CONSUMER ALERT – IS YOUR HOME INSPECTOR ACTIVELY LICENSED??

I have been noticing an alarming trend that can affect whether or not you are hiring a properly licensed Home Inspector.  Read on for an important alert and notice!

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In the State of Texas no person may perform a whole home, or partial inspection for the sale or purchase of a home unless they are a licensed Home Inspector or they carry another license that covers the part of the home they are inspecting.  For example a licensed Plumber in Texas can inspect the plumbing system but can not inspect the electrical system unless they are a licensed Home Inspector or also carry an Electrician’s license.  This is a State requirement as a measure of protecting Texas consumers and ensuring only qualified persons inspect the home you are about to buy or sell.

The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) is responsible for issuing Home Inspector licenses, monitoring and enforcing the Texas Home Inspection laws and rules, and providing consumers with information regarding Home Inspectors.  Part of the information that TREC provides is a Home Inspector license search function that consumers can use to verify if a Home Inspector has a valid license to inspect homes in Texas.  The license search function can be found on most all of the TREC WEB site pages.  TREC’s WEB site can be found HERE.  The screen shot below is an example of my license as of today’s date (1/15/2011).

When you search for and choose a Home Inspector you should verify their license is active and up to date.  In the screen shot below the following items should be checked.

  • “Licensee Name” – Ensure the name of the person you are hiring matches the license number and other information.
  • “Lic. Nbr” – Make sure that the license number does belong to the person you are about to hire.
  • “Lic. Type” – Home Inspectors have three license desginations; “Apprentice Inspector”, “Inspector”, and “Professional Inspector”.  An “Apprentice Inspector” and “Inspector” designate are required to be supervised to varying degrees by a “Professional Inspector”.  Only a “Professional Inspector” can act completely unsupervised in the inspection field.  Make sure you know who is to inspect your home and who you are contracting services with.
  • “Lic. Status” – There are various license status’ but an Inspector may only inspect a home when their license status is in the “Active” state.  In any other state an Inspector can not legally inspect your home.
  • “Exp. Date” – Even though the Inspector’s “Lic. Status” displays “Active” you should always check to make sure the expiration date has not occurred or is very near to occurring.  If the expiration date and license status do not match then there is a very real potential that the Inspector’s license has expired and the TREC database is in error.  If the Inspector is close to their expiration date then there is no guarantee that they will renew their license and be around to answer questions or be held accountable to TREC for poor actions performed.
  • Address boxes – Texas Inspectors must use one of these two addresses on all of their advertisements, contracts, invoices, and any other method they use to communicate with consumers.  Potentially the first time you will encounter an Inspectors address is either on their WEB site when checking them out, or on a pre-inspection agreement contract they might send you.  Before you schedule your inspection, and sign any contract, ensure that the address the Inspector presents to you is one of these two.

In addition to checking the above information the license verification function also provides another highly important piece of information.  If an Inspector has been disciplined by TREC it is an indication that a problem occurred seriously enough that the consumer felt compelled to file a complaint with TREC.  When a complaint is filed and acted on by TREC they will add the following link between the Inspector’s license information box and the address information blocks “Do a Disciplinary Action Search for this licensee“.  By clicking on this link it will display what the disciplinary action(s) was.

These are all good points but will they help you prevent from defrauded by an illegal or improperly licensed Home Inspector?  There is a new problem brewing and you should click “THE WARNING” tab for more information.

Example of Home Inspector license information from the Texas Real Estate Commission

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[tab: THE WARNING]

There is an alarming trend that is escalating in Texas that is directly affecting consumers.  More and more we, the good and honest Inspectors of Texas, are being contacted for assistance by consumers that have been ripped off by illegally and/or improperly operating Home Inspectors.  These consumers have suffered greatly at the hands of these dishonest people.  It is sad to say that since they did not use a legally operating Home Inspector their options for redress are very limited.  TREC has already advised that they have little control over these dishonest people. and must turn to local law enforcement and The State Attorney General to actively pursue these crooks.  This is a time consuming process which allows these crooks to continue operating illegally and duping more unsuspecting consumers.  It also does nothing to help wronged consumers in recouping any damages they might have experienced.  However, there is now a new, and just as disturbing problem occurring that has a far more reaching effect on consumer protection.  The TREC license information database (see previous tab) is in a sad state of disrepair and inaccuracy that can actually confuse consumers into choosing Inspectors that are no longer legally licensed to perform home inspections.

Each month TREC publishes a list of Home Inspector licenses issued which is suppose to be drawn directly from the license look-up database.  This list, as well as a list of Agents and Brokers, can be found HERE.  Every month I download this list, import it into a spreadsheet, and sort the data for various reasons/purposes.  In early September 2010 TREC moved to a new database system for Real Estate licensees and has since experienced a great deal of problems with the new system.  The problem that most affects the consumer is the inaccurate license information for Home Inspectors as well as Agents and Brokers.  During this month’s sorting of the Inspector license database I have noted a 9.72% suspect error rate in the Inspector license status’.  In the entire State of Texas TREC is listing 2426 Inspectors with “Active” license status’.  Out of the 2426 licensed “Active” Inspectors there are 236 Inspector licensees whose “Expiration Date” for their license has already passed, and yet they are still shown “Active”.  Some of the expiration dates are as far back as 9/30/2010.  The errors in the database do not stop there and other errors are present.  For example licensee(s) are displaying expiration dates over three years away when the State law allows only a two year license period before renewal.

With such a high rate of errors, and multiple errors, the entire Home Inspector license database can only be in a very suspected state.  That leaves a great concern for consumer protection because if a consumer can not rely on this database information then how can they ensure that the Home Inspector they choose is legally licensed to perform their home inspection?  To learn how to protect yourself read the next tab “What You Can Do”.

