap between those who are professional and those who are just home inspectors.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Okay. Years ago, my husband and I, when selling a house, got a home inspection. We had a wonderful person do the job. He handed us this thick binder; it was very comprehensive. But I’ve compared that with what I’ve seen with other home inspectors, where it didn’t look the same and it was much thinner. We’re looking at having a mandatory, standard way of doing this. What are your thoughts on that?
Mr. Len Inkster: The inspection report that you’re talking about is actually an engineering document from Carson Dunlop. It’s known as the home reference manual. Most of that is actually undecipherable by the normal consumer.
A standard inspection report should be around 40 pages maximum. We believe that it should have narrative reports. There shouldn’t be, as we call it, a “tick-guess” type of report. It should be fully explanatory to the consumer, so they understand exactly what has been inspected, how it has been inspected and what the findings were.
Mr. Patrick Auriol: No. I agree with my colleague. The only thing I would say for sure was lacking in the reports back then, in the Home Reference Book, is that there was no possibility to attach photos taken during the inspection in the report. Carson Dunlop has, in fact, addressed that now with their new software, so we’re in full agreement.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: There has been some debate as to what we ought to be charging for this licensing. Some have said that it’s reasonable to charge a few hundred dollars; others have said this is going to be a cash grab. What are your thoughts on that?
Mr. Len Inkster: The principle of charging for a licence really depends on the sustainability of that licensing mechanism. If the home inspection profession is actually driven out of business, then all of the effort that we’re putting in to actually regulate the profession is for naught. We have to have some method of making sure that the regulation also protects the profession itself so they can protect consumers, and then derive from that the actual licensing fees.
I don’t think there is a complaint amongst any of the inspectors about the price of the licensing—I mean, some do—as long as it’s justifiable to the consumer, to the inspector. We’ve got to remember that, at the end of the day, the consumer is going to pay for the licence.
Mr. Patrick Auriol: The certification, the CCHI, that we have in Ontario actually requires that a member has full liability insurance. We do not certify people or give them a designation without it. We believe it’s not only protection for the consumer, but it’s also protection for the workers themselves. Everybody can have a bad day. It’s the same reason why a doctor has malpractice insurance. Something could go wrong.
So we are in full favour of it. We are in discussions constantly with the insurance companies. Sometimes the price is a little bit restrictive. People who do it part-time will have a little bit of concern carrying the price. But we firmly believe, after discussions with the major companies such as Hub and so on, that something can be worked out to protect the consumers and the people equally.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I would also want to know if there has been any program anywhere that you know of where the report and the pictures, if taken, can be used for the possible homeowner to get home insurance afterwards.
A lot of insurance companies, obviously, come and inspect the home. Maybe this could be tied in and you could get cheaper malpractice insurance, if you want to call it that. You could have sort of a program with the insurance companies that there’s a reduced fee for home insurance because they don’t have to send the inspector out.
One thing I can tell you is that, due to the way the standards of practice are for most associations now and the general practice, and because of privacy and everything associated with it, we do not share the information with anybody else but the client. That includes the real estate agent. Some of us get a lot of pressure for it. Some of us are, dare I say, almost anal about it, as am I. I will not share the information with anybody unless I get written consent from my client.
This is something that is being discussed also for ease of use. In the end, we’re trying to make it better for the consumers, and I think we can all appreciate how the real estate market is going right now, especially in Ontario—so a bit of a scare going on now.
Mr. Len Inkster: With respect to the insurance, I think a home inspection—a properly performed, professional home inspection—would be of immense value to an insurer or even a mortgage adviser/lender or even an appraiser. The issue, as my colleague here says, is the issue of privacy. Now if it was the insurer or the mortgage provider that actually employed the home inspector for the home inspection, that issue of privacy disappears because then the actual client is the insurer. We see that as a way forward because you’re actually inspecting the property, hopefully before it’s listed, but certainly with the viewpoint that you’re actually inspecting it to make sure that it is an insurable property or a property that can be lent money on with a good rate of return.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you for coming out. You talk about your existing association. Is there any allowance for grandfathering of your members into the bill, or what were you looking at certification—
Mr. Len Inkster: I can talk about that in particular because I actually sat on the panel for the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for the recommendations of the regulation for qualifications.
I believe that the intent was that each of the associations would present, to whatever DAA is created for this regulation process, the certification or registration process for each of its members. If that registration or certification process aligned with the requirements that were needed by the DAA, then there would be some form of transfer in. There would be a prior learning assessment for those who didn’t meet that, and for those who didn’t come anywhere close, there would be some form of education/examination to actually see that the qualifications were met. Does that answer your question?
Mr. Jim McDonell: Okay. You also talked about the contracts and the differences. Is there any interest in standardizing a contract, so that there’s a minimum contract so a homeowner could actually trust that the contracts will meet his needs? You can always bury them somewhat, but you’re concerned about the urgency sometimes in signing these—
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you very much. As it stands with your current organization, the current association, you don’t have the powers of a registered body with legislation in terms of having the ability to limit people from using the title “home inspector”?
Mr. Len Inkster: We have the right to actually reserve the title, the Canadian-Certified Home Inspector, because that’s the certification we award. There is nothing with any great teeth other than us threatening legal action for them to use it.
This has been the problem with the home inspection profession in general. There are seven, eight inspection companies across Canada. Each of them has their own certification and each of them has their own certification standards. Obviously we believe ours is the greatest, as would every other home inspection association that sits before you say. But there’s nothing at the present point in time to stop an inspector from hopping from one association to the other if they fall foul of the disciplinary rules, and that is why I believe we need a third-party, external delegated administrative authority to do the regulation of the profession.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Would you be satisfied with keeping the existing multiple organization system—or having one umbrella system? Do you think that the interests of the public could be served with keeping the multiple bodies that exist instead of having one unified body?
Mr. Patrick Auriol: No, we do not agree. We’ve had the legislation put in place since the mid-1990s regarding a specific association, and it’s very clear for the reason we’re here today that that has, for lack of a better word, failed miserably. There’s a lot of infighting going on. The consumer is not being protected. The home inspectors are also not being protected. Some are taking on jobs or items during their inspections that they shouldn’t be doing. There’s a lot of items that need to be addressed, and we fully support them having this umbrella that’s going to look over everybody. Whether associations remain to provide education, support, mentorship certification, testing and so on—that’s certainly something that we would agree with as well. Certainly, none of the associations which are existing at this time have proven that they can handle taking care of this entire affair.
Mr. Len Inkster: Just one thing to add to that is, it’s a fact in any profession—and that’s what we are. We’re not a trade; we’re a profession, a consultancy profession. Regulation actually sets the minimum bar, and it is the responsibility of the associations to actually raise that bar and that’s really where I see the remit of the associations going forward after regulation. But the regulation really needs to have teeth provided by government-legislated DAA. We’ve pushed for that from day one.
Presentation: ONTARIO REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATION
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Our next presenters, then, are the Ontario Real Estate Association, Matthew Thornton and Adam Yahn. Gentlemen, as I’m sure you’ve heard, you have up to five minutes to present. Welcome back. Each party will have five minutes to ask questions of you. Please introduce yourselves for Hansard.
Mr. Matthew Thornton: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Matthew Thornton. I’m director of government relations for the Ontario Real Estate Association. Joining me today is Adam Yahn, our assistant director of government relations at OREA. I want to take a moment to thank the members of the committee for allowing OREA, on behalf of our 70,000 realtor-members, to voice our support for this important bill.
A home is one of the largest purchases that most of us will ever make. It is a source of financial security, of stability and a place where we raise our families. It’s not just the largest purchase most of us will ever make, but the most important. For this reason, it is essential that homebuyers have confidence that they will be protected throughout the entire transaction by all professionals they work with.
According to Ipsos Reid, 75% of recent homebuyers stated that they made a home inspection a condition of their purchase. Bill 59 brings home inspectors in line with other regulated and licensed professionals who are helping families across Ontario pursue the Canadian dream of home ownership.
Ontario realtors fully support licensing and regulating the home inspection industry to ensure that consumers receive reliable information that can potentially alter a homebuyer’s decision to purchase. In particular, we support the requirements to establish a complaints process and a disciplinary committee for complaints against home inspectors; moreover, we support the establishment of a code of ethics, minimum education requirements, mandatory insurance coverage and the standardization of a home inspection. These elements are common across all other regulated professionals working with homebuyers and sellers.
With the minister about to standardize home inspections through regulations, OREA would also like to recommend to this committee that a home energy audit be included in a standardized home inspection. This would replace the existing proposed home energy rating and disclosure program. A mandatory home energy audit scheme would better protect consumers and help the province achieve its climate change emission targets quicker.
Home energy auditors currently have no minimum educational standards, are not required to carry any errors and omissions insurance, and have no disciplinary oversight. Forcing consumers to use the services of an energy auditor is an irresponsible policy that will put consumers at risk and runs contrary to the direction that Bill 59 is taking for a very similar sector: home inspectors.
First, including an audit in a standard home inspection will better protect consumers. Thanks to Bill 59, inspectors will be licensed and regulated, and consumers will have recourse in the event that they cross paths with an unscrupulous inspector.
Second, a home inspection is valuable precisely because it is put in the hands of a buyer. Putting the audit in the hands of the buyer increases the likelihood that energy audits will lead to retrofits and GHG reductions.
Lastly, including an energy audit as part of a voluntary standard home inspection will allow the province to use the $250 million designated for the HER&D program towards enhancing retrofit rebates for homeowners—retrofits that will actually reduce emissions today.
In conclusion, Ontario realtors commend the government’s efforts to license and regulate the home inspection industry. In addition to that important step, Ontario should avoid moving forward with a risky HER&D mandatory home energy audit program and instead include an energy audit inside a standard home inspection.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you for coming out. You talk about the relationship, the importance of the home inspection. Any comments on the arm’s-length relationship between a home inspector and real estate companies?
Mr. Adam Yahn: Thank you very much for the question, Mr. McDonell. Ultimately, it’s up to the homebuyer to choose who their home inspector is going to be. A realtor can make recommendations, but ultimately it’s a decision for the homebuyer to make.
Mr. Matthew Thornton: Yes. If I could just add to that, I would say that a common practice in the industry, Mr. McDonell, is for a realtor to present their client with a number of options when it comes to using a home inspector. Then it’s up to the consumer to do some due diligence, interview a home inspector and find one that works best for them. Based on the feedback that we hear from our members, who are working with thousands of consumers every day, the relationship is a good one and functioning pretty well.
Mr. Jim McDonell: You mentioned the energy audit. The best indication of energy audits is actually the costs over the past year. You seem to be looking at more. I mean, part of your inspection would be defective windows or the like. Homes vary differently between historic homes and new homes or the like. It comes down to the cost of energy and whether the consumer is happy with that cost or can look at ways of improving it. If you could just elaborate on your ideas for the home energy audit.
Mr. Adam Yahn: Yes, for sure. The proposal that we’ve put forward is in response to a program that the government is proposing, which would mandate that an energy audit be completed at the time of listing. Our recommendation, as Matthew mentioned in the presentation, is to put that energy audit in the hands of the buyer. They’re ultimately going to be the ones that will make the renovations and make the recommendations to improve the efficiency of the home.
Mr. Matthew Thornton: If you were to consider housing stock in ridings like yours, Mr. McDonell, that is primarily older for the most part—a lot of older homes—this is a program that’s really going to hurt those folks in those homes. It’s really going to put those homes at a disadvantage when they come to market.
Our proposal sort of circumvents that issue by targeting the worst offenders. Most folks who are going to be buying an older home will want to get a home inspection done. But it allows for the flexibility that if circumstances dictate that you don’t, or if the transaction needs to move quickly and you don’t want to get an audit done, then you’re going to have the flexibility to not do that and get the transaction done quicker.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I just want to mention that the previous speakers had mentioned taking pictures in the home. How do you feel about that? Because you know they say a picture is a thousand words. But I just always feel that the only proof that somebody went up in the attic is if they show that they took a picture up there. Do you agree with taking pictures?
Mr. Jim McDonell: You talked about the renovation programs they have. I’m just worried that if you tie the two together, you’re going to start including lengthy time delays in decisions. It’s one thing for an audit to be made. It’s another thing for a homeowner to know whether they’ll actually be able to qualify for the money that’s sometimes held out there like carrots. We hear very many times from people coming in that the programs are there, but for one reason or another, they never qualify. Is that something you’ve taken into consideration?
Mr. Matthew Thornton: That’s part of our recommendations. If you include an energy audit inside a standard home inspection, it would allow the government to repurpose $250 million that is currently set aside under the climate change action plan. They could put that towards retrofits for homeowners.
The way previous programs have worked so well, Mr. McDonell, is that they’ve tied energy audits to those retrofit programs. An auditor would do an audit, they would create a list of recommended retrofits, and then the auditor would actually help you go through the process of applying for a rebate.
Mr. Jim McDonell: The only point is that it can help. I talked about the energy program they have. One customer was telling me that most people would give up on the application because it’s so onerous to get. He said, “My wife was like a dog with a bone. She wouldn’t leave it go.” They finally got the money. They qualified, but it took a year to finally get through the process.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you for being here, and thank you for your presentation. So we’ve heard you recommend that the home energy audit be included in the standardized home inspection. In general, does OREA then take the position that a home energy audit is something that’s a useful tool to the consumer in terms of purchasing, but also gives, I guess, more transparency for the person who’s selling to know exactly where their home is at?
Mr. Matthew Thornton: Yes. Home energy audits are a great tool for informing anyone about the energy efficiency of a property. It’s the design of the program that we have an issue with. Mandating it at time of listing is going to create a whole host of issues, in addition to the fact that auditors themselves are not regulated and not licensed. That’s a big consumer protection risk, in our opinion.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: If I understand you correctly, it should be something that the consumer takes the choice. If they’re getting a home inspection, it’s a part of it, but you don’t want to require that someone who is selling their home has to provide that as a condition of selling it.
Mr. Matthew Thornton: That’s the current program. The current program would say that a home seller, before they listed the property, before they advertise it for sale, has to get an energy audit done. We’re saying remove that provision, stop that program, include an audit in a standard home inspection, but keep that inspection voluntary.
According to our research, three quarters of purchasers are making it a condition of the sale, so most folks are getting it done anyway. Despite the fact that all of the news coverage focuses on the GTA market, there are lots of real estate markets outside of Toronto, and most of those folks in those places are getting inspections done. Our suggestion is to keep it in a standard home inspection. You’re going to cover most of the big, inefficient homes anyway, and it’s just going to work a lot more efficiently.
Mr. Adam Yahn: OREA was one of the 35 partners that sat on the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services panel, so we’re very happy to see that the bill has come forward and are very supportive of home inspector licensing and regulations.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Thank you, gentlemen, for your presentation. What I have understood from your presentation is that—do you believe that home inspections should remain with the buyer and not be made mandatory?
Mr. Matthew Thornton: Sure. I think, first and foremost, according to our research, three quarters of people are getting them done anyway. I think that’s a pretty good indication of how much uptake there is in the market. I think you’re going to see that number increase, by the way, once home inspectors are licensed and regulated. I think it’s going to give consumers a lot more confidence knowing that that inspection that they’re getting—not only is the inspector overseen by a level of government, but also the inspection itself is standardized. I think likely that number will increase over time.
