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Washington State Pols Want Us to Find Mold!


randynavarro
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Unless they want to find themselves saddled with mandatory requirement to inspect for "mold and certain fire and safety hazards," Home Inspectors in Washington State need to get off the stick.

On January 28th, Senators Kohl-Welles and Parlette proposed Senate Bill 5644, a 2-page amendment to the licensing law that was passed in 2008 to regulate the activities of home inspectors in Washington state and require them to be licensed. Kohl-Welles had co-sponsored, along with Senator Spanel, the original bill that eventually became law. To download a copy of the proposed amendment, click the attachment link below.

The amendment seeks to add "mold and certain fire and safety hazards" to the list of items that inspectors are already responsible for. Additionally, since the current law restricts all initial home inspection training to training done in a classroom with an instructor present, the bill seeks to allow inspectors to receive their initial training online.

The Washington Home Inspectors Legislative Advisory Group (WHILAG) is mobilizing to oppose this amendment and is seeking support from home inspectors throughout the state. WHILAG is a bi-partisan coalition made up of members of nearly a dozen home inspection organizations that formed in 2006 to oppose two seriously flawed previous attempts in 2006 and 2007 to license home inspectors. It was WHILAG's efforts, supported by lobbyists working for the Western Washington ASHI chapter, that killed those two previous bills and led to a compromise that eventually resulted in passage of the current law. The inclusion of mold and certain fire and safety hazards had been included in one of the earlier licensing attempts that WHILAG had helped defeat.

This bill was dropped without any fanfare and even the members of the Washington State Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board weren't aware of its existence until the bill had been introduced in the senate. It's been referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection and has yet to be scheduled for public hearings.

Inspectors need to make their voices heard where this bill is concerned and should call, email or write their state legislators. Inspectors who want to assist WHILAG's efforts to oppose this amendment should email Sandy Hartman, WHILAG Secretary, at sandyhartman@comcast.net.

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif SB5644.pdf

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How would this have even been brought up by these senators? Did someone approach them and say "Hey you know it would be a good idea to have home inspectors check for mold and certain types of fire hazards"? Don't most reputable home inspector's already look for "certain fire and safety hazards". Most insurance companies won't cover mold.

This one should be interesting.

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Click here for an amazing story...
Great read Mike!

6 A person licensed under this chapter is responsible for performing

7 a visual and noninvasive inspection of the following readily accessible

8 systems and components of a home and reporting on the general condition

9 of those systems and components at the time of the inspection in his or

10 her written report: The roof, foundation, exterior, heating system,

11 air-conditioning system, structure, plumbing and electrical systems,

12 and other aspects of the home as may be identified by the board. The

13 inspection must include looking for mold and certain fire and safety

14 hazards as defined by the board.

Dumb...and even dumber the way it is written. It has us inspecting and reporting on the systems and components but just looking for mold.

How do I get certified as a Mold Looker?

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Hi Rich,

I'm not trying to downplay mold; I'm just concerned that they're trying to foist it onto our shoulders when even the GAO says that there's a lot more research needed before the stuff is understood.

It's bad enough that we've had to deal with 10 years of these mold is gold types rushing around bilking buyers out of meager funds with questionable mold inspection/sampling methods, now we've got politicians who want all of us to jump on that bridge to nowhere.

Imagine the cost to the potential homeowner if we were to report everything in, around, under a home that might be mold and had the buyer submit samples of everything to labs. Then imagine the mess when they have the home "cleaned" of all "mold" before move-in and then six months later find what they believe to be mold. You know who the recipients of all of that angst will be, don't you? Yep.....Us.

Here's the full GAO study and here's a one page summary of the GAO findings.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by Richard Moore

I'm not trying to downplay mold; I'm just concerned that they're trying to foist it onto our shoulders...

Yep, me too, and I don't want to be responsible for someone's head cold a year down the road.

So, will the board be able to do anything to get rid of this nonsense? It does say "as defined by the board".

Well, mold was pulled out of the last draft of the law before it was reintroduced and passed last year but the health and safety issue comment was left intact. There is no model for this - if it goes through, they'll have to make it up even though everyone on the board will be completely unqualified to do so. That's no way to do business.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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How about suggesting it gets changed to "looking for readily visible high-moisture conditions that may be conducive to mold growth"? Then we can get back to checking for and reporting on the moisture issues that we already do.

