If you have purchased a residence within the last several years you may have used the services of a home inspector. Until recently, such inspectors were not regulated. This meant that there were no standards for basic competence of such inspectors. It also meant that such inspectors likely had no insurance or bonding to pay for any errors or omissions they might make in performing their inspections.

Now the State of Arizona, through the State Board of Technical Registration, licenses home inspectors and sets standards for their testing, licensing, and performance. The Arizona Legislature has passed legislation that created a home inspector rules and standards committee of the State Board of Technical Registration. The committee consists of three home inspectors (one of whom shall be a resident of a county with a population of four hundred thousand persons or less) and two members of the board of technical registration (including an architect or engineer and a public member).

The home inspectors appointed to the committee serve staggered three year terms. Those home inspectors must have at least five years of experience as a home inspector and must have passed the certification examination prescribed for home inspectors. Members of the committee may be removed for misconduct, incapacity or neglect of duty.

The committee is responsible for drafting and recommending to the Board of Technical Registration various standards for home inspectors, such as:

1. Criteria for home inspector certification.
2. Standards for home inspection reports.
3. Standards for written examinations.
4. Standards for educational programs including course of study, home inspector-in-training programs and continuing education.
5. Rules defining conduct.
6. Other rules and standards related to the practice of home inspectors.

The standards for certification as a home inspector require that applicants for certification must:

1. Be at least eighteen years of age.
2. Be of good moral character and repute.
3. Have passed within two years preceding application a written examination approved by the Board that meets the competency standards recommended by the home inspector rules and standards committee and adopted by the Board of Technical Registration.
4. Have passed a course of study and a home inspector-in-training program and that meets the standards recommended by the home inspector rules and standards committee and approved by the Board of Technical Registration.
5. Pay a fee as determined by the Board and submit a full set of fingerprints to the Board for the purpose of obtaining a state and federal criminal records check. The department of public safety may exchange this fingerprint data with the federal bureau of investigation. Any documents and information relating to the state and federal criminal records check required by this section are not public records.
6. Not have had a certificate as a home inspector denied or revoked within one year immediately preceding the application.
7. Have received an absolute discharge from sentence at least five years before the application if the person has been convicted of one or more felonies.

Within sixty days after certification, a home inspector must file one of the following financial assurances:

1. Errors and omissions insurance for negligent acts committed in the course of a home inspection in an amount of two hundred thousand dollars in the aggregate and one hundred thousand dollars per occurrence.
2. A bond in the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars.
3. A financial assurance mechanism with a value of at least twenty-five thousand dollars recommended by the home inspector rules and standards committee and approved by the Board.

If a home inspector loses or otherwise fails to maintain their insurance or bond, the inspector’s certification is automatically suspended. If no insurance or bond is obtained within ninety days, the inspector’s certification is automatically revoked.

These regulations at least provide for a minimum level of competence and financial responsibility by home inspectors. The real question, of course, is whether or not you should use a home inspector when buying a residence. Certainly the new regulations make it more likely that someone holding himself or herself out as a home inspector is competent. They may not, however, have the same level of training and knowledge as a licensed contractor. Any time it appears that repairs to a property may be necessary, you should get the opinion of a licensed contractor. If all you need is for someone to alert you to any potential problems in a residence, however, a home inspector may be useful for that purpose. You should always make sure, of course, that the house inspector is licensed and insured.