In terms of making it mandatory, there’s just a whole host of unintended consequences when you make any kind of inspection a mandatory part of a transaction. If you look at the GTA, in your riding, for example, Ms. Mangat, and how quickly a lot of transactions are moving, waiting two, three or four weeks and potentially longer if it’s a mandatory part of a transaction could really hurt the market in the long run. Or in instances where a buyer has to sell quickly—let’s say there’s a divorce or maybe someone is moving for a job or, heaven forbid, a death in the family. Those are all reasons why people need to execute that transaction quickly, and a mandatory inspection at the front end of that is not really going to facilitate it.
Mr. Adam Yahn: Just to add: One point that has not been brought up in the discourse is that even in markets where they are hotter, especially in the GTA, there are pre-home inspections being done. It’s not that a home inspection is not being completed. Oftentimes, the seller will give it to the prospective buyers. Inspections are being completed before and even after the process.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: We’ve talked about, in this bill, having a standard inspection report. I talked earlier about how different inspectors will give you great big, thick binders, and other ones, it’s very thin, and they charge different amounts of money. What are your thoughts on our having a standard report?
Mr. Adam Yahn: We absolutely agree with the standard report. That’s where our recommendation to include the energy audit also goes to. We think that if you’re going to have a report that says “A, B, C, D and E,” an energy audit should be included in there so that it’s standardized across the province and everybody’s going to have a similar base level that you’re going to be comparing homes against. The buyer will know that, whether they’re doing a home inspection on home A or home B, it will be the same report that is being conducted, and they can take that into consideration.
Presentation: THE LUNG ASSOCIATION
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Our next presentation is from the Lung Association, Tristan McIntosh. Mr. McIntosh, you have up to five minutes to present, and then we have five minutes of questions from each party. If you’d start off by introducing yourself for Hansard.
I’m very pleased to be here today to talk to you about a very important issue that relates to Bill 59: our lung health. It is great to see MPP Ted McMeekin, Ontario’s true lung health champion and co-sponsor of Bill 71, the Lung Health Act. This act is still waiting to be passed, but its goals align with my presentation today: helping all Ontarians breathe. In fact, we also have yourself, Chair, and MPP Singh, our lung health caucus; and MPP Martow, who has spoken in favour of the original Lung Health Act, Bill 41. All of you are true lung health champions.
Before us, in the form of Bill 59, the Putting Consumers First Act, we have another chance to protect the lung health of Ontarians by regulating home inspectors and by creating an administrative authority. First, with respect to home inspectors: A home inspection, as we know, is a limited, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home. It is the first line of defence in being able to determine the quality of a home and, from our perspective, a critical opportunity to identify hazardous air quality risks such as radon, mould and asbestos.
According to Public Health Ontario, radon alone kills more than 847 Ontarians each year—over two people a day. Sadly, we have just heard of another person affected by radon. I’m sorry to report to you that Mark Nielsen from Newmarket had to bury both his dog and his wife just this past month because of radon-induced lung cancer.
Home inspections are typically conducted by a home inspector who has the training and certification required to perform such inspections. However, that is not always the case, and it is the reason we are here today. We would like to see a requirement set out for home inspectors whereby a section of their report would focus on the air quality of a home. For example, this could be done through a radon test kit. A radon short-term test kit can be completed in a few days; however, a long-term test kit is more effective. In addition, we’d recommend a visual examination for asbestos and mould. These easy and cost-effective measures would allow a current or future homeowner to be more aware of any potential air quality risks that may require remediation efforts.
We would like to propose that amendments be made to include, under part IV, under “Regulation of Licensees”—amend subsection 52(1) and include a schedule D that states that a home inspector will be radon-certified, and to complete in the report a section about air quality pertaining to mould, radon, asbestos and any other lung-damaging air quality hazards.
Second, with respect to the creation of an administrative authority: According to Statistics Canada, we spend approximately eight hours a day on average at home just sleeping. This does not include the time we spend on household duties such as cooking or cleaning. We are overwhelmingly affected by indoor air quality. Therefore, we are proposing an amendment to part II, “Administration,” under “Administrative Authority,” “Board appointments,” clause section 12(3)(a), “Composition,” to ensure that someone with lung health and air quality expertise, such as a representative from the Lung Association, has a dedicated spot on the administrative authority.
This representative would work to achieve these three objectives: to help the board and the authority inform home inspectors about indoor air quality issues; to protect the lung health of homeowners; and to assist with lung health education.
Currently, home inspector reports are often not used or even not requested due to the rising cost of residential property. Unfortunately, this is costing people their lung health, something we cannot put a price tag on. At the very least, people who do not receive a home inspection must be aware of the quality of their indoor air.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you very much. Beyond your presentation, and beyond what this bill has already suggested, are there any further changes you’d like to see to ensure that we see greater protection for lung health and some more proactive measures to ensure that we don’t do what we continually see: that as a society we have conditions that create an illness or create some problem and then we have to put a great deal of resources into rectifying a problem that we created. Are there any other proactive measures you see?
Mr. Chris Yaccato: Chair, if I may, I should have introduced myself. I’m joining Tristan McIntosh. My name is Chris Yaccato. I am the provincial government relations and public affairs manager for the Lung Association of Ontario.
Just on that, I think the bill actually captures some of that, and what Tristan was saying today could help change that future in people contracting lung disease from various household areas. But I think if you take something—and what we’re proposing may not be perfect or the poison pill, so to speak, but I think what it does is help set up or at least advise government on steps you could take to help policy with lung disease and thereby help lower that lung disease burden in Ontario, because we’ve seen a dramatic rise in all areas of lung disease over the last couple of years. You know, 2.8 million Ontarians alone now have a lung health diagnosis of some sort. Presumably, when we start dealing with things at its source, being preventive as opposed to reactionary, we can help sustain that growth over time.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Beyond some of the obvious things we know—everyone knows about asbestos and other very obvious materials that can cause harm to lung health—we know also that there is certainly a concern with air quality in homes in general, even homes without any of these very obvious contaminants or obvious materials that are hazardous. What are some strategies to ensuring that we have better air quality in our homes in general? What are some guidelines that we can include?
Mr. Tristan McIntosh: Well, first people have to keep in mind that some of the hazards are around the homes and identify those. For example, just common household cleaners can always be a hazard if they’re not stored properly, if they’re cracked. Some carpets can contain a lot of biological hazards, and just also dust mites and dust in general can be a respiratory problem.
Mr. Chris Yaccato: I mean, there is mould. There is pet dandruff. A homeowner goes in, and you didn’t know that you have COPD, for example—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—and you buy a house and move in and the homeowner had cats, for example. That can really exacerbate someone’s lung health and cause an exasperation for that person with COPD. Or second-hand smoke, for example, is just extremely dangerous, and even third-hand smoke that’s stuck to the walls and the floors of the home.
It really does impact when you move into a house, you’re inheriting someone else’s—I mean, we met with BILD, a group that you may be familiar with through the homeowners’ associations. They went once because someone was having an extremely difficult time breathing, and they checked their furnace. The filter on the furnace was so caked on with dust and dirt that it just wasn’t cleaning the air in the house. Even something like that, educating home inspectors who can then educate homeowners on how to properly maintain your house—a lot of people don’t clean their air filters, and they just let their air conditioner and their heater run all the time. If you don’t have a proper air filter, it’s going to damage your lungs.
Mr. Ted McMeekin: As a lung health champion, you’ll not be surprised to hear that I agree with virtually everything you said. But I want to say more than that. I don’t know of an organization, Mr. Chairman, that has been advocating for any particular social policy that has done so more effectively than the Lung Association. I just want to put that on the record. Also, I really, really appreciate the fact that you came here with some specific recommendations that I believe should be tagged on.
Mr. Singh asked my first question and other things, so I won’t ask that. But I will give you a chance to extrapolate a little bit on basements and renting out basements. What kinds of provisions might we include in legislation that would provide opportunities? Obviously, the consumer has got to be educated, too. If you’ve got a third-hand smoke problem, you’d better make sure that you tell the home inspector that, right?
Mr. Chris Yaccato: I’ll let Tristan answer. Great question; I’m glad you raised it. Basements particularly—I mean, I’m not going to source the stats, but when homes become so expensive, people tend to resort to either leasing out a basement apartment, or if you’re not making a lot of money and you need to rent, you live in a basement apartment, be it a student or someone who’s single. I had a home and I actually lived in the basement and rented out the upstairs.
Radon, mould, it all seeps into your basement and through the house. That’s where it grows and that’s where it lives. We’re currently working with municipal affairs and housing on a different matter outside of this bill to regulate, through the Residential Tenancies Act, tests of ground contact units in multi-unit dwellings for radon. That’s because it seeps through the ground—
Mr. Chris Yaccato: That’s separate from this bill, but those types of things—and working with home inspectors, for example, to educate homeowners on those dangers: “Where’s your carbon monoxide detector? Okay, where’s your radon test? Have you checked behind the drywall in the basement apartment?”
Mr. Ted McMeekin: Mr. Yaccato, I want to get this in before my time is up. Are there areas where radon gas is more dominant than in other areas, and do you have resources that can be made available to—
Mr. Chris Yaccato: Geographic: Well, CARST, who is up next, they have a map of radon in Ontario specifically. I’ll leave this to the Clerk, but it shows very well that Guelph, Kitchener and London are all zone 1 high spots—
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Forgive my ignorance. I was at the ladies’ room and came back; you might have talked about this. I know what first-hand smoke is and second-hand smoke is. What is third-hand smoke?
Mr. Tristan McIntosh: Third-hand smoke is when someone smokes in the room or in the car, for instance, and they leave, and it could be a day or two—you know when you come in and you still smell that smoke in the fabric? It’s when the residue and the smell are still lingering. You can still inhale that. It can still damage your lungs.
Mr. Tristan McIntosh: I also wanted to add—I didn’t mention it before—another common air quality problem in the home is volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. This often happens, for instance, if you buy a new carpet and it off-gasses. Some of those chemical compounds and smells can really damage your lungs, especially people who are more sensitive. As well, if some people have home offices, printers or fax machines, some of those machines give off VOCs.
Mr. Tristan McIntosh: Yes, we have lots of information on our website. We provide materials and resources as well, as well as CARST, as we’ve seen with their map. They also deal with radon test kits, so if you need information, I can gladly provide it for you after.
Mr. Chris Yaccato: I will add, just on that short-term/long-term test, we actually worked with the Clerk to have this building tested for radon, and they did a short-term test. From there, they based it on if there were higher levels, they would do a longer-term test. I’m happy to report that the Legislature is low radon level, so you’re okay in the basement. You’re safe. You’re all right.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I just wanted to mention that people are very focused on saving on energy costs obviously, especially these days, so they have better-quality windows and doors and weather stripping. The reality is that we do need a bit of fresh air. I wanted you to comment if you have suggestions for homeowners about opening a window a crack or things like that.
Mrs. Gila Martow: No, just in terms of better air quality. Do you feel it’s better for people to have some fresh air put in their home, or it doesn’t really matter because the furnace is bringing in fresh air? Some people feel it’s cleaner to let it run through the filters.
Mr. Tristan McIntosh: They would always have to first make sure that they change their filters regularly, as Chris mentioned earlier in the anecdotal story about the home-building association or whatever group that was—sorry. But I would say that fresh air is always the best. Sometimes opening a window, going for a walk—the ventilation is very important in a home.
Mr. Chris Yaccato: Like you’ve commented on, homes are being built tight now. Whether it be varnish in your basement storage or paint, all those chemicals are building up in the house. It’s great because you’re saving on energy costs, but at the same time, you’re also living in kind of a plastic bag. You’re holding on tight, and nothing can get out and move.
Having home inspectors educated on those things can really help homeowners, because you can’t—not like this place—open a window in the middle of winter to let in some cold air because it’s so hot, because it costs so much money. But at the same time, we have to be cognizant of the fact that these chemicals and the air quality could be quite harmful.
Mr. Tristan McIntosh: Well, I would always say that everyone should get their home tested. A simple test kit is very inexpensive. If they do test and the levels are elevated, then we would recommend getting a radon-certified professional. You can go on the CARST website to look one of those people up.
They would come in and look for the best way to mitigate that radon, usually through a sub-slab depressurization system. That’s when they install a motorized pipe from the foundation and it juts out either from the exterior wall or the roof. With a mechanical fan, that will fan out or air out the radon to lower their levels in their home.
For mould, I know they have spore traps and tape lift samples which you can send in to a lab. But you could also visually determine it. For that, I would also recommend someone who is trained and certified.
For asbestos, in some materials, you can visually assume that it’s asbestos—for instance, transite pipe. Most people don’t test that, because that damages the structure and that could cause a leak. But otherwise, I would always recommend a certified professional for testing those things.
At the time of publication of this post, the content for this page was taken from the unedited Hansards transcripts, so may appear slightly different from the version that is finally published publicly.
Presentation: ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF HOME INSPECTORS
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): We’ll go to our next presenter, then: the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, Murray Parish and Pierre Champagne. Gentlemen, as you’ve heard, you have up to five minutes to present. There will be questions from each caucus. If you’d introduce yourselves for Hansard and just start in.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: Yes, good afternoon, members of the committee. My name is Pierre Champagne, corporate lawyer for a number of years of the association. I’m here today with Murray Parish, home inspector since 2009 in the central north region and president of the association since 2015.
The Ontario Association of Home Inspectors is pleased and proud to be here to address you on Bill 59. The Association was created in 1986. It was then the subject of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors Act, 1994—a private member’s bill that was adopted in 1994. That bill allowed the association to grant the designation of “registered home inspector,” RHI. It allowed the association to regulate its members and created a disciplinary process as well as providing for training and continuing education mandated.
The membership of the association has reached about 530 members, but the membership in the association is not mandatory. So, the association very much welcomes the regulation of home inspectors in the province of Ontario.
As a result of this new initiative that you’re undertaken, the association consulted its members, discussed the initiative with its partners and stakeholders. We’re here to share with you three points, three key, critical points where we believe that tweaking of the legislation would make it better for consumers and the industry.
My first point is the requirement that we find in section 51(5) to have a disclosure of the existence of home inspectors insurance coverage in the home inspection contract. All members of the association, the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, were required to have mandatory liability insurance coverage from 1994 to 2006. They had that insurance coverage. There was no requirement for it to be in the contract. The only reason that it became optional starting in 2006 is that there were difficulties obtaining insurance in this industry. That’s being taken care of elsewhere in the legislation.
The other players in the real estate transaction—whether it’s real estate agents, whether it’s lawyers—nobody requires them to put in their contract, to advertise that they have liability insurance. The consumer protection function is guaranteed when you have the requirement to have liability insurance. It’s not the putting it into the contract that assists that.
What we say in our submission is that it unfairly targets home inspectors to have the requirement of liability insurance inserted into the contract. It targets them as the one party that says to everybody, “We have liability insurance.” In fact, every actor in the real estate transaction has liability insurance.
Our suggestion and our submission is that it is important. We very much support having mandatory liability insurance. Where we think tweaking of subsection 51(5) is required is when you say, “Well, you are required to put that you have liability insurance in your contract.” We don’t think that’s necessary.
It does nothing to add to the consumer protection benefits of this legislation. That would require a small tweak to section 51-5 and probably 75 as well.
Our second point is that since 1994, experienced, well-qualified, well-trained home inspectors have become known as RHIs, registered home inspectors. That designation was granted to the association in the private member’s bill adopted in 1994. It’s now become a sign of a more specialized home inspector, somebody that does not simply meet the bare-bones requirements to be licensed.
When we look at the report that was prepared by the panel on December 10, 2013 for the minister, it does speak of a designation of licensed home inspector. When we look at the legislation, it doesn’t come out with any type of designation that would assist in showing a higher level of competency.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): I’m sorry to say you’re out of time.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: Okay. Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): We will go to our first questioner then. Mr. Singh?
