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Washington Inspectors: Licensing Starts in 90 Days


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By Mike O'Handley - Editor, TIJ

Attention Washington State home inspectors, if you haven't already done so, you need to start getting yourself organized because you only have 90 days until the new state licensing law for home inspectors kicks in.

According to the Washington State Department of Licensing (WSDOL), after July 1st, 2009 every practicing home inspector in Washington state will need to meet the state licensing guidelines by the cutoff date for their particular category or be forced to close their businesses until they've met all state requirements. The new law states:

"Beginning September 1, 2009, a person shall not engage in or conduct, or advertise or hold himself or herself out as engaging in or conducting, the business of or acting in the capacity of a home inspector within this state without first obtaining a license as provided in this chapter."

Depending on how much experience they have, home inspectors in the state are classified into three categories:

1. Experienced Inspectors - Inspectors in this category must have been in the business at least two years and have completed at least 100 inspections as of June 12, 2008.

Inspectors in this category must apply for a license before September 1st, 2009 and will need to have taken and passed the state-mandated home inspector's exam and provided the state with proof of time in business along with a verifiable list of more than 100 inspections.

Inspectors in this category who haven't completed those requirements by September 1st, will be forced to close their companies and then complete all 120 hours of the state-mandated classroom training, complete 40 hours of supervised inspections with a licensed inspector, and then take and pass the state-mandated home inspector exam, before being issued a license and allowed to reopen their companies.

2. Less experienced inspectors - these are inspectors who were actively practicing inspections but hadn't been in the business more than two years or completed at least 100 inspections as of June 12, 2008.

Inspectors in this category have a window from July 1st 2009 until July 1st 2010 to complete all of the mandatory classroom training, supervised inspections and take and pass the state-mandated home inspector's exam.

Inspectors in this category that have not met all state-mandated requirements by the July 1st 2010 cutoff date will be forced to close their companies until they've met all state requirements.

3. Very new inspectors - these are inspectors who entered the profession after June 12, 2008.

As of July 1st, 2009, these inspectors are not allowed to practice home inspections until they've completed all of the state-mandated education and supervised inspection requirements, as well as taken and passed the state-mandated home inspector's exam.

According to the WSDOL, the initial application/exam fee is $300 and the cost of the initial license will be $680. Licenses will be good for 2 years and the licensing fees are expected to be reduced once the initial round of licensing has been completed.

There may be some wiggle room for inspectors in the second category that have attended non-state-approved inspector training courses. Depending on the course, the Department of Licensing might allow them partial credit toward the 120-hour classroom training requirement as long as they complete a state-approved makeup course; these will be handled by the state on a case-by-case basis.

Where licensing has been implemented in other states, some inspectors have resisted change and been slow to comply. Practicing inspectors who ignore this new law, or attempt to fraudulently obtain their license by submitting false information to the state, do so at their own risk; under state law the Director, Washington State Department of Licensing, has the authority to apply for relief by injunction without bond, to restrain a person from the commission of any act that is prohibited under RCW 18.280.140, and thus can legally shut down an inspector's company. In such a proceeding, it is not necessary for WSDOL to allege or prove either that an adequate remedy at law does not exist, or that substantial or irreparable damage would result from continued violation.

The Director also has the authority to issue civil infractions under chapter 7.80 RCW in the following instances:

1. Conducting or offering to conduct a home inspection without being licensed in accordance with state law.

2. Presenting or attempting to use as his or her own the home inspector license of another.

3. Giving any false or forged evidence of any kind to the director or his or her authorized representative in obtaining a license;

4. Falsely impersonating any other licensee; or

5. Attempting to use an expired or revoked license.

Any home inspector cited under these rules would need to appear in court to answer the charges and all fines and penalties collected or assessed by a court because of a violation of the law would be remitted to the Department of Licensing to be deposited into a special business and professions account.

Under state law, should WSDOL have a company shut down by injunction for failing to comply, both WSDOL and the Washington State Home Inspector's Advisory Licensing Board are immune from suit in any action, civil or criminal, based on disciplinary proceedings or other official acts performed in the course of their duties in the administration and enforcement of the new law.

To learn more about these new rules, visit the Home Inspectors' Licensing section at the Washington State Department of Licensing website or contact Rhonda Myers, Inspection Program Manager, at 360-664-6487 or email the DOL at: DOLINTHomeInspectors@dol.gov.

