Home inspectors in Florida who aren’t certified by today may run afoul with the law.
Enforcement of a new law takes effect, and Friday marks the date unlicensed inspectors can be penalized for conducting business.
In 2007, then- Gov. Charlie Crist acknowledged that additional consumer protection was necessary in the field of home inspection by requiring that home inspectors across the state meet a minimum requirement in order to do their work.
The law stated that by July 2010 all Florida home inspectors must be licensed. July 1, 2011, marks the date that unlicensed inspectors can face legal trouble.
“What it will do is professionalize the business,” said Carl Pucci, owner of Panther Home Inspection in Marco Island. “So, the consumer is protected.”
There were no licensed home inspectors in 2009, according to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulations. By January 2011, 938 licenses had been issued. As of June 2011, there are 4,199 licensed inspectors in the state.
For homeowners, the law means extra security. The application process requires additional education, making for a more informed inspector and a safer purchase.
“In years past anybody who was out of work could print up a business card and go out and do a home inspection,” said Pucci, 55.
An improper inspection can lead homeowners to purchase a property with significant damage. Pucci believes that before a license was required the main problem was the possibility of hiring a professional with a lack of knowledge.
“I think anyone who goes out to do the job tries their best,” he said. “But the consumer should know the basic product they are getting.”
Pucci says he deals with mostly second-time home-buyers who have been through the process before and are aware of what to look for in a company.
Anyone can report non-licensed activity to the Department of Business Professional Regulation. Inspectors operating business without proper identification face fines of more than $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.
Dan Rometo, owner and operator of Do-Rite Inspection Services in Naples, received his license more than a year ago to comply with the law. He believes the legislation is in line with what current homeowners expect from the inspection process.
“The question now, which has never asked before, is ‘are you licensed?’” Rometo said, 58.
Rometo said he has run his business in Southwest Florida for more than nine years.
“Homeowners are becoming aware,” he said. “It is a foolproof plan for the consumer.”
There are many online services available that allow home-buyers to check for a licensed inspector, but if the purchase is done through a Realtor, it is likely consumers will be directly recommended to a list of companies that the realtor often works with.
Glenn Ginsburg, broker and owner of A Delta Realty of Naples, understands the value in a knowledgeable inspector.
“(A licensed inspector) is good, but at the same time the process needs to be such that it cuts through the riff-raff.” He recommends companies based on the quality and detail of work.
“Their own personal background is important,” Ginsburg, 63, said. “I would rather be proactive then reactive. They should be qualified.”
Home inspectors can apply for a license several different ways.
You can gain proper identification by passing an examination and completing a 120-hour course, or apply for endorsement if you are a licensed inspector in a different state. Florida inspectors were able to apply for a license before March 1 if they had three years experience or a certification that required at least 14 hours of education.
The application process requires a background check, a $300,000 commercial general liability insurance policy and the applicant to be of good moral character.
“It is a necessary thing for the company to succeed,” Rometo said.
A typical home inspection should cover the inside and the outside of the home, and the structure, plumbing and cooling. According to Pucci, a single family home should take two to three hours. Larger homes can take up to five hours.
“It can be stressful,” Pucci said. “But necessary.”