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Did you want to just finish up? You can use some of my time.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: Thank you. What we want to say is that the RHI designation is very important from the perspective of the consumer. In other words, if you’re retaining an RHI to do your home inspection, you’re really saying, “I’m retaining somebody that has a specialized designation and more experience.” That’s what we think is very important.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Okay. So, you mentioned that the liability insurance is not necessary in the contract itself and you mentioned that there is no benefit to the consumer. Why isn’t there a benefit to the consumer?
Mr. Pierre Champagne: The consumer protection element is the requirement to have that liability insurance. The simple fact of inserting it into the contract adds nothing and simply, in our submission, unfairly targets the home inspector as insured, as opposed to the other actors in the real estate transaction.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: I got it. So you’re saying that it’s really incumbent on the people purchasing, selling—they should have—they are the ones that need to have the insurance.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: No, no. Home inspectors need to have and are required to have liability insurance. It’s in the legislation. We’re just saying there’s no reason to force the home inspector to insert that into the contract.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Because they are already insured anyways.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: And, in fact, the proposed legislation requires them to be insured.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Oh, I see. So it’s redundant.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: It’s redundant and the others in the real estate transaction—whether it’s lawyers, doctors, engineers—nobody is required to identify or advertise that they have liability insurance.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: I see, I see. So you think that by having that in, it somehow besmirches the reputation of a home inspector. It makes it seem like they needed it to be in there overtly because there’s some sort of lack of reliability or credibility with the profession.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: Well, I don’t think it’s a lack of credibility. I think it unfairly targets them with respect to their client, and saying, look, this is who you should sue if there is a problem. In fact, the right to sue doesn’t depend on whether somebody has liability insurance or not and whether that is inserted in the contract.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Oh, I see. It draws that to one’s mind so that the first claim that they would write up might be to the home inspector as opposed to the lawyer or someone else.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: The proper actor in the real estate transaction.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: I see. That’s it, those are my questions. Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Mr. Baker?
Mr. Yvan Baker: Thanks so much for coming in. I just want to follow up on Mr. Singh’s question.
I understand your point about “the liability insurance is required in the act, so why require it in the contract?” I’m just trying to understand the harm it does. I know you just spoke to the fact that it makes people aware of the fact that there could potentially be liability in there for—consumers are more likely, if I understood you correctly—consumers are more likely, if they do sue, to sue the home inspector over other parties that may be liable. Am I correct in understanding your concern?
Mr. Pierre Champagne: Well, I wouldn’t put it the same way. The way I would present it is to say: any of the actors in a real estate transaction may be liable towards another. If you unfairly target the home inspector by forcing the home inspector to put in to the contract that they have liability insurance, as opposed to the requirement to have—and we are in support of the requirement to have liability insurance. We’re saying you’re unfairly targeting the home inspectors as opposed to real estate agents or lawyers that also have the same liability insurance but it’s not necessarily spelled out in their contract with whoever—the real estate agent with their client or lawyers with their client.
Mr. Yvan Baker: I would have thought—and I haven’t gone through this process personally—that if a homeowner goes to the extent of suing, seeking damages, that in the vast majority of cases, they’d have legal representation, and in those cases that the legal representatives—the lawyers, in other words—representing them, if they’re doing their jobs effectively and advising their clients effectively, would seek compensation from those parties that are indeed liable. Am I wrong in that?
If a real estate agent was liable in a certain situation, whether or not this clause was in the contract with the home inspector, they would seek damages from the real estate agent, and if they thought there was reason to sue the home inspector, they would do that as well; but I would have thought that the clause you’re talking about wouldn’t drive who people sue.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: That’s indirectly our point. In other words, the clause doesn’t add anything because it’s the requirement to have liability insurance that adds the consumer protection. A lawyer or even individuals—by reviewing the act, you see that there’s this requirement if you’re dealing with a home inspector; you’ll know that there is liability insurance there because it’s required by a licensed home inspector.
Mr. Yvan Baker: Yes, I guess the only thing I would say is that I wonder whether from a consumer perspective it’s beneficial for them to know, if there’s a transparency benefit to the consumer of knowing that. But I hear what you’re saying, and there’s already a requirement.
I wanted to ask you quickly about something else, though. Do you see Bill 59 as enhancing the public’s view of home inspectors, even adding more prestige, if you will, to the profession, given the enhanced consumer protections afforded under the act?
Mr. Murray Parish: I think what the act’s going to do is it’s going to make a level playing field. Everybody is going to have to have a licence. There’s going to be, hopefully, a minimum education required, hopefully insurance required, and hopefully the act will be put out there enough that people realize it is a requirement to have this minimum. Right now, even though there is a regulatory body, it’s not known that the objects are there that they can obtain.
Mr. Yvan Baker: Chair, how much time do I have left?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): You have about a minute.
Mr. Yvan Baker: About a minute.
I just want to expand on that a little bit. I guess what I’m asking is, maybe more directly, do you feel as though consumers will have greater confidence? If Bill 59 passes as is, do you think consumers will have greater confidence in home inspectors?
Mr. Murray Parish: I think that would depend on whether or not we actually make more public awareness. If the public doesn’t know that it’s there, that we’re here, that the act is there to protect them, then they won’t know. Right now, there is an act there that is there to help protect them, but a lot of times, unless it’s the realtor or the lawyer or a friend or a family member who says, “You know what? There’s this group that has this designation, this training and this experience,” then they don’t know.
Mr. Yvan Baker: That’s helpful input. Thank you.
Thank you, Chair.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. Baker. To the opposition: Mr. McDonell.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you for your presentation today. I’m a little bit taken aback by your request, because this is consumer protection legislation being put out. One of the selling points of the profession is, “If you subscribe to my services, I’m going to provide a professional report of what issues you may have, and if I happen to miss any, there’s a guarantee with your insurance, similar to other professionals.” Why would you want to make that harder for the consumer to know about it?
Mr. Pierre Champagne: I think it’s similar to all other professionals. All other professionals are treated in the same way. In other words, the requirement is there to have liability insurance. That’s the same requirement you’re imposing on home inspectors. Fair enough; we’re in agreement.
Where we say, “Tweak it a little bit” is, “Well, hold on. If other professionals are not required to include that in their contract, why are you making that a requirement for home inspectors?” That’s the only portion where we say there’s disagreement. We’re not against liability insurance as a requirement—not at all.
Mr. Murray Parish: Just to add to that point, back in the 2000s, when we couldn’t get insurance, a lot of professionals had to get out because they couldn’t afford to do business, or they had to take the chance of having to do the inspection without having insurance, which is not very good for their business, their family or for consumer protection.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Would you think that—of course, you’re taking a large segment of professionals who don’t have training and don’t have the insurance. Is this bill set up so that it ensures that before anybody calls themselves a home inspector, he actually covers these requirements? Are you happy with the regulations here that would stop somebody from just coming in and calling themselves a home inspector and hoping that nothing ever happens or—and may be very good it, or maybe not.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: That was our second point. Our second point was, the legislation provides the minimum level requirement for somebody to be a licensed home inspector. But in many areas, in many professions, you find specialists. Somebody who has attained more experience or who has attained a specialized degree in various fields can call themselves a specialist. That exists with lawyers—a specialist in civil litigation and so on. That exists with doctors. Here, we’ve had this designation called a “registered home inspector” since 1994, the RHI designation.
In the legislation, you’re repealing portions of that private member’s bill. You’re keeping the association, but what we’re asking is that the designation “RHI” also be preserved for the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors so that experienced home inspectors who wish to provide notice to the public that they have achieved this specialized training would be able to use this designation.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Who would regulate that, or who would enforce that?
Mr. Pierre Champagne: Since 1994, the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors has been using this designation, has been enforcing it and has been granting the designation based on training and based on experience and on the qualifications of the individuals being put forward.
I think you can speak more to that.
Mr. Murray Parish: There’s a—sorry, I’m drawing a blank.
Mr. Pierre Champagne: The RHI process.
Mr. Murray Parish: With the RHI process, there is baseline training, which I believe licensing should have. There is prior learning assessment that they can do through the board of education. There’s an apprenticeship. Although it’s a self-apprenticeship, there is still an apprenticeship for an RHI. You have to do 200 inspections and they have to be vetted, verified by a report verifier. We don’t use any in-house people; we do contract people. We ask them to take the two building code courses, health and safety and building envelope, so they at least have a little bit of an idea of what they’re inspecting.
I think somebody was saying that anybody could do a home inspection. Well, right now, you can. If you want to go out, you just go out and start working on a house. So it’s good to have the requirements there in place. We’ve been doing it since 1994.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Do you see your members actually getting grandfathered in this clause? Are you happy with that part of it, if you’re registered under your association?
Mr. Murray Parish: Not just our members, but any association out there that has the proper credentials and the proper training that is deemed correct by the committee or in the DAA—
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): I’m sorry. With that, you’ve run out of time. Thank you, both, for your presentation today.
Presentation: BARBARA CAPTIJN
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Our next presenter, then, is consumer advocate Barbara Captijn. If I’ve murdered your name, my apologies.
Ms. Barbara Captijn: No, that’s ??fair. Captijn.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Excellent. Okay. You have up to five minutes. There will be questions from each caucus. If you’d introduce yourself for Hansard.
Ms. Barbara Captijn: Thank you, Chair Tabuns and the committee on social policy, for having me speak here today. I think it’s important, if we’re talking about consumer protection legislation and this bill, which is presumably putting consumers first, that you hear from grassroots consumers, whom I’m here today to speak for.
I am an independent consumer advocate. I do not work for any of the industry associations. I’ve never worked for government. I work with ordinary, everyday consumers trying to get their homes fixed, whether they are new or resale homes. I’m not paid by anyone to be here. I just feel that in social policy legislation, the grassroots consumer voice has to have a very big part in your decision-making process. My sole interest, therefore, is the consumer protection that other people have been talking about.
I hear a lot of talk about liability clauses and lawyers. Believe me, lawyers are the last thing a consumer wants to have to deal with after buying a new home. It’s the most important purchase and the most significant purchase of most of our lives, therefore there’s precious little time and money left over to be haggling with various liability causes and lawyers.
I have three points to make about Bill 59:
(1) Is it really putting consumers first? If so, how?
(2) Is the bill solving problems or is it simply treating the symptoms of a larger underlying problem?
(3) I’d like to talk to you about what many consumers feel are serious weaknesses in the DAA model, the delegated administrative authority model, which you’ve chosen for this new regulatory body.
First of all, is this bill putting consumers first? Many consumers I speak to thought that all home inspectors had to be licensed in order to complete a home inspection and charge money for it. Many of us read in the Toronto Star article in April 2016, and I quote, that in Ontario, “anyone with a business card and a flashlight can be a home inspector.” This is very concerning of course to consumers, and if you say that your bill is putting consumers first, where were we before? Where have you put us for the last decade?
Believe me, this caused a great deal of consternation among consumers who’ve paid for these services. Just like you pay for the services of an architect or a dentist, you have a reasonable right to believe that they have a certain minimum level of competency to deliver the service.
Another press release on the ministry’s website says consumers will be protected from surprise costs with the introduction of this bill. That was on the ministry’s website, August 17, 2016. I just think it’s important that in releasing this bill, you advise consumers that a home inspection is not a panacea. It does not solve and it can’t disclose all latent and concealed defects in a home. It is a visual, usually non-invasive inspection of the home, usually with a checklist. It doesn’t matter how qualified the person is. Of course, we all want the home inspector to have a certain minimum number of qualifications, but even a qualified engineer can’t see, for example, if there’s improper waterproofing done of a shower stall, which could only manifest itself two or three years after the home’s been built.
So, is this really putting consumers first or is it trying to tinker around the edges of a larger problem of defects being built into homes during construction?
I would argue we are not doing enough to clamp down on the people who actually own this problem, someone who builds a home with construction defects in it and gets paid full price for it and simply leaves the scene, leaving it for Tarion and all sorts of other DAAs to deal with. It’s not working, and it’s leaving the consumer with a problem to pay for that he did not cause. I think we have to shift the root problem back to the plate of the person who created it and owns it, and that is the shoddy building problem we have in Ontario.
I ask you, is this bill treating symptoms of a larger problem, or is it getting at the root cause? If homes are built properly in the first place, we would have less need to rely on home inspectors to discover them, and even once they’re discovered, it’s usually the consumer who’s left to pay for it.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ms. Captijn, I’m sorry to say you’re out of time. We’ll go first to the government and Mr. Dhillon.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much. Your last name, it’s Ms.–
Ms. Barbara Captijn: Captijn.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Okay. Ms. Captijn, can you explain why you agree with regulating home inspectors in Ontario?
Ms. Barbara Captijn: Excuse me?
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Can you explain why you agree with regulating home inspectors in Ontario?
Ms. Barbara Captijn: For the same reason that when I go to a dentist, I have to rely that the dentist has a minimum level of competency in order for me to pay him for a service. I think it’s just part of our modern democracy. Where I do think this bill falls short is, it’s using the DAA model, the delegated administrative authority model, which has been a disaster for Tarion and for consumer protection.
I have three points to make about that, but I didn’t get a chance to make them.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Go ahead.
Ms. Barbara Captijn: The accountability and transparency elements are not there. The preponderance of industry members on the board of directors of a DAA and also the cost. This bill does not outline the cost of setting up another DAA, and the fact that the Ombudsman of Ontario, for example, has no oversight over this new DAA—I know the Auditor General does. That’s different from Tarion, in this case. But it’s not enough. How can the public be convinced that the public interest is being served if a DAA operates at arm’s length from the government? Who is protecting the consumer?
Everybody talks about protecting the consumer. You can’t verify whether the DAA is actually doing that. It’s a flawed model. It is not a model which many of us are happy to see used in this bill. There’s nothing wrong with regulating home inspectors. It’s just that the DAA model doesn’t provide the accountability and transparency which consumers deserve. Even the government can’t look into the operations of the TSSA or Tarion, and soon, perhaps this delegated administrative authority. It’s a huge concern.
MPP Singh has brought Bill 60 to the Legislature in order to provide transparency and accountability to an existing DAA. It’s a huge concern for consumers, MPP Dhillon. I urge you to take a look at whether consumers are protected by the delegated administrative authority or whether the industry bodies ultimately take control of it and control it for their own interests? We can’t even tell whether lobbyists are lobbying the DAAs. There’s no disclosure. There’s no sunshine list disclosure. These are all huge problems with Tarion.
Your ministry files are full of consumer complaints about this. I have two articles here written by lawyer Alan Shanoff in the Toronto Sun about lack of transparency and accountability in the DAA model. I don’t understand why this isn’t being taken more seriously. It’s a huge concern to consumers.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Chair, do we have time?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Yes, you do, Ms. Mangat. Almost two minutes.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Thank you, Ms. Captijn, for your presentation. You spoke about Tarion in your answers. Can you compare how Tarion is consistent with home inspectors? I mean, how do you compare Tarion with home inspectors?
Ms. Barbara Captijn: When a new home is delivered by Tarion, they said that they do what they call a pre-delivery inspection. We’ve told them, “You can’t call this an inspection because it’s not being done by an inspector.” It’s being done by the builder or his sister or grandmother or whoever he designates. It’s a misnomer. It should not be used. It is misleading to consumers. We haven’t been able to get the consumer point of view across to Tarion because, like I said, the DAA model does not really allow for transparency and accountability.