"Looking for mold" indeed! [:-bigeyes

Hell, a lawyer could read that as meaning we are supposed to bring air-samplers, swabs and microscopes to the inspection and identify each and every spore.

Ain't it nice to know that our legislators will leap onto whatever hot-topic band-wagon that rolls by. "To hell with the public good, it looks good on my public record!"

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I don't think I even know how to inspect for mold.

Me neither. I "suspect" it when I see it. That probably goes for 99% of our HIs. The stupid bit is that we are about to become licensed as supposedly competent HIs. Now, with the "looking for mold" bit, the public would have every right to believe we are also licensed, trained mold inspectors and able to do a thorough mold and air-quality inspection during our regular work. I don't think my insurance company is going to like that "expectation".

Thanks for pointing this out Randy. Who, in particular, do you think it would be most effective to bitch write to?

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Thanks for the getting the information out guys. I learned about this bill through Larry Stamp, who referred to this site in his emails.

I have e-mailed all three of my representatives about this bill, and voiced my concerns about requiring mold to be a part of the home inspection.

While the sponsors intentions are likely for the good of the consumer, she does not understand the implications of mold as a part of a home inspection.

The WSDA provided a guidance letter to Structural Pest Inspectors 6 years ago, because they realized the issues surrounding mold. In short the letter indicated that it is best to leave the determination of mold to a trained specialist. The guidance document can be found at this link. http://agr.wa.gov/pestfert/docs/moldguidance.pdf

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Hi Harold,

Thanks, we need every inspector to get the word out about this. However, I guess I should have done a better job of my homework before I told you guys to write to that committee link above; because, as it turns out, Sen. Kohl-Welles is chairwoman of that committee! The others on the committee are: Democrats - Karen Keiser (vice chair), Rosa Franklin and Adam Kline; Republicans - Janea Holmquist, Jim Honeyford and Curtis King.

Linda Parlette, the co-sponsor, is out of legislative District 12 which includes Wenatchee, Chelan Okanogan, etc. If you know anyone in the districts of these legislators it would be a good idea to contact them and get them to rally others in all of these districts around this issue. If they feel enough heat from constituents the bill may die in committee.

If it gets out of committee, I spent about 30 minutes on the phone yesterday with Dr. Bruce Kelman (read about him in the article that I linked to in post # 3 above) and some time with other indoor air quality experts who may be ready, willing and able to weigh in on the side of reason at the public hearings or even address this issue with the committee via email.

Folks need to understand that the Home Inspectors Advisory Licensing Board had absolutely nothing to do with the attempt to insert this rule into the law. Those on the board who were once members of WHILAG, the coalition that twice prevented the law from going through in 2006 and 2007, fought hard as members of that coalition to keep mold and plenty of other goofy stuff out of that law before a compromise was reached and the law was finally passed. This is just something that the Senator seems to have a pet peeve about because it's something that she's tried to do repeatedly in the past; in fact, she's been trying to enact legislation that has to do with mold in residential construction since at least 2005. Unfortunately, if the bill makes it through the hearings, the senate, legislative hearings, and the legislature and becomes law, the board will have no choice but to make up some kind of a protocol for mold inspections. When that happens, every inspector in the state will have figuratively donned an invisible dunce cap and will be walking around with an invisible sign on his butt that says, "Kick me, my senator says you can."

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I find the loose term "look for Mold" a bit strange. I hope this isn't the way it will be written into law. I myself don't have problems "looking for mold" but what do you do with the information? I also "look" for asbestos-type materials in the house and report on it. I let the potential Buyer make the decision on what this means to them.

This is obviously another "great idea" someone had when writing the law, believing they are "protecting the consumer"!

The main concern will be if there is liability insurance coverage for home inspectors. Can they make a law requiring inspectors to identify and report on Mold issues, but no one will insure them for making this observation.

Let's protect the consumer, but understand there are limitations to what an inspection is and what can be done in a limited time.

