What happens when the home inspector hired by the buyer damages the seller’s property while performing a home inspection? Long & Foster associate broker Jill Chodorov found out first-hand.

“I was standing in the kitchen and witnessed the home inspector allow the heavy metal cover of the electrical panel to slam to the floor when removing it for inspection, rather than hold it as he unscrewed it from the panel,” Chodorov wrote in an article for The Washington Post. 

“The result: a deep gash in the slate tile in a luxury condo. Long story short, the buyer said the broken tile was not a problem, but 24 hours later proceeded to back out of the deal,” she wrote.

Because the home inspector wouldn’t acknowledge the wrong-doing, Chodorov wrote she wondered about home inspectors’ qualifications and the protections homeowners have (or don’t have) regarding their negligence. What she learned is not all states have licensing requirements or regulations for home inspectors. For those that do, the credentialing doesn’t necessarily mean the inspector is a good one.

“Licensing requirements are just minimum standards allowed by law,” Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors, said in the article published May 23.

“If you get a D in school, you still pass,” he added. “Using a licensed inspector doesn’t mean you are going to get a good job. It just means that someone squeaked by and passed the licensing test.”

Lesh expressed a similar sentiment in a recent article discussing the lack of licensing and regulation in states across the country.

“Currently, approximately 35 states require some form of home inspector regulation,” Lesh said in “State licensing: Is it important (even necessary) for the industry?

“Unfortunately, consumers have the expectation that because a license is necessary, then all inspectors are the same,” Lesh told the AHIT blog. “Nothing could be further from the truth. The analogy I like to use is most barbers and hairdressers are licensed, but consumers can still get a bad haircut.”

How can consumers protect themselves? The first step is to choose a home inspector who is experienced, qualified, and professional.

“I recommend using an ASHI certified home inspector,” Lesh said in the Post article. “We certify our members. “As an ASHI member, you have to exceed the law and follow our strict standards of practice and code of ethics.”

If a home inspector damages property, there is recourse, according to Lesh. “You can report the situation to us [if the inspector is an ASHI member], you can call the state if it is regulated, or you can report him to the Better Business Bureau.”

What else should consumers look for when hiring a home inspector? Chodorov asked Glen Blanc of Pro Spex Home Inspection Services to provide a list of questions to ask when selecting a home inspector. The list, as well as more of Chodorov’s article, can be found here.