I think it’s an excellent question. Why isn’t Tarion, before delivery of the home, having an inspection that is part of the warranty? But in any case, that inspector still couldn’t see latent or concealed defects behind walls or under floors, which are hugely expensive to even detect, let alone repair or fix. So the consumer is left paying for somebody else’s problem. I think that, as a social policy issue, that’s a huge problem with consumer protection in Ontario.
But thank you for your question. I think it’s a good one.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Do you think it’s a fair comparison to compare Tarion with home inspectors?
Ms. Barbara Captijn: Well, Tarion is not a home inspection organization at all. They are a warranty provider and they are a regulator of the building industry. But they themselves admit they don’t have the compliance tools to regulate the building industry. That is what they admitted in the Tarion interim report, which is on the ministry’s website.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): With that, I’m sorry to say you’re out of time with this questioner. We go to the official opposition. Mr. McDonell.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you for coming out. Many of the defects you’re talking about that are missed through a new home, are most of them very difficult to be picked up by inspectors? They’re not visuals, you say. They’re built into the—they’re buried in walls or underground. Is that the type of actual issues you see, from your point of view?
I guess the visual ones are easy to see.
Ms. Barbara Captijn: Yes, I mean, scratches on floors. I was in a home inspection recently where the realtor had provided on the table of information for the prospective purchaser, there was a home inspection. It was from a qualified home inspector, but it noted water on the floor by the furnace. Of course, a consumer can see that as well, but you don’t know what the cause is until you do some destructive testing.
I think it’s important to tell consumers a home inspection is mostly a visual look at the home. It’s an indication of the health of the home. But to your point, a lot is latent and concealed behind cement floors or behind walls and cannot be discovered on a visual inspection. Again, the problem is that builders are getting away with doing this in the first place.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Is there protection you see that allows the homeowner to actually go back after the builder right now?
Ms. Barbara Captijn: Well, there are all sorts of courtrooms, but the consumers don’t have money to hire lawyers; this is the problem.
And Tarion lawyers itself up—
Mr. Jim McDonell: We’re seeing cases where the building code is clearly not followed, so the builder was negligent, and yet the only avenue they have is going back to court.
Ms. Barbara Captijn: The finger pointing begins, unfortunately. The municipality will send you to Tarion. Tarion sends you to the builder. The builder sends you to the subtrade. It is an impossible task for a consumer to get resolution on a lot of these. That’s my work, on a volunteer basis, for the last five years. There is nobody else doing this except, perhaps, the organization you’ll hear from next.
Somebody has got to stick up for the consumer. I don’t think that this bill gives the transparency and accountability for you to be able to do that.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ms. Martow.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Do you feel think that the municipalities that have to sign off on the home inspections are doing an adequate job?
Ms. Barbara Captijn: No. They have told us when we’ve called—various municipalities act differently—but they say, “We can’t inspect every two-by-four in new homes. It’s not our fault. Go to Tarion. Go to a lawyer. Sue the municipality.” Someone advised a consumer recently, “Why don’t you sue the city of Toronto?” They’ve got armies of lawyers.
By the way, I would challenge any of you: Try to find a Bay Street law firm that will defend a consumer against builders and Tarion—or that doesn’t already represent one of the large builder lobbies. It’s almost impossible. And if you could find them, you can’t afford them.
So the consumer is left on his own to flap in the wind. It’s unjust. It’s unfair, and this bill does not address that.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Do I have any more time?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Yes, you have time.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Do you feel that title insurance—when people are purchasing a house, I sort of get the feeling that sometimes everybody feels they’re insured, so the standards kind of go down, or the realtors worry less.
Ms. Barbara Captijn: No, our experience is—because everybody’s been saying, “title insurance, title insurance”—when you really check that out, they insure your title to the property. Is there an easement or is there some dispute about your entitlement to that particular property? They send you to Tarion.
Tarion is a delegated administrative authority of this government, but it is unaccountable and it is untransparent. It is not doing its job for consumers.
It’s probably serving the industry very well, but that was not its intention. I call this: mopping up the floor while the tap is still running. We’re mopping up the floor but not fixing the problem at its source. To me there is much more work to be done in consumer protection here. This just isn’t tackling it.
Mrs. Gila Martow: We’re out of time?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): You have 30 seconds.
Mrs. Gila Martow: If I could just very quickly say, you mentioned before about dentists being licensed and being qualified. Would you like to see the same for home builders or trades that follow the person, as opposed to the name of the corporation?
Ms. Barbara Captijn: Presumably, Tarion is already doing that. They are supposed to license builders. But how, for example, an Urbancorp kept getting its licence renewed, when there were obvious signs that they couldn’t meet their financial obligations to even their own clients, that is a flaw. As I said, Tarion admits itself: It doesn’t have enough compliance tools.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): With that, I’m sorry to say, you’re out of time with the opposition. We go to Mr. Singh.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you; it’s a pleasure to have you here at the committee. Thank you for providing your input.
The main issue that you’ve raised—and I think it’s an important issue because we’ve seen similar problems with other DAAs—is the difficulty in providing oversight for those types of structures. Any other major area that’s lacking? You’ve outlined a number of them. Anything that you think is missing, in terms of this particular area of consumer protection?
Ms. Barbara Captijn: I think that we have to make sure that bona fide consumer advocates are speaking for the consumer.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Right.
Ms. Barbara Captijn: I think that there are a lot of special interests who say that they represent the consumer, but you really have to get the grassroots consumer to speak for themselves.
Plus, the Ombudsman of Ontario should have oversight over this new authority, so should the sunshine list disclosure rules, and so should the lobbying rules, the freedom of information ??rules, the privacy act—all of those things with this new authority, so should the sunshine list disclosure rules and so should the lobbying rules, the freedom of information ??rules, ??act, the privacy act—all of those things are excluded from this bill, MPP Singh, and I think it’s a gap.
It’s a gap with Tarion, as well. They don’t even have the right for the Auditor General to look at Tarion’s books, and their executives are earning close to $1 million in salaries. This is a runaway organization that is a huge cause of concern for consumers.
I don’t understand that we don’t keep the problem on the plate of the person who owns it. The builders create the problems. Let’s make accountable for them and fix them. Home inspectors—really, this is tinkering around the edges of a huge problem, mopping the floor while the tap is running.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: To use your example, one of the major issues with consumer protection in your mind would be then proper oversight, not of these other, smaller components—those are important as well, but more important, you would say, if I can put words in your mouth, is the issue of addressing the structure, accountability and transparency of Tarion. Is that your—?
Ms. Barbara Captijn: Yes, and in its role of regulating builders, because when you and I buy a home from a builder, we should get our money’s worth. A home free of defects in workmanship and materials, according to the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act: That is what the law of Ontario provides. But we are not getting it with this DAA. It’s a mistake to look at the DAA format for this. I hope you will take that seriously.
Look at what was said on June 1, in Hansard, in the year 2000. Dr. Winfield voiced similar concerns about the DAA oversight authority for the TSAA, the Technical Safety and Standards Authority. June 1, Hansard, committee hearings, Bill 42, the year 2000. He hit all these points on the head, yet we don’t seem to learn from this. I think it’s to the detriment of consumer protection.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you very much, I appreciate it.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you very much, Ms. Captijn.
Presentation: CANADIANS FOR PROPERLY BUILT HOMES
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Our next presenter is joining us by teleconference. Ms. Somerville, can you hear me?
Dr. Karen Somerville: Yes, I can.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Excellent. I’ll just identify who’s here. On the government side we have MPPs Dhillon, Mangat and Baker. On the official opposition side, Ms. Martow and Mr. McDonell; third party, Mr. Singh.
You may know that you have up to five minutes to present, and when you’re done we’ll go to each party, and they have up to five minutes to ask you questions.
Could you please start, and in starting please identify yourself first off.
Dr. Karen Somerville: I would be pleased to do that. Thank you for the opportunity today. My name is Karen Somerville. I’m the president of Canadians for Properly Built Homes.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Proceed.
Dr. Karen Somerville: Okay, thank you. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today. We submitted a written document last week and we hope you all received that. I plan to summarize seven key points from our written submission from last week here today.
First of all, CPBH supports regulation of the home inspection industry, but we cannot support Bill 59. Our position is that the bill is seriously flawed. We’re concerned that the bill seems to be mainly an effort to save the home inspection industry and related jobs and to create more revenues for the government through taxes and DAA oversight fees, rather than protecting consumers, which it is positioned as.
Secondly, we’re concerned that in developing Bill 59, there was likely an overreliance on the 2013 Home Inspector Panel Report. It’s our view that there were issues with the composition of the panel membership and a number of shortcomings with that report, including a likely serious underestimation of the cost increase of home inspections should Bill 59 proceed.
Probably most importantly, some key aspects of the 2013 report may be obsolete. Obviously, the real estate market and the home inspection industry have changed significantly since that report was submitted. For example, rather than the industry growth that was referenced in the report, some are of the view that that industry—the home inspection industry—now is in serious decline.
Thirdly, we do not see this as a consumers first bill. If consumers were first in Ontario, there would already be legislation to ensure that the Ontario Building Code is enforced during construction of homes, and to deal with the serious problems with Tarion. Then consumers wouldn’t have such a need for private home inspections.
Obviously, all of the woes of the current housing market cannot be solved by a private home inspection. It’s our view that the government of Ontario must develop a sense of urgency and take a comprehensive view of what’s going on with housing.
Further, if consumers were first, the organizational structure proposed in Bill 59 would not be a DAA, for example, a corporation that is a legal entity where the board must make decisions based on the best interests of the new corporation itself rather than the best interests of consumers.
(4). We’re concerned about a lack of information related to Bill 59. MPP Singh noted this last November in the debates in the Legislature. From what we can see, this is proposing to another organization similar to Tarion with a board dominated probably by vested industry interests rather than consumers, potentially unnecessarily high cost and serious inadequate transparency and oversight.
During the debates in the Legislature in November, rightfully MPP McDonell raised the issue of cost-effectiveness. A hour-hour ago, I received a letter from the ministry—just today—that confirms that there has still been no detailed costing for this proposed DAA. The panel did not do that in 2013 and more than three years later no one else seems to have done it. The ministry appears to be looking for a blank cheque, blindly moving ahead without an adequate cost estimate.
There’s a strong concern that anticipated increased costs of implementing Bill 59 could drive the price of a home inspection up to the point that the price further deters home owners from getting a home inspection.
(5) It’s imperative that private home inspections not become mandatory. We understand that some are of the view that they should become mandatory, and it’s not in the bill. We understand that, but we hear that a number of home inspection groups, for example, feel that it should be mandatory going forward. Instead, there should be a strong effective consumer awareness campaign to make consumers aware of the risks of not having a home inspection. Consumers will pay for home inspections if they see value in the service.
(6) As I’ve already stated, we disagree with the proposed DAA model. Before proceeding with another DAA, we urge you to seriously consider a direct government model, such as Alberta offers. That would be more in line with true consumer protection. We anticipate lower costs with a direct government model and the built-in transparency and accountability afforded: Auditor General, Ombudsman, sunshine list, freedom of information.
(7) If Bill 59 proceeds, we feel that there has been far too much left to the regulations and we’d recommend some key components should be built into the legislation itself. First of all, consumers must comprise the majority number of seats on the board, given that this is positioned as consumer protection legislation—
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ms. Somerville, I’m sorry to say that you’ve run out of time.
Dr. Karen Somerville: All right
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): I’m going to turn you over to the official opposition, Mr. McDonell.
Dr. Karen Somerville: Thank you.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you for speaking. Do you have any particular points you just want to get in? I know you were cut off.
Dr. Karen Somerville: That’s okay. We just feel that too much has been left to the regulations, MPP McDonell, and there needs to be more built into the legislation itself. That’s a key point.
Mr. Jim McDonell: I know one of the issues you’re talking about, a consumer gets a home inspection, he sees a defect in the building that’s identified. It hasn’t been identified before or maybe it has been. So now it falls back to the owner whereas it should go back to the builder. If something was built wrong or didn’t follow the code, you’re taking the responsibility away from the builder who actually caused the issue and you’re just putting it back on the consumer. Any comment on that?
Dr. Karen Somerville: Yes. We certainly see that. We look at this legislation as a system starting with enforcing the code during construction, which is not adequately done. We’re meeting with Minister Mauro later this week on that. There’s a problem with the enforcement of the Ontario building code, then all the problems with Tarion and we’ve got problems with the LAT, where people go to dispute Tarion, as you know. Now we’re coming forth with this legislation which is well down the path where these other three sets of legislation have not been effective.
Mr. Jim McDonell: I guess I have a bit of an issue with just adding more inspection. I guess the goal is to beat the system, they can’t be there 24 hours a day. I don’t see that as a reasonable initiative, but I do agree with you that if it’s identified—it shouldn’t matter if it’s identified the day it happens or three or four years later—
Dr. Karen Somerville: Right.
Mr. Jim McDonell: —if somebody hasn’t followed the code has caused an issue, they should be responsible for it.
Dr. Karen Somerville: Absolutely. That’s a key point that we made to Justice Cunningham. As I think you know, MPP McDonell, Tarion has through its own regulations decided that, for example, HVAC, heating systems, that warranty— think you know, MPP McDonell, Tarion has through its own regulations decided that, for example, HVAC, heating systems, that warranty expires at the end of two years. If you have two mild winters and the third winter is a normal winter and then you realize that your heating isn’t working, you’re out of luck.
The point that we made to Justice Cunningham was that when a code violation is confirmed, a code violation is a code violation and it should be addressed.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Yes, I agree with that. Any other points that you want to make on this? I know that you’ve been a tireless advocate for the consumer.
Dr. Karen Somerville: Well, I want to stress the concern about the possible increases in the cost of home inspection that we might anticipate if this bill goes ahead. It’s disturbing to us to hear from the ministry today that they still don’t have costing models. They say that they haven’t done detailed costing—I’m looking at the letter that we just received. It’s disturbing that they would get this far down the road and not have costs.
These costs are all going to be paid for. If this proceeds, the costs are all going to be paid for by the consumer. We feel that government keeping control of this directly would undoubtedly be much more cost effective rather than whole new organization that can set its own salaries, for examples. We’ve seen cases where salaries are out of control. We just really fundamentally disagree with the DAA model. There have been concerns about that for decades now.
Mr. Jim McDonell: You’re absolutely right. There needs to be some controls put in there.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ms. Martow, you have about a minute left.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I would just say that I really appreciate you advocating on behalf of our houses being well built. I’ve been in my house for 24 years. I just wanted to share with the committee that it was a new construction and that it rained for a good day and a half. I got a bit of water in the corner of the basement.
They came, put a hose—it was before Tarion, I forget what it was called—they put a hose for half an hour and no water came in. They said, “No, you must have dropped some water there in your unfinished basement.” I said, “Leave the hose running and go for lunch. Go for lunch.” I might have even given them 20 bucks to go for lunch to tell you the truth. I did. I did tell them where to go for lunch and they came back an hour or two later and, lo and behold, there was water coming in the basement.
The builder fixed it very quickly and I have not had a problem for 24 years. I don’t blame the builders for sometimes things happen when you’re building a house and things shift, but I would like to see our consumers not having to hire lawyers. Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ms. Martow, you’re out of time. I’m sorry. Mr. Singh.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you very much. Thank you, Ms. Somerville, for joining us. This is MPP Singh.
Dr. Karen Somerville: Good afternoon.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Good afternoon. I also want to thank you for your tireless advocacy with respect to consumer rights and issues, particularly with respect to homes.
Dr. Karen Somerville: You’re welcome.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Just on this bill you’ve raised a number of concerns, and broadly speaking, you’ve raised the concern that this isn’t really putting consumers first if major issues with respect to homebuilding and top-of-mind for new homes would be Tarion are not being addressed.
