Building Inspectors and Building Inspections

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Building Inspectors and Building Inspections who to choose and why

WHO - Not all building inspectors are the same. This is how they differ:-

Licences

Building Inspection

In Queensland, to legally conduct building inspections and inspector must either hold a Completed Residential Building Inspectors licence issued by the QBCC or work for a company that has a QBCC company licence to conduct completed residential building inspections. To obtain this licence it is necessary to have been a registered builder for a number of years or to have a qualification as a building surveyor. In addition, the licence holder must be fit and proper person and meet the prerequisites of the licence in the areas of financial liquidity and insurance. The issue for the public is to avoid the following licence related issues when picking a building & pest inspector.

  1. The inspector is not licenced. This is not legal however, there is little policing of building inspectors unless they are brought to the attention of the QBCC via a complaint by a consumer.
  2. The inspector does have a valid and current individual Builders Licence but does not hold a licence in the class Completed Residential Building Inspection and or has little experience in inspection of completed buildings. Experience and training in building inspection is very important. For example having built a number of modern homes does not equip a person with the knowledge to identify problems in homes built with the materials and techniques of 50 years ago.
  3. The inspector does not have an individual licence but works for a company that does have a licence. This may or may not be a problem. There is clearly a need to allow new inspectors to gain the necessary training and experience on the job whilst being supervised by the nominated supervisor of that company. The issue for the consumer is to ensure that they are getting a high quality inspection conducted by a competent person. There have been incidences where a company holds a licence but inexperienced and unqualified people are employed to perform the inspections without the adequate supervision.

Timber Pest Licences

To be able to conduct Timber Pest inspections in a pre-purchase situation the individual must hold two licences. Timber Pest are Termites, Borers, Fungal Decay (rot) and Chemical Delignification.

All Pest Management Technicians (pest controllers) must hold a Queensland Health Pest Management Technician Licence with an endorsement for the Pest Control Activity Including Timber Pests and a QBCC Trade Contractor or a Nominee Supervisors licence in the class Termite Management – Chemical. In addition, the licence holder must be fit and proper person and meet the prerequisites of the licence in the areas of insurance. The issue for consumers is to avoid the following licence related issues

  1. The inspector is not licenced. This is not legal however, there is little policing of timber pest inspectors unless they are brought to the attention of the QBCC via a complaint by a consumer.
  2. The inspector does have a valid and current individual Pest Management Technician Licence but not including timber pests and or has little experience in conducting timber pests. Experience and training in specifically in termites and other timbers pests is very important. For example there is a big difference between having knowledge of ants, fleas and spiders and how to control them and having studied termites lifecycles and behaviour and knowing where they are likely to be in problem in a home.
  3. The inspector does not have an individual licence but works for a company that does have a licence. This may or may not be a problem. There is clearly a need to allow new inspectors to gain the necessary training and experience on the job whilst being supervised by the nominated supervisor of that company. The issue for the consumer is to ensure that they are getting a high quality inspection conducted by a competent person. There have been incidences where a company holds a licence but inexperienced and unqualified people are employed to perform the inspections without the adequate supervision.

Training

There is little in the way of tertiary courses specifically for Completed Residential Building Inspection. Most courses on offered are conversion courses for builders and only cover the basics. Specific and relevant training for building inspectors is essential but it is only the well-established building inspection companies that provide adequate training and ongoing professional development of their inspectors. For example at ABIS a new inspector starting with the necessary qualifications and licences still requires about a year of training and experience before that are fully competent as an unsupervised inspector.

Typically we see inadequate training and experienced in the following situations.

  1. Where a one-man-band inspectors has just moved from building houses to conducting building inspection
  2. Where the inspector is working in a franchise or sub-contractor situation.
  3. Where the inspector only does the occasional job via a booking agent or online aggregator.

To be safe the consumer should pick a well-established company whose inspectors are employees and be wary of slick sales and websites with little substance behind them.

Price

For a typical home in Queensland the combined prices charged for a Standard pre-Purchase Building Inspection together with a Timber Pest Inspection which are compliant to both AS4349.1 and AS4349.3  ranges from $300 to $800.