Mike

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Originally posted by Michael Brisbin

The main concern will be if there is liability insurance coverage for home inspectors. Can they make a law requiring inspectors to identify and report on Mold issues, but no one will insure them for making this observation.

Mike

There is no requirement for inspectors to have E & O written into the law. However, if this senator's amendment manages to get through, I'm betting that most inspectors will probably then want to get E & O; the trouble is, with this economy most probably won't be able to afford it.

The trouble with this rule is that, it won't be a question of if an inspector misses something that might actually be mold in a house and doesn't report it, so much as it's going to be a question of when mold spore that couldn't possibly have been seen during the inspection develops after the inspection, the customers find it and think the inspector missed it, and the customers suddenly hear a ka-ching sound. That's why inspectors are liable to find that they'll have a hard time getting mold coverage at reasonable rates; even if they do, one claim and they're liable to be dropped by the carrier 'cuz the carrier will be afraid that lightning will strike twice.

We can thank the mold cowboy inspectors who jumped on the mold is gold bandwagon in the late 1990's for helping to perpetuate the media myth of "toxic" mold. Before that time, you hardly ever heard about mold, let alone "toxic" mold. For millions of years mold wasn't considered "toxic" until Ballard vs. Farmers; since then, lots of wingnuts with their own, mostly financial, agenda, have tried to connect all sorts of goofy stuff to the presence of mold.

Many of us in the business back then tried to dissuade the mold cowboys from going down that path and begged them to leave mold to the IAQ professions. They didn't listen, so now when mold shows up it is almost always the home inspector that's blamed for missing it; even if it wasn't there at the time of the inspection. One thing is certain; whenever there's one of these mold media feeding frenzies, the mold cowboys show up on TV spewing their drivel while the folks that don't sensationalize it - sensible inspectors and real scientists - usually aren't even quoted.

Just when it looked like home inspectors would soon be able to take pride in being an inspector in the state again, this happened.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Maybe something like this will keep everyone happy...

The inspector shall inspect for any readily visible mold-like substance, in readily accessible areas, during the course of a home inspection.

The inspector is not required to determine if any substance discovered is actually mold, the type of mold, or the toxicity, if any, of such substance.

The inspector is not required to conduct any invasive or destructive procedures to discover mold-like substances, nor is he required to take samples or conduct air-sampling for mold spores.

The inspector is only required to report the presence and location of any mold-like substance discovered.

The report may contain recommendations for remedies, treatment, or further evaluation, but this is not required.

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Hi Rich,

That's an interesting approach but do you realize how many things one could write up that look like mold? In order to cover yourself, you'd need to write up every little thing that even resembles the stuff; dirt, smoke, pencil marks, bathroom mildew, soot, etc. and we'd still miss the stuff that's in the air. Then, because it's written into the law that one must look for it, what do you do with the situation where the stuff is discovered after the inspection in an area it wasn't written up and the homeowner wants to make an issue of it. How will we prove that it wasn't there at the time of the inspection?

Example: December of 2007 I inspected a beautiful new home and found everything in the crawl clean. Four months later, I get a call from the client; he'd been in the crawl to look around and had discovered some black stuff growing on a beam. I drove over there; it turned out to be some kind of fungi that looked more like a wood blight than mold. He followed me as I inspected every corner of that crawl and didn't find anything else. I recommended he call the builder and get the builder to deal with it. The builder had it dealt with. Last November, he calls me back to help him compile a warranty punchlist - I inspected the entire crawl again and found a bunch of leopard spots growing behind the insulation on the rim joist along a whole 12ft. section of the flooring just behind the front porch. No source of moisture such as a leak or poor flashings causing it, but it's a well-ventilated crawl and there really shouldn't have been anything like that growing. It had to have been caused by condensation. I reported it to the client and I guess he and the builder are dealing with it.

Now, imagine if we'd had this mold requirement in the law and the client weren't so understanding or hadn't accompanied me - I could have been sued twice by now. This stuff is a moving target - requiring us to document everyplace that it's found in a home is kind of like trying to document every place that there could possibly be lead paint or asbestos in a a 60-year old home.