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Hi Jerry,

That's right. The testing contract has been awarded to the vendor and they anticipate the test will be ready on May 1st. Just ensure you check with Rhonda to ensure that whatever you've got available to show your time in business, plus the 100 inspections, is going to be satisfactory to them.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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We board members had to show 5 years experience and more than 500 inspections, so when I applied for the state board, I sent them copies of my first business license and a couple of other business documents (insurance or something like that - I don't really recall) that proved that I'd been in business more than 5 years. Then I sat down and listed the last 500 jobs I'd done in reverse chronological order by date, address of the inspection, Client name and phone number. Heck, the rest of you have it easy compared to the board.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Got an email from Rhonda Myers @ DOL today:

(I had emailed to her my proof of experience and list of 100 pre June 12, 2008 inspections .... asking her if what I had met DOL criteria) ( it was ok)

Her Quote back to me was:

you will need to provide all your documentation along with your license application: proof of time in home inspection business, and submit everything to the department.

Completed applications with all the required documentation will recieve an approval letter.

The approval letter will be required by the exam provider in order for you to take the exam...

We are still on target to begin testing on May 1, 2009...

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

According to application instructions... you have to submit a fee of $680.00 (non-refundable) along with the application....

what a blessing

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Hi Brad,

Yes, a study guide has been written. The board was allowed to preview an advanced copy at the last meeting but I don't know whether that's going to be released by the vendor prior to the May 1st test launch target.

The CofE and the SOP is all part of the WAC and that's viewable here.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Hi Brad,

Yes, a study guide has been written. The board was allowed to preview an advanced copy at the last meeting but I don't know whether that's going to be released by the vendor prior to the May 1st test launch target.

The CofE and the SOP is all part of the WAC and that's viewable here.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Try this link for the NHIE exam content outline

http://www.homeinspectionexam.org/docum ... ew2009.pdf

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Hi All,

A correction to what I'd posted above re. the length of time the license is good for.

I wrote that the initial license was good for two years but actually it is not. The way it's going to work will be similar to the way Washington State issues driver's licenses with the renewal date being keyed to one's birth date. In this case, licenses will expire on the inspector's second birthday after the license is issued.

So, someone who gets his license issued, say, a week before his birthday will need to renew the license in 53 weeks, versus someone who gets it issued the week after his birthday, in which case it will be good for just about two years. The renewal rate is still, as of this date, going to be $375.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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That "53 week" person will still need the 24 hours of CEU's I assume?

With my birthday in October, it seems I'm going to get shorted. Mike, I know this isn't your decision and I don't want to whine (too much) but, if they can keep track of my birthdate, why not the date of issuance and 2 years from there? The $680 is bad enough but, at least, I thought I was going to get a 2-year license as well as 2 years to try and find some meaningful CEUs.

Oh well! It is what it is.

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Hi,

I recall Rhonda Myers saying that they'd begun receiving applications from some training vendors but, to tell you the truth, I didn't bother to ask who they were. The best thing to do is give Rhonda a call or email your questions to DOL.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Does that mean it's going to be an entirely fresh crop of trainers who are newly in business?

Well, since we've never had licensing before in our state, I would assume some of them probably are. I've thought about this myself.

Without calling Rhonda Myers myself as Mike mentioned - just talkin' - I would bet there's a number of training "organizations" clamoring for the new batch of business.

I know there is criteria in place for a training organization to be accepted in to the program and I've briefly reviewed that criteria - it's on the state website if you want to read it. It was a bit Greek to me and I can't comment on how practical or efficient it will be on screening out the bozos.

Utlimately, it's government. My expectations are very low, if any at all.

Thank God I don't have to attend any training trhat will be approved.

(No offense to any trainers out there who may actually be experienced, credible, and qualified.)

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What's interesting to me is that I have a contractor's license in this state by virtue of sending them $100 and a certificate of insurance, but would/will face a new, significant barrier to providing HI services. The barrier is partly financial but mostly logistical, since I am in a remote location and cannot easily travel to a training location. There are a few inspectors in the local market and I do not know a whole lot about their skills, but I like to think that what I do for customers is valuable and that I should continue to offer the service (FWIW, I am a general contractor and do not offer the types of inspections you folks do, but rather review specific problems that homeowners bring me). If there is any question that separate licensing is required for this, I'll either comply or cease. Not worth working outside of my classification.