So why is there such a large range?

Whilst generally the price is set by what people are prepared to pay for the service offered and the level of competition in the market. The inspection company, or individual, must be able to cover their costs and make a profit to stay in business.

The costs of a professional company operating with appropriate licences, insurance and meeting all its legislative and legal requirements include: vehicles, fuel and tolls, training, ticences, insurance, systems, marketing, accounting, IT, inspection equipment, thermal cameras etc.

For a properly and efficiently run company using dually qualified and licenced inspectors the price for an average home is typically between $450 and $550.

Those charging lower prices are usually cutting corners somewhere or are desperate.

Those charging higher prices are usually impacted by one or more of the following:-

  1. Using a separate building inspector and pest management technician
  2. Have poor system and are inefficient
  3. Are paying verify high insurance premiums because of a large number of claims against them.
  4. Are a franchise (the pie is being cut more ways)
  5. Are aiming their marketing at the small numbers of consumers who take the view that higher prices equate to better quality and service.

Insurance

This is one of the most important things to consider when picking a company to conduct your inspection. Unfortunately the building Inspection industry has a large number of cowboys whose strategy is to get work by offering low prices. In order to offer these low prices they often cut corners and other costs including insurance.

Building Inspectors should carry two types of insurance. Professional Indemnity and Public Liability. It is very important that you check that your building inspector is covered by Professional Indemnity insurance. This is the insurance that protect you should something go very wrong in the process. For the building inspector the Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance is a significant cost and the more claims the inspector has the higher their premium. Some of the cowboys who can’t get or afford the insurance premium for PI Insurance will say their insured and show their Public Liability insurance, which is a low cost policy to cover accidents on site during the inspection and will not protect you from errors and omission which can cause you loss.

Always check that there is a Certificate Of Currency for Professional Indemnity Insurance that is current and is for the Individual or company you are dealing with. Make sure it is the same company or individual you were invoiced by and the same company or individual that is on the pre-engagement agreement and report.

In Queensland the QBCC will allow inspectors to conduct inspections without PI insurance providing they clearly tell their clients that they are not covered. Whilst this is requirement it is rarely followed an there are a number of inspectors that will mislead you about their insurance cover.

WHY – If you pick a shonky inspector it can cost your dearly

Usually when buying a new home people are naturally thinking positively about a new life in a new home. Having a building and pest inspection done is not a priority for most people and some see it as just another cost in the buying process. In addition the professional sales people don’t want to put any obstacles or risks in the way of you going through with you purchase so they will tend to de emphasise the need for an inspection especially when people are buying new homes or units.

The first thing to remember is that unlike the real-estate agent, new home builder or vendor, your building inspector has only one master and that is you. The building inspector is there to look after your interests and to identify any signifying defects that are likely to require significant out of plan expenditure to rectify. Buying a new home is not when most people want a large negative financial surprise.

Unfortunately, there are exceptions to this. Some shonky inspectors will use a building inspection offered at a very low price create an opportunity to sell you another service such as Termite barrier or Roof restorations. We have also heard of inspectors who deliberately paint a bad picture of a home so you pull out of the sale and they can get another fee from you for another inspection.

One way to avoid this is to only use specialist inspection companies and avoid those who get most of the revenue from selling other products and services.

False and Misleading Claims

Fake News and out and out lies on websites seem to be the norm these days however here are some of the common ones we see on building inspectors website you should be aware of:-

  • Fastest turnaround reports available (Unless they are handing your report immediately at the end of the inspection on site this is a lie)
  • Lowes prices
  • Best quality inspections there is (The has been no independent review of the quality of inspections and reports so these type of statements are usually false)
  • Member of institutes (where they are the only member and they set it up the institute)
  • Certified by Australian Standards or trained to Australian Standards AS4349.1 and AS4349.3 (Standard Australia do not certify any business or product nor are they an educational qualification or training course)
  • Certified by the QBCC (QBCC licence building inspectors and you must hold a licence to be an inspector. They do not certify business)
  • Certified by an industry association (there are just members and have joined by paying annual subscription)
  • Hundreds of 5 Star reviews (fabricated reviews and or removal of bad reviews)