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Ohio May Regulate Home Inspectors

The home inspection business in Ohio and across the U-S is booming. For about $300 a home buyer or seller can discover possible defects before the transaction is completed. Many states in the last two decades have passed laws that regulate the home inspection business. Ohio may pass some sort of regulation too. WOSU's Sam Hendren reports.

In the basement of a 100-year-old house in Worthington home inspector Craig Carson demonstrates how he checks the operation of a furnace.

"That's the flame kicking on," says Carson.Next he uses a carbon monoxide detector to analyze the furnace exhaust."This thing draws in air and it measures carbon monoxide in parts per million. Not everyone uses one of these but I will actually check the gasses going out of the house," he says.

Carson is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors - ASHI - a national organization with recognized inspection guidelines for its members. Thirty states in the U.S. require home inspectors to be licensed - but not Ohio. That could change if a bill drafted by Rep. Michelle Schneider(R) of Madeira becomes law. Schneider says some of her elderly constituents have complained about the lack of regulation.

"They were surprised that anybody anywhere could hold themselves out as a home inspector without any training or any licensing by the state; that anyone could print up business cards and go about being a home inspector," Schneider says.

Schneider says her bill would create a safety net to protect consumers from unqualified inspectors. Currently with no state-mandated rules, an Ohio inspector can go about the inspection as he or she sees fit. Not all inspectors are as thorough as Carson who's also a licensed, professional engineer. He says he starts in the basement and works his way up.

"Eventually once we get upstairs, we fill up tubs, run dishwashers, drain sinks, see how long it takes and if anything leaks. Next stop in my sequence is the electric service," Carson says.

Rep. Schneider's proposal would establish a state licensing board. And it would require training and the passing of an examination by a professional association such as ASHI.

Ohio State Senator Robert Spada of North Royalton has proposed similar legislation. His bill would require that so-called "associates" complete 200 home inspections under the supervision of a licensed inspector to be fully certified. While the industry is mostly open to state oversight, the founder of NACHI - the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors -- says he opposes this sort of apprentice requirement. Expertise, according to Nick Gromicko, can't be determined solely by the number of inspections.

"Unfortunately under this bill, it's going to give the consumer a false sense of security that a licensed inspector is a good inspector. That's simply not true. Licensing in Ohio will be such a bare minimum standard that it will be a lot like being up-to-code. It's the bear bottom -- if you did anything less it's illegal. So a consumer should not be fooled that a licensed inspector has some expertise that unlicensed inspectors don't," Gromicko says.

Rep. Schneider says her legislation - which has bipartisan support - is ready for its second hearing in committee. Sam Hendren, WOSU News.