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David,

The law deals with those folks who are hired to do a home inspection; it does not cover contractors who are hired to look at specific components of the home and give the owner an opinion and estimates. If it did, every contractor in the state would need to get a home inspector's license.

The law regulates those folks whose primary business is doing pre-purchase home inspections or pre-sale inspections, or other inspections that a professional home inspector would do. The law specifically prohibits a professional home inspector from doing any contracting work on a home which he or she has inspected for at least a year after the inspection.

If you're specifically marketing your services as both a contractor and a professional home inspector, and you can't show that you'd done 100 complete home inspections and been in that business for at least two years as of June 12, 2008 (They will not accept background in construction as home inspection experience - they are similar but also widely different), you'll have to get the education and meet the rest of the requirements for a home inspector. Either that or stop inspecting homes altogether if you don't want to run afoul of the law.

I understand the difficulties when living up at Friday Harbor. I've driven up there to do inspections and I've had customers fly my up there to do inspections (I live less than a mile from Kenmore Air so getting there isn't a big hassle).

The local realtors I met while up there said that there was one home inspector up there who had a virtual monopoly. Was that you?

If you're interested in getting into home inspection full-time, you might look at what kind of education is available in BC for inspectors, determine whether it would be easier to get to that training than to go to Bellingham Tech, which I think has the only approved curriculum so far, and then ask that BC school to apply to DOL for course approval. They can find the curriculum requirements on the DOL website. Make sure they understand that the required 120-hour Fundamentals of Home Inspection course is a seat-in-a-chair course and can't be done virtually or by correspondence; only CE can be done by those means.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mike, there are two guys I have direct knowledge of who are active in this market, and I think there's a third also. I am definitely not the person the realtor mentioned. One of the inspectors recently did a prepurchase inspection for a client of mine, and I was hired to follow up on some of the items he flagged. His report was adequate but we differed on some important things and he's completely wrong about a couple of others. The second inspector is the one I hired when we bought the house we have here. He is a little better, I think. Our lender required an inspection so we got one.

I will look into the Bellingham Tech offerings. Going to BC is much more time consuming. I am not thinking about getting into inspection full time, but am thinking about broadening what I do by doing some HI and some energy audit work.

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Hi,

Well, energy auditors are a different subject altogether and there are no laws regulating energy auditors. However, if one is a home inspector and adding energy audits as an additional service over an above what's required by the SOP on a home inspection, one must still have a home inspectors license.

Check out the state website for what you'll be required to inspect and what you'll be required to report if you'll be doing home inspections.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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One of the reasons for me to be licensed, even if I might not really perform the service they are trying to license, is to be able to get E&O insurance. The CGL carrier that writes my general contracting business does not do E&O, and there is probably little chance of getting E&O elsewhere if I'm not licensed correctly from their point of view. Now, we might be able to split hairs on an internet forum but an underwriter won't bother, they'll ask if I have a license or certification and won't be inclined to see shades of gray. I am not inclined to provide any service of any sort without insurance. FWIW my broker has told me that I am within the terms of my existing policy with what I am doing, but he would like me to get a separate, specific policy if I do more than a couple of inspections per year. As was mentioned above, many generals do a little bit of review & report.

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So any ideas on where the testing will be taking place, and where to schedule an exam? It looks like you take the exam first, then upon passing, fill out the department HI license application, and provide the documentation required, as well as the $$$$$...... Right?

When I talked with Rhonda a few day ago she indicated there would be about 7 sites around the state to take exams, probably the same locations where WSDA SPI exams take place....

when I downloaded application off website below it says " Once approved, you will recieve a letter with additional info explaining the exam process"

All your paperwork ( application, log of 100 inspections, proof of experience, and $680 ) has to be submitted before exam

DOL Home Inspector Home page:

www.dol.wa.gov/business/homeinspectors/

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I don't believe the $680 gets sent up front. The following is from the DOL website at http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/homeinsp ... cense.html .

How to apply for a license

1.Complete an Home Inspector License Application.

2.Pass the written exam.

3.Submit your completed application, proof you passed the exam, and the fee (estimated to be $680) to us.

I've already downloaded the application, and have it filled out ready to go. I haven't sent it in yet but there's nothing on the form that says to include any money.

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