Dr. Karen Somerville: Correct.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: On that issue, linking the two together, this legislation doesn’t do anything to address any oversight of Tarion. Your thoughts on that, being left out of this bill—if you could just reiterate your concerns.
Dr. Karen Somerville: Well, obviously we’re all waiting to see what Justice Cunningham has recommended. I tried to address that earlier, but I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this again: When we take a look at consumers first, when it comes to the largest purchase most consumers ever make, and that’s the purchase of a home. It needs to be looked at as an entire package, a comprehensive view of this. We obviously recognize that we’re well into the process with this bill, but it’s concerning that a more comprehensive view is not taken. The delays with the reform of Tarion that are required are very concerning, but the whole issue with the lack of enforcement of the Ontario Building Code, as well, is very concerning.
It has got be looked at as a package, even the way that it’s structured within the government. We have now got a Ministry of Housing that has nothing to do with housing quality, which is really astounding to many of us. It’s now over with Minister Mauro. I think that’s a big part of the problem, when we look at how the Ontario government has us. It’s now over with Minister Mauro. I think that’s a big part of the problem, when we look at how the Ontario government has kept this up, all of these silos. Last fall we met with then-minister Lalonde and we asked her for help in breaking down these silos.
We see that as a big part of the problem. We would hope that, at some point, this could be addressed. Maybe the new Minister MacCharles will help us with that. But looking at these, with the siloed effect, is really not in the best interest of consumers and putting consumers first.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. With respect to this bill in specific, are there any areas where you can see improvement or where you see some clear gaps? I know you’ve touched some of them; I just want to give you another opportunity if there’s something that you felt you weren’t able to address.
Dr. Karen Somerville: The structure of a DAA. As a lawyer, MPP Singh, I assume that you’re aware of this and hopefully you would agree with this—we know that the responsibility of the board of a DAA is to look out for the best interests of the corporation itself, not consumers. That is a fundamental flaw with this as we see it. If it was kept under direct control by the government, such as Alberta has done—Alberta’s system is not perfect either. We know that. But we think it would be much more—prefer it much more if we could have the direct government control. That is the role of government: protecting consumers and putting consumers first. Hiding this off into another DAA will not do that. We’re deeply concerned about the proposed structure of this and the cost implications of it. And, yes, we know that the Auditor General is built into the bill. We feel that’s certainly not enough.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Okay.
Dr. Karen Somerville: We are asking you as a committee to seriously review the direct government model. The panel back in 2013 did not. They saw that Alberta and other jurisdictions, for example, in the United States have direct government control, but the panel said something like, “Well, we know that Ontario prefers a DAA so we’re just going to propose a DAA.”
For something as important as this, somebody needs to be taking a hard look at this. The panel didn’t do it. The panel didn’t do detailed costing. We’re hoping that you and your committee can find a way to seriously review the advantages of direct government control versus a DAA, in all aspects.
But also, the bill right now calls for the minister to be recommending a minority of board members should the DAA go through. We just don’t understand that. If this is supposed to be consumer protection, why would the majority of board members not be independent consumers, and not the vested interests of the various industries involved?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ms. Somerville, I’m sorry to say you’ve run out of time with this questioner. We go to the government: Mr. Dhillon.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much, Chair and thank you very much, Ms. Somerville, for speaking before the committee today.
Dr. Karen Somerville: Thank you.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Home inspectors have asked us for this legislation, and we’ve heard from consumers. Can you explain how your views are similar or aligned with other advocates?
Dr. Karen Somerville: Well, other advocates—do you mean other consumers?
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Other organizations, people; yes, it could be consumers that are in favour of this legislation.
Dr. Karen Somerville: I can tell you that we have spent a great deal of time on this, particularly in the last two weeks. We have reached out to the home inspection industry. We have reached out through social media. Our constituency is consumers. We are a consumer advocacy organization, so we speak with consumers.
CPPH was founded in 2004. We have 13 years of doing this. We talk to consumers regularly, many of them from Ontario. We feel we have a very good view of many consumers’ views on this. Our full board had a meeting around our position paper last week, our deputation. There is 100% agreement from our board. You’ll never find everybody who agrees on everything.
The one disconnect that we have found in our work over the past three weeks where there is not agreement is in the issue of, if Bill 59 proceeds, whether it should be mandatory inspections or not. We have talked to a number of home inspectors who feel that Bill 59 should go ahead and everybody, before a property is transferred, should have to have a home inspection.
We certainly do not agree with that, as I said in my comments. From a consumer perspective, we feel—create an awareness campaign, outline the benefits and risks of a home inspection, but do not make it mandatory. Consumers, if they see the value, will purchase this.
To go back specifically to your question, our main constituency is the consumer constituency. We talk to other industries, including the home inspection industry, and we are in agreement that this should be regulated. But how it goes ahead is very much—there are different views on that for sure. We talked to builders in our regular work and I’m at Queen’s Park in the next few days. Unfortunately, my meeting with you folks wasn’t scheduled until fairly late so I’m on a plane tomorrow morning and I’ll be at Queen’s Park tomorrow afternoon.
We are in regular contact with a variety of stakeholder groups, but I cannot say to you that we are in complete agreement with everybody, and I think you know that.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Okay. Thank you very much.
Dr. Karen Somerville: You’re welcome.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Any other questions from the government side? There being none, Ms. Somerville, thank you very much for your presentation. Pleasure meeting you.
Dr. Karen Somerville: Thank you for the time today.
Presentation: CONSUMERS FOR RESPONSIBLE HOME INSPECTIONS
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): The next presenter is Consumers for Responsible Home Inspections: Bruce McClure and Stephen Duncan.
As you’ve heard, you have up to five minutes to present and then up to five minutes of questions from each caucus. I think we have some reports there, for members of the committee. If you would start off by introducing yourself so you’re recorded by Hansard, and then go to it.
Mr. Bruce McClure: Yes. I’m Bruce McClure and this is Stephen Duncan, my assistant—
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Excuse me, one second. Folks, please, could we have quiet in the room? Those having conversations at the back, please step outside. Thank you.
Mr. Bruce McClure: No problem. Been a long day?
First and foremost, attending two days of these hearings, I’m totally impressed by that questions that are coming from the floor.
That is a breath of fresh air based on what we’ve been getting from the ministry.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve done thousands of home inspections. I’ve witnessed the interaction between the needs of sellers, buyers and realtors. I’ve interacted with thousands of home inspectors across North America. I’ve sat on the boards of directors, I’ve been the national president of the home inspectors, and I’ve been the provincial president of the home inspectors. I’ve designed and built custom homes. I acquired my real estate licence at one point and took a sabbatical for three years to practise real estate, so that I understood the full gamut of the picture.
When you’re government announced that they were going to hire home inspectors, at the same time, they announced they were going to a TV celebrity for advice. For a lot of us, that was a grave insult, okay? Personally, I went to my desk, and 10 months later and $65,000 later my book was available in all the majors in North America. This book is not about me; it is not about my ego. This book is a statement of the industry of home inspection in North America, based on 35 states that have licensed home inspectors and two provinces. So it’s not my ego speaking. It has been written specifically for people like you. If you read the back cover, that’s exactly what it says. It’s here to help you understand the industry that you’re going to set some rules and regulations for. I was thrilled on the first day to hear you talk about radon. You talked about mould. You talked about indoor air quality. It’s all in the book. That’s why it’s here: to try to educate people.
Frankly, it was during the research—Steve here is my researcher. It was in doing the research for the book that I realized critical radon is and how we need to be dealing with it. Really, what has happened since the book has come out is I’ve almost jumped ship from being a home inspector and consider myself a consumer advocate. That’s really the bulk of what I’ve been doing. I’m taking my knowledge from having the entire picture behind me to do that.
I’m going to apologize right off the bat if I offend anybody, because I’ve been taught to shoot off the hip and tell it the way I see it. I do not see Bill 59 the way it stands being advantageous. We are being asked, in good faith, to give a single minister and ministry the responsibility to set up a DAA. We heard several other people speak earlier today about the consequences of a DAA. I’m going to give you some examples.
This is a ministry that is in charge of RECO, the authority that allows the realtors, who are not required to have any formal education about houses, housing, house maintenance or construction, to advertise that they know everything about real estate. Regardless of the conflict of interest, the minister allows realtors, on a daily basis, to select home inspectors, deselect home inspectors and supervise home inspections. How is this not a conflict of interest? It’s our position that it’s really the realtors who run the home inspection industry, when it should be for the consumers.
It’s a ministry that looks after Tarion. I’m not even going to go down that road, especially after the conversations we had earlier today.
One of the things that disturbs us is, back in 2013, the ministry wrote a report called Qualifying Ontario’s Home Inspectors, which is the basis for everything that we’re here for today. In that report, there is a statement that says, “There should be no mandatory education requirement to become a home inspector….” There is also a statement in there—and, again, I say, the report is entitled Qualifying Ontario’s Home Inspectors—that says, “Consumers often rely on and trust their real estate agents and should have the right to allow their agents to recommend and even to arrange home inspections.” How is that not a conflict of interest in a document entitled Qualifying Home Inspectors?
Then, of course, we can’t forget that there were a couple of engineers on that committee, and somehow they’re magically exempt from having to be licensed. I’m not aware of a discipline in engineering that trains for home inspection.
A couple of questions I do have—the ministry, though the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, had Conestoga College write a competency study. Has that come to the table yet? This is a competency study for home inspectors.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): I apologize for this, but you’ve run out of time. I’m going to go to the government first: Ms. Mangat.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: No, no. Mr. Dhillon.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Mr. Dhillon. Sorry.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much. Do you want to, maybe, say a couple of sentences?
Mr. Bruce McClure: I thank you kindly. I’ll cut to the chase. We feel that this bill needs some assurances to us. To form a DAA, we want to see that it’s at least 60% consumers. Leave 40% for the vested interests. We need realtors on there, and we need home inspectors on there, but the 60% should be non-vested interests.
Independence is a critical part of what you’re doing. Unless you can make the home inspection separate from the real estate transaction, the way it stands today, it’s our position that—everybody in this room knows the terminology “independent legal advice.” The home inspection should be independent real estate advice. There shouldn’t be a realtor standing over the home inspector’s shoulder telling him what to do.
Education: Of course we can’t legislate people out of business today. We can’t go into it today, but we’ve got a five-year framework for implementing this with actual formal college education. I’m going to suggest—and I’ll cut real quick here—that we abandon everything we know about home inspection and the terminologies for home inspection and home inspectors. We start over. We don’t make the same mistakes that all of the other governments have made—and they’re serious mistakes—and we actually start with something fresh, maybe even call them “home auditors.”
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Okay, so your contention is that there is a conflict of interest between realtors and home inspectors. How do we eliminate this? How do we—
Mr. Bruce McClure: On the very first page of the handout is the wording that we’d like to see in a bill. That basically spells out the independence. Also, giving proper time—and this is going to be very difficult, but actually putting in a proper cooling-off period after somebody’s put an offer in on a house, instead of being pressured, oh, if you’re having a home inspection, you’ve got 24 hours to do it, you’ve two days to do it, there should be a mandatory period in there of seven to 12 days. If the Premier is serious about cooling down the housing market, this bill can really work with it.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thanks very much
Mr. Bruce McClure: Okay.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ms. Mangat.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Thank you, Mr. McClure. You spoke about formal education and the level of education, right, for inspectors.
Mr. Bruce McClure: Yes.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Can you elaborate on that? What do you mean by that? How—
Mr. Bruce McClure: Well, formal education—I think our colleges and universities should be involved in this, and we should have college courses for future home inspectors. Home inspectors really can’t go out and do apprenticeship because most home inspectors are single shop families. Maybe even we need a level of engineering because it’s an engineering discipline. Home inspections right now have a very low opinion in the view of the public.
As an author, I go out and do book signings at Chapters. For a little guy like me who isn’t a big name, that means sitting in Chapters for three to five hours on a Sunday, Saturday afternoon talking to everybody who comes through the door. Between Alberta and Ontario, I spent 28 hours in Chapters talking to people unsolicited before I got the first positive comment about home inspectors. That bothers me dramatically.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: So what you’re saying is that they have to have a college education you mean or a university degree?
Mr. Bruce McClure: Okay, future. Okay? We have to separate from the people who are doing it today and who are going to stay in the business and the people who are going to be coming down the pike five years from now. Right now, Alberta and BC have licensed home inspectors. I could coach any of you to be a licensed home inspector in Alberta by noon tomorrow. That has not brought consumer protection to Alberta.
I do expert witnessing. I’m dealing with some legal cases in Alberta right now. One’s coming to court next Thursday, and I’m told by other inspectors in Alberta that there are inspectors bragging about doing eight inspections a day and other inspectors doing over 90 inspections in a month and he’s got a full-time job. That’s not in the public’s best interest. We need quality home inspections.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: No, no. I do understand what you’re saying. My question to you is, you spoke about college education. This means a diploma, some kind of diploma—
Mr. Bruce McClure: Yes, down the road.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Two years, three years?
Mr. Bruce McClure: Actually, I’m involved with Conestoga College. I’ve actually laid out a two-year program with the college that would involve the college going out—sorry, Jim. The hand’s up.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Sorry. You’re out of time. We’ll go to the opposition, Mr. McDonell.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Yes, maybe just a little longer ??now we’re onto this. There’s got to be some happy medium about people coming in from the industry. I mean the industry like, say, the building industry or whatever, so they have some of the training required. You’re looking at a process that would prequalify certain components of areas of the two–year training. Maybe they only need six months, but that would be something the authority can look at.
Mr. Bruce McClure: No, and in the college situation in Ontario or university situation there are challenge exams. You can challenge any diploma up to 70% of the material. It’s very interesting. A well-trained home inspector looks at the house as a system. The builders build the house. The framers frame the house. The electricians come in, the plumbers come in, the heating contractor’s in, and they cut it all to pieces. They destroy the work of the framers. What a trained home inspector does is, they look at the house as a system. They look at how one pieces functions the other piece and how the house works in harmony.
The one thing—I don’t know if I can build on it with this.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Sure.
Mr. Bruce McClure: A lot of our business is not dealing with new homes. A lot of the things that we go in and discover are all done by the homeowners because, you know, they watch TV, they go out and buy the material at Home Depot. They do the job or what I’ll call the “Two Bobs and a Truck” renovators. That’s a lot of the work that we’re going out and discovering.
Mr. Jim McDonell: ??You hate the idea that you’re grandfathering people who aren’t qualified. You have to bring that up to a standard so that if you’re going to require the confidence of the public, you’ve got to—
Mr. Bruce McClure: Yes, we are, and that’s the problem. As I’ve tried to explain by the book signings. The confidence is very, very low. So things that need to be done are, we need to come up with a unified inspection report. I have been shot down for over a decade by home inspectors, “Oh, we can’t all have the same report; we all have to be different.” Do you all get a different report when you take your car in for a safety if you’re selling your car? No, there’s a standardized report. If we are going to pull the realtors out of the involvement in the home inspection, they have to know, when they get a report, how to read it, not the fact that every home inspector has his own different version of a report. We need a standard.
What happens right now—and it’s highlighted in the handout there—is that there are three common standards of practice being used in Canada right now. I’ll talk about the Canadian ones really being the CAHPI standard of practice and CSA-A770. Standards of practice are good; however, there are no protocols, there are no procedures, there are no best practices. The definition of “inspect” is, “Follow the standards.” That’s the closest definition for “inspect.” It’s all left to the individual inspector.