[tab: What You Can Do]

You, the consumer, are the only one you can rely on to protect yourself from illegally and improperly operating Home Inspectors.  It is very important that you have a properly trained and licensed Home Inspector inspect the home you are buying or selling.  To make sure that you do have a properly licensed and operating Home Inspector use the following precautions.

  • If you are a buyer then do not wait until you have made an offer on a home to start looking for a Home Inspector.  At that point you are already going to be rushed with many things to accomplish and can not afford the time to check out Inspectors then.  Have the name of two or three Inspectors ready that you are comfortable with before you make that offer.  Having two or three allows you to make sure one of them can inspect your home when needed.
  • No matter where you find the Inspectors name you need to check the Inspector out yourself.  Never completely trust a referral from a Real Estate Agent/Broker, friend, Home Inspection association WEB site, etc., without checking it out.  Referrals are fine to use but how do you know that the Inspector being referred is currently legally licensed?  I have encountered RE Agent WEB sites with current Inspector referral lists but the an Inspector(s) license had lapsed and they were no longer legally operating.  I encountered one such case not long ago where the consumer called me as they had issues with the Inspectors work, and were seeking my help.  The responsibility for making sure you use a legal Inspector is on you and the referring person holds little responsibility, if any.
  • When you search for a Home Inspector, and before you call that Inspector, run a quick check of the TREC Home Inspector license database.  Do not proceed any farther with any Inspector whose license does not show “Active” and whose expiration date has already occurred.  Any good Inspector will know when their license expires, will take all appropriate actions to renew it, and if they run into TREC database problems will have it corrected immediately.  If an Inspector is not capable of monitoring their own license, making sure they are running legally by renewing on time, and ensuring the TREC database issues are corrected promptly then would you trust them to inspect a home you are about to buy or sell?
  • Once you have chosen a Home Inspector(s), and before you sign any contract, verify their TREC license data information from the TREC WEB site license search function.  Just as a tip do not read the information off to the Inspector.  Let the Inspector tell you what is in the information.  Also ask the Inspector to email you his license information and check that it is coming from the “Licensee Email Address” listed in the TREC information.  Use some reason and realize that an Inspector who owns their own domain (such as I do) might send you information from email addresses such as escanlan@psinspection.com or info@psinspection.com.  The important point is the “psinspection.com” (the domain name I own) for Inspectors who own their own domains.  For Inspectors using the free emails such as hotmail.com, gmail.com, etc., make sure you receive the information from the email address on the TREC WEB site.  This is another confirmation hat you are speaking with the person they claim to be.
  • Ask the Inspector to send you a copy of their license when they email their inspection contract.  For an example I have placed a copy of my license below.  Remember we are in a digital age and this license can easily be forged.
  • Every Inspector in Texas is required by law to carry Errors & Omissions insurance (E&O).  The Texas law is such that when an Inspector renews their license it is renewed for a maximum of 2 years at a time.  However, when the Inspector renews their license they are only required to demonstrate that they have E&O insurance coverage at the time of the renewal, and continuous coverage for the license period prior to the renewal going back to their last renewal.  It is easy for a dishonest Inspector to renew their license with a few months left on their current E&O policy and then not renew it again if they do not plan to renew their license at the next two year cycle.  When an Inspector renews their license their E&O Insurance Broker is required to fill out a TREC Form REI 8-1, “CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE”, and submit it to TREC which provides the basic policy information and includes the effective dates of the policy.  You can ask the Inspector to also send a copy of this TREC form as well but just remember that we are in a digital age and this form can easily be forged.  You can call the insurance Broker listed on the form but what if that is also a forgery?  The best way to verify this information is to contact TREC and have them verify that a current insurance policy is in effect for the Inspector.  While you are calling TREC you can also ask for the Inspectors license status.  If you find this Inspector is operating illegally then this is a good time to notify TREC of this so that other consumers are not ripped off by an illegally operating Inspector.
  • If the Inspector is advertising any other professional licenses or special certifications that are important to you then ask them to provide the proof of those certifications as well.  If you want to verify Texas professional license status then visit my “Government Links” WEB page where I provide the WEB links for the various Texas Professional Licensing Boards who have search functions for licensees.  Just this past year I encountered an Inspector that was advertising additional certifications and professional licenses that they did not hold, or were no longer valid.  If you encounter this situation please take a minute to email TREC and the other licensing or certification agencies and let them know of this illegally operating Inspector.  You might be able to help other consumers and prevent them from being ripped off.
  • Never schedule an inspection with an Inspector who does not use a pre-inspection agreement contract and make sure the contract is reasonable and accurate.  A pre-inspection agreement is a written word of what the Inspector stated they will do for you.  Hopefully you never have to pursue a problem Inspector.  But if you do then the typical “He said, She Said” verbal agreements are not going to go well for you and your case.

This might sound like a lot to do just to hire an Inspector for your home.  But really it isn’t and would you rather find out later, when you have problems with the illegal Inspector, that you have little recourse against their huge dollar mistake?  If you check your Inspector out before you make an offer on a home then these steps are easy and casual.

Good luck on your real estate deal!

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Knowledge is power, but sharing knowledge brings peace!

PS Inspection & Property Services LLC is a full service home inspection and light commercial inspection company servicing the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  We strive to for the satisfaction of our customers in everything we do.  Our services offerings include:

Buyer home inspections
New Home Warranty Inspections
New Home Draw Inspections
Home Maintenance Inspections
Home Remodeling Inspections
Investor Inspections
Rental And Renter Inspections
Infrared Thermal Imaging Inspections
Energy Audit Inspections
Whole Inspections Or Inspections Customized To Your Needs

If you have an inspection need we can customize an inspection for it.  Please visit our main site at PS Inspection & Property Service LLC.

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