The home inspection industry in Denver is poised to get a boost.
When the Denver City Council voted to require licenses for all residential rental properties earlier this month, it mandated that the properties pass an inspection in order to get a license.
“I would be hiring some people,” said one industry veteran, Shawn Veith of Home Inspection of Denver. “No way I could keep up with that myself.”
But not everyone in the industry sees the requirement as useful, and some have questions about liability and whether they can achieve the pricing touted during discussions of the measure.
“If it pays me 100 bucks, I’m not sure I’d get out of bed for it,” said another inspector, Steve Nadeau of Metro Home Inspection, who counts 44 years of experience and a five-star rating to his resume.
Not your typical home inspection
Some of the specifics regarding the required inspection still need to be ironed out.
But the inspection is not intended to look like the kind a homebuyer gets after going under contract on a home purchase, which investigates every major facet of a home’s construction and condition. That’s far more rigorous — and expensive — than what City Council President Stacie Gilmore has in mind.
Instead, Gilmore, who developed the measure over two years, assured the council and others that the program would only require an inspection that verifies basic health and safety minimum standards are being met.
Gilmore’s senior council aide said in an email that would likely include ensuring:
- Properly connected and functioning equipment and facilities such as toilets, kitchen sinks, bathtubs or showers;
- Proper lighting, ventilation, and heating;
- Safe and sanitary dwellings;
- Supplied utility services such as water, electricity, and gas;
- Minimum space for occupancy;
- Pest-free living through preventing such pests as cockroaches, mice, bedbugs, mosquitos, etc.
These standards, council aide Magen Elenz said, are based on an existing list in the Denver Revised Municipal Code. They’re already required of landlords, and the city’s Department of Public Health and Environment already enforces those requirements on a complaint basis.
Gilmore has said these basic inspections should cost around $150 per unit and take 45 minutes to an hour — or less — per inspection.
Reaction from the industry
Gilmore’s numbers surprised some inspectors in Denver, though.
“I can’t imagine it’d take 45 minutes to an hour,” Nadeau said. “You’ve still got to do a physical inspection, then you have to create a report, and those two items create a depth of liability. We carry the same insurance, and we have the same liability if we miss something.”
Nadeau said that liability question, even in a limited inspection, made him nervous. He wouldn’t want to do just a perfunctory glance over the home and sign off on it, and that means he’d be more likely to only offer his services if he were doing a full-scale inspection.
“I wouldn’t want to touch this unless it was profitable,” Nadeau said. “Yesterday I did a home inspection for a house built in 1951, 1,500 square feet, crawl space, garage, and I did a radon test. But even take out the radon test and the sewer scope and I charged $485.”
Nadeau isn’t the only one with concerns about the suggested price tag. But others thought it might work for their business.
“I’d have to figure out a price,” said Erik Robinson of Exclusive Home Evaluations and Inspections. “I’d imagine looking at 50 percent to even 25 percent of what a typical price would be, because you’re not going in and looking at everything for a typical home inspection. Maybe health and safety stuff only, I’d imagine you’re looking at, if a 4,000 square-foot home’s 500 bucks, health and safety might be $150, $200. That’s what I’d imagine. It’d go a lot quicker.”
Robinson also supposed 45 minutes might be possible for his company, if the parameters were right.
“It’d be worth it to me. It’d be more profitable and easier to size it up for an apartment complex, though,” he said. “If they’re doing 10 percent of the units, I’m not sure exact numbers, but the more time you spend on a number of units it might get cheaper even.”
The program requires all single-unit homes be inspected, but only one unit out of every 10 in large apartment complexes.
But there are other questions. In Colorado, there is no licensing for home inspectors. Optionally, professionals can get certified under one or both of the two major industry standards — InterNACHI and ASHI — but “anybody can call themselves an inspector in this state,” as Nadeau pointed out.
Gilmore’s plan requires certification for rental home inspectors, but that presents an interesting quandary.
“The thing is home inspectors aren’t licensed, so the criteria for inspection goes by, for me, InterNACHI standards,” Veith said. “That would be extensive. It takes two hours to do an apartment.”
Despite the potential bump in business, Veith wasn’t a fan of the program.
“I’m disappointed they’re doing this,” he said. “If a place is in bad shape, who’s going to rent it? Let the market decide. I guess some people don’t know. They don’t know you need carbon monoxide detection, say. I do inspect rental units where they take out the batteries after I leave.”
Elenz said the council president’s office had been in touch with inspectors, and even provided a list of nearly a dozen home inspectors who have been doing this kind of work in Boulder, where rental licenses have existed since the 1970s. Those inspectors’ prices, as listed by Elenz, were well within the range being described by Gilmore.
That didn’t persuade Veith.
“Boulder’s not the place I’d want to copy,” Veith said with a wry chuckle. “That’s a shame. But, I could figure out how to do that.”
If he did end up figuring it out, Veith admitted, it might well be a boon to his industry.
“I imagine it’d pick up business for people needing qualified home inspectors,” he said.
And that’s something Gilmore and Elenz have in mind, too.
“Now that the policy passed, we have also reached out to (Colorado construction careers pathway platform) WorkNow to see about setting up a career pathway for rental license inspections for folks who would like to get certified and pursue this as a career,” Elenz said.
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