Mr. Jim McDonell: I agree. There can be changes made over the years to a home. It’s hard to tie it to the building code, but it works. There should be some way of allowing the home inspector with the education to show that without going back and doing something crazy to the home.
Mr. Brian McClure: Exactly. Actually, when I first started this business, I had just come out of building houses. When I started in the home inspection, I felt very comfortable in the code, and there were people who would actually pay me during construction of subdivision house to go in and do staged inspections. I’m not comfortable doing that anymore, because there is not enough business there to stay up on the code to the level required.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Now you’re talking about the independence and the 60% consumer advocacy on the board. Could you maybe elaborate? I agree with that.
Mr. Brian McClure: Sure. The thing is that, on the 60% side that’s consumers, we need educated people who understand. I consider electricians and plumbers to be acceptable people on the 60% side. They’re sick of having people phone them, “The home inspector was at the house and he found this problem,” and they go out and there’s nothing wrong.
ESA, for example—I don’t know if you’re familiar with them coming out with a new program. Are you familiar? Have you been lobbying you at all with their ElecCheck program? No? I’ll take that as a no.
They’re implementing a new program through ESA—the Electrical Safety Authority—where they will come to, for example, your house and they’ll go through your house for $350. They’ll open up all of your devices and do a full inspection. If your house is more than 50 years old, any of the problems they find, you have to correct. There’s no grandfathering. They’re lobbying this to make this law. I can’t argue with it, because they are qualified to be doing that.
Personally, I have a few thousand hours of electrical under my belt, working under supervision. But the same thing: To go into your house—anybody’s house in the room here—I cannot legally open your electrical panel. That’s the most critical place that we find the do-it-yourselfer has created problems in the house or in condominiums, where they’re never looked at after construction.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Sorry, you’ve run out of time with this questioner.
We go to Mr. Singh.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you for being here. I appreciate your attendance and for sharing your insights. A question for you, just on the home inspection side: For homes that, in your experience—we talked about the importance of home inspection, of course, but they should know what they’re getting into. I appreciate the idea of having a standardized system. I liked your analogy of a safety for a car. That is standardized. That’s a good analogy. Thank you for sharing that.
With respect to people sometimes going into a home and they’re planning to renovate or gut the whole thing: In that case, how important do you think—is there less importance or less necessity for a home inspection, if you’re going to tear out the insulation and the flooring and everything anyway?
Mr. Brian McClure: Just to go on with that a little bit: First and foremost, the home inspector does not pass or fail a house. They are reporting on the condition of the house. If I did a home inspection for people in the room here, you may all have different reasons for buying that house.
Now in a situation like that, a home inspector goes in and he looks for performance-based problems. Personally, I love doing situations like that, because I’m very involved in construction. Home inspections are very, very small portion of what I do. I hardly consider myself a home inspector anymore.
But to go in with a house like that, I do many of those. I’ll sit down with the client, “I’ll tell you what have here and have we got good bones. You think you’re going to come in and change this wall over here; I think we better take a look at the heating system; I think we better take a look at the electrical system. Let’s look at what you really have to do.”
This is the problem. We have a lot of people going out there putting lipstick on houses, trying to flip houses. When the home inspector comes in, they have to work so much harder to see through. A lot of times, the home inspector is not a welcome guest in the house.
I have personal experiences and my peers have experiences when the house has actually been booby-trapped. In one case, if I had not discovered the booby trap before I stumbled on it, I would be blind today. Workplace safety for home inspectors—we don’t think of workplace safety for home inspectors. I caught an infection on a home inspection. I was in bed for 15 days. I was delirious for four days. I didn’t know where I was. I was on intravenous.
There are so many sides to this industry, and what frightens us is Bill 59 is blindly giving authority over to a single ministry to go ahead and set up a DAA, and who knows what they are going to do. That’s my biggest concern because on all the committees, they’re literally listening to the invested interest groups.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Okay, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Thank you for your answers. No further questions, Mr. Chair.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you very much for your presentation today.
Mr. Bruce McClure: We appreciate the opportunity to be here.
Presentation: CAMERON ALLEN
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Our next and last presentation is by Cameron Allen. Mr. Allen, can you hear me?
Mr. Cameron Allen: Yes, I can, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Excellent. I’ll just note that here, around the table, are: from the government, Mr. Dhillon, Ms. Mangat, Mr. Baker; from the official opposition, Mr. McDonell; from the third party, Mr. Singh.
You probably know you have up to five minutes to present, and when you finish presenting we will go to each caucus and they have up to five minutes to ask questions. If you want to start by introducing yourself and just go to it.
Mr. Cameron Allen: Good evening, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. Thank you for allowing me to make this submission by teleconference. Quick background: I’ve been in the home inspection business for over 18 years, with 6,000-plus inspections completed; I’ve been a director, treasurer or founder of every home inspection association in this province, with the exception of one.
All of your constituency offices received a five-part series of columns I wrote on the home inspection industry this time last year. I’ve written a column called Ask the Inspector for the Kingston Whig-Standard for 15 years. At their request, I have presented submissions to former MGCS minister, David Orazietti, and former minister, Marie-France Lalonde. For eight years, I’ve also written a column for Postmedia on green home technology. I’m a retired builder.
The submissions to date with respect to the home inspection portion of Bill 59 have not referred to the act in debate. Rather, they requested changes, with their own agendas. I’ve read the February 21 Hansard documents and I had the ??OAHI position discreetly sent to me over this past weekend. ??We call this a ?? leak in media today.
The energy audit for homes has been proposed before and continues to receive stiff opposition from OREA. The most recent government legislation to reintroduce this has merit. However, lumping it with a home inspection is a mistake. Allow me a parallel example. You purchase a car without knowing the gas mileage. You provide the down payment, arrange your financing and then get a safety check done—or home inspection. At the inspection you find the gas mileage is too high. However, you’re at the last step and now really want the car—or house. This is one of the reasons the gas mileage is on the window of new cars. You should know your operating costs before you’ll buy a car or a home.
With respect to the radon issues described by the Lung Association, I totally agree. However, adding it in with a home inspection at this stage is not wise. I ask the committee to go to thewhig.com and click on the Homes section this Thursday, where my column discusses this very subject. For new homes, it could be better handled by the Ontario Building Code. In fact, section 220.127.116.11 of the current code states a requirement for soil gas control. There are, however, exceptions to this and the Ontario Building Code needs to be clearer. The Tarion warranty has covered new home repairs where radon has been found after assembly. Further, there are seasonal periods where radon testing is not accurate. When a homeowner decides to sell a home in June, this is the period of the year where accuracy of radon testing is questionable.
The home inspection association’s request to take over the process is simply the largest single mistake that could be made with respect to this legislation. I have substantial supporting documentation where BC and Alberta now regret allowing the associations to set the standards, and they are now spending unnecessary legislative time and millions of dollars correcting this industry.
The home inspection industry is not a profession. It’s a trade where ??standards of service work supplied to the consumer are possible.
It’s a proven fact that structured standards not unlike an electrician, plumber or gas technician work properly. The actual licence, discipline and standards for these trades are dictated by a regulatory body for the common safety of the public.
Commenting on Bill 59 quite frankly as a base for the DAA, it is well thought out and deserves to be passed. Some of my comments are within it. The integration of disciplined investigation of home inspectors and mandated insurance is overdue. The actual inner workings of the DAA are addressed in a report, A Closer Look: Qualifying Ontario’s Home Inspectors, that was presented to the MGCS on December 10, 2013. This report was developed by 16 knowledgeable participants, representing all ??sectors of the home inspection industry with government and public participation who volunteered hundreds of hours to produce this document. When Minister Lalonde announced this document last November, she clearly stated that the operational structure within the DAA of the Home Inspection Act would follow this document.
In closing, the home inspection industry has acknowledged its fractured. The associations have a fiefdom attitude and the industry’s consumer reputation is horrible. A couple of years ago, Mike Holmes series berated this industry—rightfully so.
OREA’s estimate of 75% of homes inspected is inaccurate. The percentage of homes outside of Toronto is closer to 40% to 50%. The public has simply lost faith in the current home inspection process.
The information provided by a professionally trained, licensed and skilled home inspector has proven valuable time and time again. I have a thick stack of cards and emails from past clients who have expressed their appreciation as I helped them avoid the money pit home. A licensed structure for home inspectors that the home-buying public can trust and believe in is something every homebuyer deserves.
Please proceed with this legislation. Let’s get step one in place: A DAA with a strong mandate to license and regulate this industry.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Mr. Allen.
Mr. Cameron Allen: Mr. Chairman, it’s long overdue. I’m done.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you very much. Our schedules coincide.
I go first to Mr. Singh.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you for your input with respect to the various elements of the bill, particularly your insight as being—you mentioned you were previously a home builder?
Mr. Cameron Allen: That’s correct, sir.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: So your insight with respect to home inspection is very insightful. There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of knowing what you’re getting into with respect to a home. Do you have any insight with respect to any other ways that we can ensure that consumers are protected beyond just knowing and having information about the status of the house?
Mr. Cameron Allen: That’s a difficult question to answer in a quick ??stage, sir. I feel that an energy audit is important. I think that some form of air quality inspection is important. I think they should all be done by independent professionals. We have a lot of EnerGuide auditors who are available to fill this RAND that the province is looking at.
A home inspector’s job is to provide a technical, operational, safety functional visual review of a home. That should be their emphasis. There’s enough to do to know that job, sir, without involving them with other things. Does that answer your question?
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: It does. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Mr. Cameron Allen: You’re welcome.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: I have no further questions. I want to thank you again for your presentation. There will be some more questions from other members.
Mr. Cameron Allen: I appreciate you letting me use telecom. I had a hip replaced six weeks ago, so walking’s not quite right yet.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: I wish you well on your recovery, sir.
Mr. Cameron Allen: Well, actually it’s doing quite well. It’s just sitting for the drive from Kingston to Toronto would have been a little iffy.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Just a bit tough, yes.
Mr. Cameron Allen: Not a problem.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. Singh. We go to the government then, Ms. Mangat.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Thank you, Mr. Allen, for your insight.
Mr. Cameron Allen: You’re welcome.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: The goal of Bill 59 is to improve consumer protection in many ways. Can you point to the main benefit of this legislation that alters the RAND home inspector field and also has the most positive impact on consumers?
Mr. Cameron Allen: We need a standard, ma’am. We need something to start with. There is a requirement in the document that was developed where every home inspector must pass a very intense examination. I’ve seen the NHICC one. I’ve seen the OAHI one. If the home inspector can’t pass that licence, then he should go back to school. There is an existing structure in our colleges today that provides an education for that. We have to start somewhere.
With regard to the cost of this organization—I’m assuming that’s your question; I missed a bit—this DAA should be self-funding. When I did my presentation to David Orazietti, I explained to him how that could be done. So I know it’s somewhere in their files.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Would you mind sharing with the committee members how that could be done?
Mr. Cameron Allen: We estimate that’s somewhere in the ??$1,200 to $1,500 home inspector range in Ontario. Once the initial set-up costs are past, a fee of somewhere between $500 and $700 annually—which is not out of line, if you’re going to be in a business like this—should comfortably handle the overhead costs, as I broke it down.
Unfortunately, ma’am, I don’t have the breakdown documents in front of me that I sent to Minister Orazietti, but I’m sure that if someone checked his files, they’d find them.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Thank you.
Mr. Cameron Allen: You’re welcome.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Ms Mangat.
We go, then, to the opposition: Mr. McDonell.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you for joining us today.
Mr. Cameron Allen: My pleasure, sir.
Mr. Jim McDonell: You talked about the energy audit and the radon inspections. How do you see that as interfacing? Because they can’t be part of the home inspections, just because of the time involved in them. That’s really an opportunity for the homeowner to request them, if there’s a thought behind it or a worry behind it.
Mr. Cameron Allen: At the moment, sir, approximately, according to the federal department of health, 7% of homes in Canada have radon concentrations greater than the 200 Bq level.
Properly done, a radon inspection is best done in early fall to early spring, when homes are closed up. It’s much more difficult to do in the summertime. There are short-term tests of a week, but in actuality, the 30-day test is the right one to do. I don’t know how a home inspector could provide that kind of information in the scope of a three- to four-hour home inspection.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Okay.
Mr. Cameron Allen: From a health aspect alone, I think it’s something that everyone should do, strictly because we don’t know.
From a conditioned-air position, which is what we now call the content of a home, as we tighten up our homes, sir, we’re reducing the ability of the home to have natural passive airflow.
Years and years ago, when homes literally leaked and had air exchange values of 8, 9 and 10, it wasn’t as great an issue. Today when you look at a home—the standard today for proper air exchange is 2.5. I live in an 1894 church that I gutted four years ago, and it exceeded every standard for the international standard. Our air exchange is under 0.5. But I also have an HRV, and I also do radon testing every year.
It’s simply something that a homeowner should do, not unlike changing the filter in their furnace or any other annual maintenance. It costs less than $100 to get one of the small test kits in. That seems like an awful cheap ??insurance for your home’s health.
Mr. Jim McDonell: You talk about doing it every year. Isn’t there some science that if you pass once, the outside conditions and the house aren’t likely going to change?
Mr. Cameron Allen: I do it every year, because I’m fussy. If it was done in a period of X years, I don’t believe it would change a whole heck of a lot.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Any comments on the board makeup? It is really a consumer protection, making sure that the board is not strictly tailoring to the industry, but looking after the consumer.,
Mr. Cameron Allen: I’m not privy to the information as to how the board is set up. But I do believe that it should be set up with the five or seven, obviously, and I don’t believe that the home inspection industry should hold the balance in the board, sir.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Okay. The suggestion of 60% seems reasonable—that it would be non-home-inspector conflict of interest, basically.
Mr. Cameron Allen: I think the board should be made up of representatives from a couple of the home inspection associations that represent a percentage of them. I don’t personally recommend that it come from any of the Internet associations, like NACHI or those. NHICC and OAHI, I think, should have representation, because between those two associations, they do have a high percentage of the inspectors that have fallen under their qualifications in Ontario.
The rest of it should be made up of consumer advocates, interested parties, someone from the legal profession, and possibly even someone from the real estate profession.
Mr. Jim McDonell: You also talk about—I lost my train there, for a second. Just a second, here. I guess when we were talking about the—oh. When we’re moving over from an unlicensed to a licensed profession, how do you see that transition happening? Obviously, if you’re going to write tests—there’s a disruption of the industry, in which we go from zero now to 100%. Obviously, before you’re going to give somebody the shingle, they have to qualify.
Mr. Cameron Allen: Okay, I missed the first part of your question, sorry.
Mr. Jim McDonell: How do you transition from the state today toward a fully regulated DAA where actually the training credentials are in place? Right now there’s no requirement. The regulatory system where there’s full—
Mr. Cameron Allen: Right, I’m sure you’ve heard in the past few days how simple it is to get in.
Okay, I’ve got your question now. Within the document, as prepared for the province, there is a sunset clause. Within that sunset clause it’s a two-year period which allows those that wish to remain in the business to write the examination. There will be an argument by the real estate associations, I expect, “What happens if we don’t have enough inspectors?”
Two of the associations in Ontario, NHICC and OAHI—the RHI and the NHI is a third-party referred-and-confirmed inspection standard. My suggestion when I sent it to Marie-France Lalonde was to add a third year to those two designations only, so that there was an overlap period between year two and year three, so that there was sufficient home inspectors to provide the service, plus getting enough of those time to get into the process.
Did that answer your question, sir?
Mr. Jim McDonell: Yes.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): And with that, Mr. Allen, we’ve run out of time. I want to thank you for your presentation today.