Personally, I think we'd be better off to have a disclaimer similar to Title X for lead where a homeowner gets an information sheet that tells them that there's mold in 100% of the air around them and that, if they're concerned about it, they should bring in an IAQ firm to go through the home for them - kind of like the warning sticker on a pack of cigarettes. That would take the monkey off our backs.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Personally, I think we'd be better off to have a disclaimer similar to Title X for lead where a homeowner gets an information sheet that tells them that there's mold in 100% of the air around them and that, if they're concerned about it, they should bring in an IAQ firm to go through the home for them - kind of like the warning sticker on a pack of cigarettes. That would take the monkey off our backs.

That would be better...assuming we can get the monkeys to drop the amendment.

The dumb thing is that we DO already look for visible mold, as an indicator of moisture problems. But being held responsible for all mold, mold that might not be visible or discoverable until months after the inspection, is scary.

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Originally posted by Richard Moore

Personally, I think we'd be better off to have a disclaimer similar to Title X for lead where a homeowner gets an information sheet that tells them that there's mold in 100% of the air around them and that, if they're concerned about it, they should bring in an IAQ firm to go through the home for them - kind of like the warning sticker on a pack of cigarettes. That would take the monkey off our backs.

That would be better...assuming we can get the monkeys to drop the amendment.

The dumb thing is that we DO already look for visible mold, as an indicator of moisture problems. But being held responsible for all mold, mold that might not be visible or discoverable until months after the inspection, is scary.

Exactly so, that's why I urge any Washington State inspector that's reading this or hears about it to get on the phone, get the word out and make folks in Olympia hear us.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mike

You bring up several good points, and I absolutely agree. For instance the mold stain that occurs on floor joists and beams is common. After all many of these homes are constructed during wet weather. It takes the first year, or so, for the lumber to release that moisture and reach its' equillibrium content. In this time that moisture is feeding a variety of molds, mildews, etc. .....Even when the crawl space has proper ventilation, and drainage. What was not present during an inspection in the Spring may have developed and will be visible in the Fall.

I have attended a number of WSDA Technical Seminars where Dr Jeff Morrell (Mycologist from Oregon State Univiersity) has spoke on the subject of molds in structures. He has some great information on the topic at; http://www2.wwpa.org/SERVICES/ProductSu ... fault.aspx

Based on everything I have learned from Dr Morrell, such mold stain on framing lumber, is of little concern. But trying to convince the general public of this is a huge challenge. ...We can thank the "Mold is Gold" folks for these hysterics. ....and the "sensationalist media".

To me the greatest harm to the consumer is not their health, but rather their pocket book. Everything to do with mold is expensive and that is how consumers will be hurt. Unregulated and unscrupulous mold remediation contractors cashing in on the fears of those who do not know any better.

In fact a gentleman from the Wa St Dept of Health spoke at one of our seminars a few years back. And he was called out to a home where the contractor told the home owners they needed it torn down because of the mold. And while it had mold, it was not significant enough for it to be condemmed. Rather the contractor wanted to "sell" a new home. He said that he has never seen a home that the problems could not be fixed. But you have to be careful about the contractor you chose.

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Hi Harold,

Obviously you get it; I just wish more people learning about this would focus on getting it instead of inserting their own personal bias toward the advisory board into the dialog. For instance, on another message board a fellow is pontificating about the reasons why the Advisory Licensing Board wrote certain things into the SOP and stating that they were done to reinstall ways to discourage their competition after the WDO rules that kept inspectors from getting into the profession unless they were pest inspectors was eliminated. What a joke - can you say "horses ass with teeth?"

Three of the members of that board were on the coalition that prevented two previous versions of licensing with mold written into them from making it to the floor and I know for a fact that four of the seven members on the board voted in WHILAG, as did the overwhelming majority of WHILAG members, to eliminate the requirement for a pest license from the rules for home inspectors.

Even the sponsor's draft for the very last bill that eventually was passed into law, despite it having been defeated two previous times, had required that inspectors look for mold. The coalition members met in an emergency session on a Sunday afternoon and completely parsed that bill proposal, and removed any reference to mold from it. Then they added in online training before sending the marked-up draft back to the bills sponsor. When the sponsor sent it back again for their final review, the mold wasn't there but she'd removed the online training. At that point, after defeating her two previous bills, getting 100% inspectors on the board instead of the realtors, engineers and appraisers she wanted on the board, and getting her to finally agree to listen to home inspectors by consulting them, they'd agreed that it was as good a bill as they'd get from her, and, since it did minimal harm to inspectors and got us away from WSDA, the endorsed it without the online training because it didn't have any mold stuff in it; that's what was passed into law.

