Home inspectors' association says licensing-fee increase a 'money grab'
The president of an association representing B.C. home inspectors says an upcoming licensing-fee increase is a “money grab” that will hike prices for consumers and prevent people from entering the industry.
Bob Hamm is also calling on the provincial government to roll back the increase — 95 per cent over three years — and look into the activities of Consumer Protection B.C., the agency that licenses home inspectors and approved the fee hike.
“There’s absolutely no rational reason why they should be getting more money,” said Hamm, who is the head of the Home Inspectors Association of B.C. and a Kelowna-based home inspector. “They should be able to tighten up their process.”
HIABC is the largest of four associations representing home inspectors in the province. There are more than 500 licensed inspectors in B.C.
On Dec. 29, home inspectors received notice from Consumer Protection B.C. that their licensing fees will go up starting April 1. Renewals will increase by 25 per cent each year for three years, and the cost of a new licence will go up by 36 per cent this year, followed by 25-per-cent increases in 2019 and 2020.
By April 1, 2020, the cost of a licence renewal will almost double, to $1,025 from $525. The cost of a new licence will more than double over the same period, from $525 to $1,114.
Service Alberta charges a business with three or fewer licensed inspectors $500 for a two-year licence.
There will also be a two-per-cent annual increase for other charges over the next three years. Fees for replacement licences, late renewals and association accreditation have been eliminated.
In response to an interview request, Consumer Protection B.C. provided a statement from spokeswoman Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith.
“These fee increases reflect our need to recover costs for additional responsibilities we took on as a result of the changes made to the home-inspector regulatory model in September 2016,” the statement said.
According to the agency’s website, the responsibilities include assessing qualifications, administering new requirements and assuming responsibility for consumer inquiries.
However, Hamm alleged Consumer Protection B.C. isn’t doing the work as well as it should be, and that standards have fallen since it took over some regulatory duties from associations.
“This is a process that’s not working, that’s broken and that is damaging the industry when we could be going in a different direction and actually improving the industry,” Hamm said. “It may be that government doesn’t really appreciate exactly what Consumer Protection is not doing and it might be good for them to be aware of.”
That’s why when HIABC submitted an argument against the fee increase during stakeholder consultation in October, they copied Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson and Premier John Horgan.
Farnworth, whose ministry is responsible for the legislation covering Consumer Protection B.C., was unavailable for comment, but said in an emailed statement that the agency is a non-profit that operates at arm’s length from government, and is responsible for determining fees for the sectors it licenses, including home inspectors.
If the licensing fees increase at the expected rate, Hamm said the higher cost could dissuade people from entering the profession and be a burden on new inspectors. Customers will also be paying more for home inspections.
“That’s almost a hidden tax on consumers because businesses are going to pass that down to consumers — they have to, to stay in business,” he said.
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