Presentation: CARSON DUNLOP
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Our first witnesses are from Carson Dunlop: Alan Carson and Tom Hamza. Gentlemen, if you’d have a seat. You have up to five minutes to present, and then we have up to five minutes of questions from each party. If you’d start by giving your name for Hansard.
Mr. Alan Carson: Absolutely. Thank you. My name is Alan Carson, and I’m here with Tom Hamza, also from Carson Dunlop. Thank you for allowing us to speak to the committee.
Carson Dunlop is a consulting engineering firm that has been devoted to home inspection since 1978. Our businesses include home inspection, commercial inspection, home inspection training and education and report-writing software, again for home inspectors. I’m a past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors and the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors. I was also a member of the technical committee that worked on the CSA standard for home inspection that was published in 2016.
We absolutely support Bill 59 and believe strong, effective licensing will help protect consumers. Home inspection consultants help home buyers, sellers and owners make informed decisions that will affect their financial well-being for years to come. An estimated 95% of home inspections are performed on resale homes rather than new construction, so our business is old homes.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of legislation both in Canada and the US which hasn’t worked very well on the home inspection side. Much of the licensing claims to protect the consumer, but the bar is set so low as to be almost meaningless and not provide a lot of protection. We’re hoping that Ontario can set a good, high bar. The new CSA standard, I think, will also help with that.
With respect to education, there is a 10-semester home inspection education program that’s offered through 18 of the 24 community colleges in Ontario. It’s also offered through the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors and Carson Dunlop, which is a private career college. The program includes technical skills focussed on the home inspection process as well as professional practice and report-writing. We believe that a solid educational foundation is the basis for competent performance as a home inspection consultant. Many of these college programs have been in place for more than 10 years and are proven to be successful.
The existing programs make a consistent cost-effective and sensible minimum standard for licensing. Colleges Ontario is in full agreement in recommending that these programs be adopted as the minimum education requirement. The courses are available as both distance education and classroom so they are accessible all across the province.
We believe a strong designated administrative authority with a balanced reputation should regulate the industry. Many home inspectors are concerned about the cost of licensing and what it will mean to them. If the cost of operating a home inspection business is too high, I have some concern that practitioners will leave, and it may be difficult to attract new people to the profession. Our hope is that the DAA will be both efficient and cost-effective.
With respect to insurance, we absolutely agree that home inspectors should carry appropriate insurance, including professional liability, but are not so sure that the type and amounts of insurance should be in an inspection contract. The bill as written would require inspectors to disclose all types of insurance and the amounts of each on their contract, and that would include automobile, office contents, life insurance and so on. I’m not sure that’s the intent. Consumers will be well protected, I think, as long as the law requires appropriate insurance coverage for licensees.
The risk of highlighting insurance in a contract is that frivolous insurance claims will drive up the cost of insurance, making it unaffordable for inspectors and perhaps driving up the cost of home inspections, which would not be great for consumers.
Energy audits and home inspectors: Home inspectors and energy auditors have a significant crossover in their skillsets; their work is very similar. It makes good sense, I think, to combine these activities for the benefit of consumers. Including an energy audit with a home inspection might be something to look forward to. Energy auditor education can be incorporated into home inspection education programs to incrementally enhance the skillset of the practitioners.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Mr. Carson, I’m sorry to say that you’re out of time. We’ll go first to the official opposition. Ms. Martow.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Thanks. We’ve heard from a couple of people at this committee about supporting professional liability insurance, but that it shouldn’t be on the contract. I’m kind of wracking my brain on why not. I’m wondering if you could explain why not and whether it’s because you think that if people think that there’s $1 million in insurance then they’re going to sue for $1 million.
Mr. Alan Carson: Yes, that’s kind of the point and kind of our worry. It was a bit of a surprise to us when we read the bill, because I’m not familiar with other professional practices where that is done. It seemed new to us, and that absolutely is the concern. Is there going to be a group of lawyers who specialize in going after home inspectors because it’s so obvious and so patent? I don’t know.
Mrs. Gila Martow: You’re worried that they’re more likely to go after the ones with higher insurance.
I’m from the medical field background, and I’m trying to imagine a doctor having patients sign that they understand the risks of surgery, and by the way the doctor has this much in malpractice insurance. I don’t think anybody could ever imagine that.
I think that it would be realistic, though, to perhaps put what type of insurance, if you have to list that you have liability. Would you have a problem with the type, but not necessarily the amount?
Mr. Alan Carson: I think that would be an improvement. Absolutely.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Okay. Thank you very much. There also has been quite a bit of discussion that this piece of legislation might drive up the cost of home inspection, which is counter to what everybody wants. What people want is they want home inspections and they want it to be just properly done, with proper insurance and proper training. Why do you feel that the costs would go up, and by how much?
Mr. Alan Carson: That’s a good question. It would seem that a licensing fee charged to the practitioners is what’s commonly done with the DAA model. Of course, the question is, how much would that be? I’ve spoken to a large number of home inspectors and the consensus that I’m hearing is that if the licensing fee is more than perhaps $500 a year, that would be a hardship and cause some people to think about the viability of what they’re doing.
I should point out that a lot of home inspectors, some by design and some not, are part-time practitioners, so the costs are incrementally higher the less business you do.
Mrs. Gila Martow: And that’s in any profession. I worked part-time as an optometrist. I had to pay the full malpractice fee and the full licensing fee and all that.
What I’m wondering is, if you have any suggestions for how those costs could be brought down. What I had mentioned last week is that insurance companies do a lot of the same things that some of the good home inspectors do. They go and they take pictures of different parts of the house for insurance purposes, so you can’t say, “Oh, I had this type of painting on the wall.” They like to take those pictures, and it’s useful for them in the event of a fire or a flood or whatever.
Would you see a possibility of maybe somehow home inspectors partnering with insurance companies so that insurance companies don’t have to repeat the picture-taking, that the home inspector does a very elaborate picture-taking that could be incorporated, and maybe some kind of cost-sharing?
Mr. Alan Carson: Yes, I think that’s a reasonable possibility. You might extend that to appraisers as well. The energy audit model is a similar one that you could combine multiple visits to a home into a single visit where the data is collected and shared. There are privacy issues of course to address, but there’s a huge economy of scale there. So I think that might be very interesting to explore.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Okay. Do I have a few seconds?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): You have about a minute left.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Would it be sort of detrimental, though—you know, I think people worry about home inspectors saying, “You need a new furnace, and here’s who I recommend,” and “You need new windows, and here’s who I recommend.” We can certainly see that happening, and I think we’ve all experienced that, that we’re having something fixed and we ask the person, “Who would you recommend to do that part of the work if you don’t do it?”
Would it be unprofessional of a home inspector to say to a potential homeowner, “Your windows really need upgrading and within 10 years you’ll make back whatever you pay in saved energy. Here are a few companies that we recommend.” Possibly, the home inspector might get a referral fee. Would you have a problem with that?
Mr. Alan Carson: Yes, I would. Most home inspection organizations have a code of ethics or a code of conduct that discourages that kind of apparent conflict of interest.
Mrs. Gila Martow: And I would say that we’re trying to move to be professional, so I agree. Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Your time is gone.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): We go to the third party: Mr. Singh.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you so much. Thank you for being here and thank you for your presentation.
I just have a couple of questions. First off, you indicate here that you offered the first comprehensive home inspecting training program. When was that offered? I’m just curious.
Mr. Alan Carson: Our program was first offered in 1999.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: So that’s the program that all the other now number of colleges base their curriculum, on the first program that you developed?
Mr. Alan Carson: That’s correct.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: How did you even achieve that? That’s a pretty significant thing to be able to achieve that you launched the first one and then were able to get it approved now at public colleges. It’s the go-to, the gold standard.
Mr. Alan Carson: Well, we’ve been training home inspectors since the late 1980s. I used to do a lot of classroom training, and realized that classroom training is a big stretch. It’s expensive for people. I felt I couldn’t do enough in terms of the time available in the classroom courses, so I took three years off of work and created a distance education program, working with education design consultants and distance education consultants from Memorial University because we knew home inspection very well, but we weren’t professional educators. So we worked with educators to put together the program. It was Seneca College who first adopted the program, and they’ve been instrumental in helping us introduce it to other colleges across Ontario.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Wow, very interesting. Throughout the years, how have you dealt with upgrading and updating this curriculum?
Mr. Alan Carson: It is more of a challenge than I would have guessed at the outset. I spent a good part of last year updating the program. One of our full-time staff is dedicated to keeping the content up-to-date, because it’s not only a written text, but it’s illustrations, it’s images and it’s interactive exercises and case studies. The ongoing update is a commitment that unfortunately is a necessary evil, but there we go.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: There you go. And my last question is: Are you being consulted with respect to the certification of home inspectors and the process moving forward? Is your expertise being relied on in any way by the ministry?
Mr. Alan Carson: I’m not aware of any certification of home inspectors, per se. I’ve been involved in working with associations and setting the requirements, for example, for registered home inspectors through the OAHI, but not at the ministry level.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Okay. Thank you very much. No further questions.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. Singh. Mr. Dhillon.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you, Mr. Carson, for your presentation today. I have two questions. First, in your experience, what percentage of Ontario home buyers are getting home inspections, and would you say that this number is too low? If so, what measures would you suggest to be taken to bring that number to an acceptable level?
Mr. Alan Carson: I would say that historically, over the last number of years, probably 70% of resale homes have been inspected. More recently that number has dropped significantly, given the hot housing market in the GTA and outlying areas, that’s spreading beyond. I know of many home buyers who have stayed out of the market because they won’t move forward without getting a home inspection.
To answer your last question, my solution would be about 40% of our home inspections now are performed for the seller before the home goes on the market. That, in my opinion, is absolutely the right way and the right place for home inspection to be done. Sellers engaging the home inspector and making the report available to perspective buyers makes absolutely compelling sense across the board. We need to move our community, I think, to that model. It would help sellers, ironically, in this market because a number of buyers, as I said, are holding back. If they could make an offer with the knowledge of the condition of the home at hand, I think the seller would find even more people coming to the table and would sell the house for more money. I think that’s a logical solution all the way around.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: That brings me to the point: Bill 59 brings home inspectors into regulation and it also provides consumers with stronger protections in this field. Can you explain to the committee what the most positive benefits of this legislation are?
Mr. Alan Carson: The most positive benefits, if it’s done the way I hope it’s going to be done, is the assurance of a high-quality, well-defined competency level for home inspectors so that consumers get a level of service that they deserve. Right now, anyone in the room could hang out a shingle tomorrow and be a home inspector. I’m comfortable with our position and our role in the profession. I’m not so comfortable with some of my peers. I think that’s the big benefit.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Okay, thank you very much. It appears you’ve made a significant contribution in enhancing or bettering this industry, so thank you very much.
Mr. Alan Carson: Thank you.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: I’ll ask a question.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ms. Vernile.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Thank you very much. Listening to this and it’s really fascinating, there has been a critical comment made that, in certifying home inspectors in the future, if we go ahead with this, the cost might be about $400 in order to get your certification. Some have said that maybe that’s just a money grab, a tax grab. What are your thoughts on that?
Mr. Alan Carson: If they could it and monitor and manage home inspectors for $400 a person, I would say that was an incredibly efficient operation. I guess it depends what you think of when you say certification, because I’m thinking about managing a profession and the intake, the ongoing discipline, management, administration; ensuring that insurance is in place; helping to protect consumers.
I have no experience with any of this. I am familiar with what associations charge their members for membership services. I have a lot of respect for the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, but their work is substantially done by volunteers and the fees are still not very far off that. That, to me, would be a remarkable achievement.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: When we look to other jurisdictions that have adopted this system, what are we seeing in other provinces?
Mr. Alan Carson: I’m not happy with what I’m seeing in other provinces. Consumers are confused. Home inspectors are, I think, put in an awkward spot. I know in British Columbia they are very unhappy with their model and have changed it. Much to my chagrin, they changed it once in 2016, substantial changes. They’re going to change it again in 2017. That leads to confusion and expense for consumers and the home inspector community.
As I said at the outset, people have struggled with this issue. I think it’s terrific that Ontario, A has the wisdom of hindsight to see what other have done and where they struggled, but the commitment Bill 59 feels like it’s headed in absolutely the right direction.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: So our advantage is that we can learn best practices—
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ms. Vernile, I’m sorry to say you’re out of time.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate it.
Mr. Alan Carson: Thank you.
Presentation: NATIONAL HOME INSPECTOR CERTIFICATION COUNCIL
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Our last presenter then is the National Home Inspector Certification Council, Mr. Claude Lawrenson. Mr. Lawrenson, as you probably heard, you have up to five minutes to present, and then there will be questions of up to five minutes from each party. The Clerk will come to see you to get those reports; he’s right there. If you would introduce yourself for Hansard, and please proceed.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: First off, thank you and greetings. My name is Claude Lawrenson and I represent the National Home Inspector Certification Council. I serve as president. I’m a retired college professor. My other job is a credentialing specialist.
The NHICC is a national, not-for-profit home inspector certification entity and not a home-inspection association. Our primary focus is based on ISO, which is the international standards organization’s certification standards. We use this to administer recognition of what we call our national certification program, that meets the regulations for home inspectors—I’ll talk about that in a moment—offering certification mobility from coast to coast. Currently, our certificate holders are recognized for licensing in both BC and Alberta.
Additionally, we maintain membership in the Institute for Credentialing Excellence.
We would like to offer several key points for your consideration. One, the question regarding the exemption of architects and engineers requires reconsideration. Although traditionally professional in their respective fields, they have not been formally educated or trained in the practical skills of home inspection. That’s not to say that they can’t do it; it’s just that they haven’t been trained to do it.
Furthermore, there are many subdisciplines within the engineering field itself that have no relevance to home inspections, for example, chemical engineering.
Let’s talk about a second point here: associations. Although there are many associations recognized within the province of Ontario, putting politics aside, we encourage that decades of wealth and knowledge. As an example, I have been a home inspector, also a college professor, but I started home inspections in 1988, so over 30 years. Most of that was part-time and, of course, during summer months off, full-time. But just to kind of give you some of my background and what is actually happening out in the field.
What we’re really saying here about the associations—I think all associations have some wealth of knowledge that really can help a designated—yes, designated administrative authority. Tongue twister there; sorry. Why can’t we tap into that expertise, or at least think about tapping into that expertise, such as an advisory committee to help the DAA on that side of the issue?
Education and training, a third point here. Education and training we heard earlier from, I believe, Mr. Carson. It really is a necessary base for home inspection training, and also for the practical skills that are required to perform in the field. Aside from colleges, though, there are other viable training opportunities available: private career colleges, private trainers. I know of a number that are really well put together beyond just the college system. Home inspectors should be free to choose other acceptable means of getting training.
One of the large contentions we see from home inspectors in general is that the cost of college training is not really reasonable for some people. I think as long as the training fulfills the learning outcomes required of the profession, we really should take a closer look at training.
Conflicts of interest, fourth point here. The relationship we’ve heard before between realtors and home inspectors requires clearer delineation to regulate a number of conflicts of interest to help protect consumers. Examples include what we call preferred vendors and lack of disclosure. What happens is this really puts a consumer at a disadvantage.
The DAA: One of the big issues—I sat on the panel—affordability and sustainability—
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Mr. Lawrenson, I’m sorry to say, your five minutes are up.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Oh boy. Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): It goes fast when you’re having a good time.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Yes.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): We go to the government: Ms. Vernile.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Do you know what I’d like to do? Because it seems like you’re not done there, do you want to keep going and we can use our time to let you finish up there?
