Just Ask Bob comes to the rescue of local homeowners
By Mike Pearson, News staff
When buying real estate, most Canadians will opt for a home inspection before making an offer. It sounds like the best way to make an informed decision on the biggest financial transaction most of us will make in our lifetimes.
According to a government-commissioned panel, between 50 and 70 per cent of all home sales involve home inspectors as part of the real estate transaction. There are about 1,500 home inspectors working in the province.
But a loosely regulated system means that not all home inspections are created equal.
After hiring a home inspector recommended by her realtor, Rhonda Rogers moved into her east Hamilton home, setting aside money for a few repairs. She knew the roof needed replacing, as well as some eavestroughs and windows. But her home inspector failed to uncover some serious structural flaws and faulty workmanship, which became all too apparent just a few weeks after the family moved in.
In Rogers’ case, the home inspector missed a wet basement, an improper bathroom renovation and a substandard kitchen floor. Just a few weeks after moving in with her husband and children, Rogers noticed the ceramic tiles in the kitchen floor were cracking and breaking under normal wear and tear. It was later determined the tiles were laid on an improper sub floor that was designed for sheet vinyl.
Despite assurances of a dry basement from her realtor and home inspector, an improperly built basement washroom contributed to flooding. The family also found out the basement was not waterproofed. Missing ductwork was discovered by a duct cleaning company.
After visiting the home earlier this month, Stoney Creek contractor Bobby Assadourian was shocked to discover a litany of obvious problems that were somehow missed during the home inspection.
Depending on the exact nature of the basement waterproofing issue, Assadourian estimates the cost of repairs could range from $60,000 to $80,000.
Currently in Ontario, anyone can offer home inspection services. There are no mandatory educational or technical standards for home inspectors, as a recent government-commissioned panel points out.
The panel warns that a substandard home inspection could overlook serious issues, like a leaky roof, cracked foundation or outdated electrical wiring. Some homeowners have depleted their savings to finance repairs. Others have lost their homes altogether, the report states.
Assadourian, host of Cable 14’s Just Ask Bob, has been warning homeowners for years to avoid hiring unlicensed contractors. But he’s also concerned by the lack of provincial oversight into the home inspection industry.
Rogers contacted Assadourian after watching an episode of Just Ask Bob that included a segment on ceramic tile installation.
As a rule, Assadourian said homeowners should shop around before hiring a home inspector. He said a home inspector may be working in tandem with a realtor, overlooking serious deficiencies in order to ensure a timely sale.
“Never, ever use a home inspector that your realtor has recommended,” Assadourian said.
Before making an offer on your dream home, prospective buyers should also watch out for buy-and- flip homes, which can be fraught with problems.
In Rogers’ case, her home included copper plumbing, refurbished wiring, a new three-piece bathroom and renovated kitchen. But after contacting the city’s building and licensing department, Assadourian found no evidence of any building permits for the work.
After speaking to neighbours following their move-in day, the family learned their home was in fact a buy-and-flip.
The Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services is now reviewing recommendations from a home inspector panel, which aims to regulate the home inspection industry. The panel’s final report urges the province to ensure mimimum standards of training, improve the consistency of home inspections and safeguard consumer protection. The panel submitted its findings to the ministry in December, 2013.
While some home inspection associations and insurance companies collect data about complaints and claims, the panel notes Ontario has no centralized system in place to collect, monitor and analyze complaints about home inspectors and home inspections.
Among its list of 35 recommendations, the panel is urging the government to establish a code of ethics for home inspectors. The panel states home inspectors should be regulated with clear definitions and standards that must be met. The recommended qualifications to become a licensed home inspector include a written exam, a field test and experience requirements.
The panel is also calling for errors and liability insurance for all home inspectors, as well as a standard contract written in plain language. The report calls for a single avenue for consumers to register complaints about home inspectors.
Sandra Bento, spokesperson for Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles, said staff is now reviewing the panel’s recommendations. Those recommendations and public feedback will help inform the government’s decision regarding qualifications for home inspectors.
“The Minister expressed to the panel her appreciation for their work and providing a valuable report,” Bento states in an email. “As a next step, the government will analyze both the expert panel’s report and the public feedback. This analysis will help shape future government decisions.”
Bento did not confirm whether the government will table legislation to regulate the home inspection industry.
For Rogers, a call to her realtor proved fruitless in addressing her concerns.
“I just felt like I was a nobody to him,” she recalled.
The realtor also advised her there was little she could do about the problems. But that wasn’t the case, said Assadourian.
After written assurances of a dry basement proved to be false, Rogers could have made a compelling legal case against the home’s seller. But after living with the home’s issues for two years, she plans to fix what she can and eventually look for another home.
When it comes time to sell, Rogers will fully disclose the home’s issues, a courtesy that was not extended by the previous owner.
“We definitely know what to look for in our next home,” Rogers said.
In the short term, Assadourian hopes to use Rogers’ home as a venue for Just Ask Bob, a weekly DIY home renovation show on Cable 14. Assadourian, who volunteers his time for the program, is applying to host the show for a fourth season. He hopes to secure donations of supplies to fix the kitchen’s inproperly installed ceramic tiles. In keeping with the show’s theme, he plans to show the homeowners how to fix the problem themselves, instead of hiring a contractor.
Episodes from the third season of Just Ask Bob are now airing Mondays at 4:30 and 10:30 p.m.