Then, when the advisory board (Note that it is an advisory board and has not power - they only advise department of licensing and the Director DOL can do whatever he wishes) then wrote the SOP, they were careful to include:

A home inspection is not technically exhaustive and does not identify concealed conditions or latent defects.id="brown"> (mold hidden in walls and underneath stuff)

Does not provide services that constitute the unauthorized practice of any profession that requires a special license when the inspector does not hold that licenseid="brown">.(industrial hygienists who are trained in how to deal with mold)

Inspectors are not required to:

(3) Report the presence of potentially hazardous plants or animals including, but not limited to, wood destroying insects or diseases harmful to humans; the presence of any environmental hazards including, but not limited to mold, toxins, carcinogens, noise, and contaminants in soil, water or air; the effectiveness of any system installed or methods utilized to control or remove suspected hazardous substances.

(16) Move suspended ceiling tiles, personal property, furniture, equipment, plants, soil, snow, ice or debris.

(17) Dismantle any system or component, except as explicitly required by the SOP.

A preinspection agreement is mandatory and as a minimum must contain or state:

A statement that the inspection does not include investigation of mold, asbestos, lead paint, water, soil, air quality or other environmental issues unless agreed to in writing in the preinspection agreement.id="brown">

Folks really need to focus on the fact that the advisory board and all opponents and proponents of licensing in this profession in this state - except for maybe those guys who are inspectors that are doing these so-called mold inspections - are dead set against any and all forms of "looking for mold" being inserted into our requirements.

Get off the stick people; stop listening to nut cases and wringing your hands about how the advisory board is trying to screw everyone and sit down to your keyboards and start typing out letters to state representatives and senators opposing this goofy amendment.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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For instance, on another message board a fellow is pontificating about the reasons why the Advisory Licensing Board wrote certain things into the SOP and stating that they were done to reinstall ways to discourage their competition after the WDO rules that kept inspectors from getting into the profession unless they were pest inspectors was eliminated. What a joke - can you say "horses ass with teeth?"

Yeah, I saw that too. I actually got half way through registering as a non-member in order to point out how ass-backwards he had his info. I stopped short when I realized I just didn't want to become a part of that zoo. Sorry (not really!).

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Mike and Richard...I had to laugh. It is a zoo over there. I don't engage the individual you are referring to in topics on that message board anymore, primarily because there is no chance at having a rational discussion.

In fact a Washington Inspector who was following his advice ended up getting a fine from the WSDA for performing pest inspections without an SPI license. I suppose it is good reading for the entertainment value, but that is about it.

Now to the Mold issue. I have written all three of my legislators, and awaiting replies. I also wrote every member of the committe for which this bill is currently referred to. Like Mike said, Jeanne Kohl-Welles is the chair of this committee, and actually she is the only one who has replied so far.

I have posted the Senators reply here;

***************************************************************************************************************

Thanks for your message, Harold. I'm in agreement with you in your concerns and had informed Sen. Parlette that we'll have a proposed substitute for the bill hearing that will modify the language.

Nonetheless, I believe the bill addresses the legitimate issue of disclosure of the presence of mold to potential home purchasers while knowing the challenges you've identified. I'd appreciate your providing any concrete suggestions you have to the committee staff attorney working on this bill, Alison Mendiola who I've copied. Regarding the language on Internet instruction, I have informed Sen. Parlette that we'll be working on language to place strict limitations. Again, any suggestions you have would be appreciated.

Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Chair - Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee

******************************************************************************************************************

I figured we could all benefit from the Senators reply. I am working on a response, and again urge others to make their voices heard. This is so important.

So apparently they will be working on a substitute bill, reworking the language. My preference would be that the bill did not have the word mold in it, but that is clearly not the intent of the Senator. The bill is all about mold disclosure and intends to put inspectors right in the middle of this controversial subject.

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