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Okay. I started on the DAA. Affordability and sustainability I believe are two large issues that could be a negative impact on the bill. The reason I say that—the actual licensing numbers that were presented at the time of the panel report were in the estimate of 1,500 home inspectors in the province of Ontario. The estimated cost for the DAA was $1.5 million, if it’s a self-funded model. It could be more; it could be less. One of the concerns I have is that’s $1,000 per licence. We’ve been talking maybe $500, $750 or $1,000.
Let’s couple that with the current marketplace in real estate, the bidding wars, the lack of home inspections, being waived out of the opportunity to help protect consumers. I see that as not only sort of a negative factor for the consumer, but it also has a major impact on the home inspection profession itself.
We believe that that number of 1,500 is almost more like half. The problem is, we have to take into consideration part-time. We also have to take into consideration those who are losing business, and there is a lot of feedback we’re getting on our renewals indicating such. The business model may not be there anymore. That’s my concern.
I’ve got other points, but I think I don’t to belabour those at this point, because I don’t want to.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Okay, good. You’ve left me a little bit of time to ask you some questions. I want to touch on training. You talked about how not everybody has the wherewithal or the finances, say, to go to college to take one of these courses. How long should they train for, how rigorous should that course be, and at what cost?
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: I guess I could use my own college as an example. I taught at St. Clair College in the architecture program. For a number of years, I and the department proposed a home inspection program. Many of the colleges do carry it, but it was developed by one developer. That could be a good thing, but it also creates an environment which sort of eliminates the other competition that is actually out there, so I have a concern in that area. That’s why I say we have to sometimes look beyond the colleges.
Affordability: Probably the average course that they were talking about would be in a range of, say, $400 to $500. There are courses available for $100 to $200 outside of the college. I’m not saying it’s a bad environment. You have to look at also the economics of affordability.
A home inspector could easily invest $20,000 before getting that first home inspection.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: We just have a little bit of time left. I do want to mention, though, because you got right into your presentation, and I think you’re being very modest. You’re a nationally certified home inspector. You operated a business in Windsor-Essex for many years. You’re a founding member of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors. You’re an expert witness on newly constructed homes. You teach at the college level. You’re a member of the expert panel that provided advice to the government in 2013. So I thank you very much for being here today and sharing all of your knowledge with us.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Thank you very much for the compliment.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): We go to the official opposition: Mr. Walker.
Mr. Bill Walker: Thank you for being here. You used the example of the waiving of an inspection in the case of a bidding war. One of my questions there is, that’s almost a “buyer beware.” If you’re willing to do that, then is it really the place of government to say you can’t do that and to be overly rigid? I’m not saying I’m on one side of that, but it’s one thing that I’ve certainly been asked in my constituency. Any thought on that?
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: I guess if we want to truly look at consumer protection in a home inspection, there should be a home inspection at some point in the process.
We heard earlier from one of the other presenters, maybe from the seller’s point of view at the beginning. That is possible, but again, it depends on a lot of different circumstances. There are some negative aspects to also the upfront, because is the seller going to disclose all defects? That’s the biggest question.
If you have an unbiased third party come in at the end, representing the purchaser, I think it’s to protect the purchaser. I’m not going to say, “Let’s not protect the seller.”
Mr. Bill Walker: Yes, I’m not suggesting not to do it. I’m just saying it’s interesting that if it’s truly consumer protection, and I tell you I don’t want to do that and I’m willing to waive it, I’m just curious about what our role really is. You’ve had the opportunity to have protection and you’ve declined it, so at that point, I think you just drive on and we don’t get caught up in the pedantics of being overly rigid in enforcing that.
I think many of the banks, industry-wise, now are starting to make a home inspection mandatory, at least for a new mortgage. That is almost starting to self-drive, in many cases, as a requirement.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Yes. It’s kind of interesting. I’ve done a lot of home inspections for basically appraisers and, again, probably bank money protection, to some degree. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
I don’t think the banks have really bought into home inspection totally, or enough at this point. To me, that’s protecting their investment.
It’s kind of a mixed bag, because there’s no easy answer here. Certainly, there are a lot of different paths to follow in trying to say what’s the best of licensing.
Mr. Bill Walker: Absolutely. The other piece I think you were talking about, then—and tell me if I’m wrong, but here’s how I was interpreting it—was more of the regulation of the industry, to make sure people are properly qualified and you’re getting truly someone who knows the business, as opposed to I can print out a business card and say I’m a home inspector, and, really, there’s not a value there. I’ve had situations where people have come through the door on that concern, in my constituency.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Yes, I would agree. If I look at my own market—I’m from Windsor; Essex county—there are probably 40 home inspectors. I think the market could maybe sustain 20. So you have to question the amount of home inspectors in the market but also their qualifications.
Mr. Bill Walker: Sure.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: More often, the consumers were more concerned about, “Do you have insurance? And how much is it going to cost? Why can’t I get a better deal from you? Because somebody’s only going to charge me $199, not $399.”
Again, it comes from different perspectives.
Mr. Bill Walker: Absolutely. I mean, a house is typically your biggest investment, so I can’t fathom that if you had the opportunity to have a home inspection, you would ever not do it. As an individual, I certainly wouldn’t be turning that down. But I do get caught up in over-regulating and saying “you must.”
The other one that has certainly been raised is—when they were talking in a slightly different manner—particularly in a rural area like mine, with a lot of the old century homes—coming in more from an energy audit, if you will—to make that fully comply to today’s standards makes it almost unsellable, for many of those old homes, because there are just huge dollar values to replace everything from day one.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Plus the cost.
Mr. Bill Walker: There was concern big time, more from the realtors, saying this is going to really put it in jeopardy if you make this too, again, significant. Again, not that the principle isn’t agreed to by everybody, but the cost to take one of those old century farmhouses is very, very challenging. Your job is to come in and point out the deficiencies, but ??just saying “you shall remedy all of those” is a whole different reality, because I should be able to choose if I want to bring that home up to standard, to whatever standard.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Yes.
Mr. Bill Walker: So we’re on the same page.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Definitely.
Mr. Bill Walker: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Okay. Thank you, Mr. Walker. Mr. Singh?
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you. The benefit of being last in the lineup is that most of my colleagues have asked all the questions I considered asking, so thank you so much for your time here.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. Lawrenson.
Mr. Claude Lawrenson: Thank you very much.
Standing Committee on Social Policy, Home Inspection Licensing Amendment session.
On March 6th, 2017 The Standing Committee on Social Policy met to perform a clause by clause consideration of Bill 59. For the purposes of the Home Inspection Licensing we will only publish the Schedule 1 discussions. Again, at the time of publication of this post, the content for this page was taken from the unedited Hansards transcripts, so may appear slightly different from the version that is finally published publicly.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Good afternoon, committee members. I’m calling this meeting to order for clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 59, An Act to enact a new Act with respect to home inspections and to amend various Acts with respect to financial services and consumer protection.
Mr. Michael Wood from legislative counsel is here to assist us with our work. Welcome, Mr. Wood.
A copy of the numbered amendments received on March 3, 2017, is on your desk. The amendments have been numbered in the order in which the sections appear in the bill. Are there any questions from committee members before we start? Okay.
As you’ve probably noticed, Bill 59 is comprised of only three sections, which enact two schedules. In order to deal with the bill in an orderly fashion, I suggest we postpone the three sections in order to dispose of the two schedules first. Agreed? Agreed.
The first filed amendment in your package of motions pertains to section 40 of schedule 1 of the bill. But before we go there, is there any debate or comments on sections 1 through 39, and if there is, to which section? There is none.
If the committee is agreeable, we could bundle schedule 1, section 1 to schedule1, section 39.
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Perfect.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Perfect?
Ms. Daiene Vernile: That was the plan.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): There is great consensus? Excellent, good.
Shall schedule 1, sections 1 to 39 carry? Carried.
We go now to our first amendment, PC subsection 40(4) amendment 1: Mr. Coe.
Mr. Lorne Coe: I move that section 40 of the Home Inspection Act, 2016, as set out in schedule 1 to the bill, be amended by adding the following subsection:
“Entitlement to licence
“(4) On application in accordance with the regulations, an applicant for a licence shall be deemed to be entitled to the licence, if, as of a prescribed date, he or she is a member of, or holder of a prescribed class of licence from, a prescribed organization, association or other entity, and is in good standing.”
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. Coe. Did you want to speak to that?
Mr. Lorne Coe: Yes, thank you, Chair. This amendment creates a grandfathering clause for those home inspectors who, in the minister’s opinion, were appropriately qualified as of a cut-off date and would, therefore, be admitted as full licensees into the new authority, without having to undergo further screening or examinations.
Further, the minister will have the ability to designate which organizations’ members and which classes of membership are entitled to be registered in this way.
Finally, this leaves the ministry with ample options to tailor the grandfathering regime to the realities of the home inspection market today.
There are many voluntary regulatory bodies, each with their professional and educational standards. If a new authority is established, we must make sure that qualified and law-abiding professionals are not treated unfairly.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Mr. Coe.
Any further debate? Ms. Vernile.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: I’m going to recommend voting against this motion because it goes against the intent of Bill 59. It, of course, is to protect consumers with mandatory qualifications for home inspectors.
It’s going to reduce consumer protection by allowing associations to set the qualifications for home inspectors. This goes against the advice that we received from an expert panel, which recommended that it is the province that has the authority to establish mandatory qualifications for home inspectors.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Ms. Vernile. Ms. Martow.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I would just add that I think there is precedent when other pieces of legislation have come in that affect people’s livelihoods.
I remember being at this committee where we discussed the trades. We heard from many people in the trades who were, say, 55 years old, or even 60 years old. To expect them to now, at this stage of their life, somehow go and to get the qualifications and to start their whole career over—they have families they are supporting. I think that it’s important for us to recognize those who have worked decades—decades—in the field and have no black spots on their records, that the associations are able to somehow grandfather them.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you. Ms. Vernile.
Ms. Daiene Vernile: As we are creating new legislation, I think it’s very important, as we move forward, that there be a consistent standard for everyone: for those who are coming online for the first time as home inspectors, as well as those who have worked in this field for many years.
I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to have two kinds of standards, for those before and those who come after. We all need to be on the same page moving forward.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you. Further debate? Ms. Martow.
Mrs. Gila Martow: I’ll just say that I think that we have to consider people who are earning their livelihood in this way. I’m sure that there are ways that we can go about making it fair for them.
I think it’s understandable that, as a society, we welcome people to our country, we welcome people to our province, we welcome people to earn a living. I think to cut people off who have been providing a service in our communities—and, again, the associations would be involved. They would know if somebody has been doing home inspections for 20 or 30 years and have never had a serious complaint, to cut them off I think is a bit heartless. I just wanted to say that. Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you, Ms. Martow. Ms. Vernile?
Ms. Daiene Vernile: Just to clarify, there is no intention to cut anyone off. And, again, ??to defer to the direction that we received from our expert panel who spoke to this committee.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you. You’re ready to vote? All those in favour? Opposed? The motion is lost.
Colleagues, we now have sections 41-50 in which we have no amendments.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Ah, I have some sage advice from the Clerk.
Shall schedule 1, section 40 carry? Opposed? It is carried. Thank you, Clerk.
We now have a significant section—up to section 50—that has no amendments. People are agreeable to bundle them? Okay.
Shall schedule 1, sections 41-50 carry? Carried. Done.
We now go to schedule 1, section 51, amendment number 2 by the government.
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Chair.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Mr. Rinaldi?
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Chair, I move that section 51(5) of schedule 1 to the bill be amended by striking out “of insurance” and substituting “of any prescribed insurance”.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Any discussion? Mr. Rinaldi?
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Sure, Chair, just bear with me for a second. We’ll get there. Obviously, I recommend supporting this motion. This will provide some clarity to home inspectors and providers about the type of insurance that they need to disclose to their clients. It does this by allowing regulations to specify only those types of insurance that are relevant to a client when hiring a home inspector or provider.
Without this change, licensees might think they need to disclose all the insurances that they carry, most of which may not be relevant to the client, such as home insurance, car insurance, travel insurance, disability and life insurance. So this is really to clarify the issue.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): Thank you. Any further discussion? Ms. Martow.
Mrs. Gila Martow: Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to recommend that we remove the “amount of insurance” rather than have just “insurance” because there was discussion when we heard presentations to the committee that there were concerns that home inspectors who felt that they had more insurance coverage than other home inspectors, that it was going to actually be detrimental to them because people would say, “Oh, look at all the insurance they’re carrying. That’s the one I’m going to sue.” They felt that it’s really nobody’s business in the public to know exactly how much insurance they’re carrying. You wouldn’t put it on the back of your car—how much liability insurance you’re carrying—or put it in front of your house so that people go and decide to trip on your front lawn. So that is our recommendation from this side of the room.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): All right. Now, typically I would ask for a written copy of it, but does everyone understand what has been proposed in this amendment to the amendment?
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: I think so.
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): All right. Any further discussion on the amendment to the amendment? There being none, those in favour of the amendment to the amendment? Those opposed to the amendment to the amendment? It’s lost.
We go to the main amendment from Mr. Rinaldi. Is there any further discussion of that amendment? There being none, you are ready for the vote. All those in favour of the amendment? All those opposed? It is carried.
With that, shall schedule 1, section 51, as amended, carry? All those in favour? Opposed? It is carried.
Okay. Colleagues, we now have from section 52 to 83 with no amendments. With your agreement, I’ll bundle them.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Fifty-three?
The Chair (Mr. Peter Tabuns): From 52 to 83. You’re agreeable? Excellent.
Shall schedule 1, sections 52 to 83 carry? Carry? Opposed? Carried.
Shall schedule 1, as amended, carry? Opposed? Carried.
What this means.
Unless the assembly return the Bill to the Committee for further deliberation (unlikely) Bill 59 will go through the debate for third reading, and then obtain Royal Assent creating the Home Inspection Act, 2016.
A period of development of a DAA and regulations will then go into effect. Before the Act fully comes into force, (that is, before licenses are issued) a series of regulations may be made that will require Home Inspectors to provide contracts for a Home Inspection, will specify what should be in those contracts, and will mandate that Home Inspectors who have not yet attained a license comply with the terms of that contract.
Bill 59 also repeals Pr65, Ontario Association of Home Inspectors Act, 1994. This means that the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors Act will cease to exist as a corporation created by Act of Assembly, but will re-incorporated under the Letters Patent mechanism for Not-for-profit organisations. The rights to title for the Registered Home Inspector, R.H.I. will be removed, and the articles of the new association created will define the objects of the new OAHI initially as :
(a) to maintain high professional standards among the members of the Association through education and discipline;
(b) to provide formal training and educational facilities to the members of the Association;
(c) to hold conferences and meetings for the discussion of home inspection standards and practices and for the presentation of papers and lectures;
(d) to collect and disseminate papers, lectures and other information that is useful or interesting to the members of the Association;
(e) to publicize the role of home inspectors in Ontario, and, in particular, to publicize the full range of services offered to consumers in Ontario by home inspectors;
(f) to seek and maintain affiliations with, and to co-operate with, other organizations having objects, in whole or in part, the same as or similar to the objects of the Association.
Once the right to title for the R.H.I is revoked, all R.H.I. holders may be require to negotiate with the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors who own the trademarked Registered Home Inspector, R.H.I., unless the new OAHI does it on their behalf. Failing this, all R.H.I. holders in Ontario may be required to stop using the R.H.I. designation.
The process of developing the DAA and regulations will be an ongoing consultative process with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.