Building inspectors have the potential to deliver enormous value to clients who are building, renovating, investing or buying property in WA. But the industry is completely unregulated and literally anybody without any qualification or experience can be a building inspector under WA laws! So, it is critical that clients ask the following 10 questions before they select their building inspector.
1 What relevant and formal qualifications does your inspector have?
Yes it is unusual that in WA there is no formal qualification required for an individual to call themselves a building inspector. So buyers beware! It is up to you to check this crucial issue.
At a minimum your building inspector should be a WA Registered Builder, WA Registered Building Surveyor or Civil Engineer (member of Engineers Society). All of these qualifications can easily be independently verified. For example, the WA Building Commission (within DMIRS) maintains a public register of all WA Registered Builders. Search for your building inspector on this Register. https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/building-commission/find-registered-builder
Be cautious of Inspectors who indicate that they are a “Licensed” or a “Registered Building Inspector” in WA. There is no such thing!
What to ask: What is your exact qualification relating to the construction and property industry?
2 What experience does your inspector have?
Having qualifications is absolutely key, but also having relevant direct experience in the construction industry is also critical. Your inspector needs to have an intimate knowledge of construction processes, methodologies, practices, Codes and standards. Hands on knowledge of the construction industry, and physically being on site to gain experience is a key attribute to look for. Further, it is important to understand how many building inspections your inspector has undertaken?
What to ask: How many years construction experience do you have and how many building inspections have you conducted?
3 Quality Control
What quality control mechanisms are in place to ensure that your report is reviewed and quality assured prior to the report being issued to you? The implications of a building inspection report on a property transaction, construction issue or litigation matter can be significant. You need assurance that the report is right the first time it is issued by having it progress through an independent quality assurance processes.
What to ask: Please explain the quality review process that is applied to the inspection report before it is sent to me.?
4 Professional Indemnity Insurance
No professional would ever entertain providing a professional quality service without having Professional Indemnity Insurance. Professionals do not plan to fail but errors which impacts clients occur in every profession – this is what Professional Indemnity Insurance aims to cover.
Surgeons, Doctors, Lawyers and Builders never start a job without ensuring that their Professional Indemnity insurance is in place prior to commencing. In Australia Pre Purchase Building Inspections is the single most litigious area of building inspections.
Having appropriate Professional Indemnity Insurance cover is critical not only for the building inspector but also for their clients. Sadly, in WA there is a significant number of building inspectors who have no Professional Indemnity Insurance putting both themselves and their clients at enormous risk! Do not be fooled – Professional Indemnity is not Business Insurance or Public Liability Insurance.
What to ask: Can you provide me with a copy of your Building Inspectors Professional Indemnity Insurance Certificate of Currency?
5 Public Liability Insurances
In essence Public Liability Insurance covers the costs of damage done to a property while an inspector is on site conducting the inspection. For example, let’s say the inspector is inspecting the roof space and falls right through the ceiling landing on a Ming dynasty vase. That is why we have public liability insurance. Relatively inexpensive but still a critical protection for building inspectors and clients who engage the building inspectors to go into the property.
What to ask: Can you provide me with a copy of your Public Liability Insurance Certificate of Currency?
6 Safe Work Practices
Often building inspections are conducted in a time critical period with no ability to defer or delay that time. Ensuring that your building inspector undertakes the building inspection in an occupationally safe and compliant manner is critical to ensuring that the work is completed and the report is submitted to you on time.
What to ask: Do you complete or review a safe work method statement (SWMS) or Job Safety Analysis (JAS) prior to commencing the inspection and do you have a construction White/Blue Card?
7 Kickbacks, Incentives, Payments and Commissions
Some inspectors pay Agents and third parties incentives, cash or gifts to refer clients for building inspections to them. On occasion this may be disclosed in the fine print of a purchase contract or it may not. The potential for a conflict of interest is enormous. For example, if an agent refers 40 clients to a building inspector over a year, generating a substantial amount of revenue to the building inspector, would the inspector’s opinion on a significant defect in a property be potentially compromised if he identified an issues which would impact the Agent’s sales commission and hence the amount of work he was receiving from the Agent?
What to Ask: Do you pay commissions, incentives or provide regular gifts to the Real Estate Agents or anybody else who referred me to you?
8 Australian Standards
Australian Standards AS 4349 provides a guide to building inspections. These Standards should represent the minimum standard that the inspection should be conducted. Key attributes of the standard include:
- There is an Agreement which defines the scope of the inspection
- What will be inspected
- What are the limitations
- Access requirements
- The report will be in writing
- It will have a conclusion
- It will detail major defects and the overall condition of the property
What to Ask: Will your report be produced in accordance with AS 4349?
9 Pictures Tell a Thousand Words
Inspectors who are normally registered Builders are hands on people who have learnt their trade on site dealing with contractors and tradesmen. The written skill set is often secondary to the verbal skill set. So while they can attempt to describe a complex issue in writing, a picture often tells a thousand words!
What to Ask: Will your report include photos of all key issues and findings?
10 Service, Service, Service
Globally, buying, building, renovating and investing in property can be one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Ensuring your building inspector can provide quality service during these challenging times can be critical.
What to ask: There are a range of questions that you should be asking your inspector as a guide to the quality of service they provide:
- How long have you been providing building inspections?
- If a significant defect is identified, will you call me and explain it to me?
- If I call your office will I always be able to speak with somebody?
- Can you show me some of your client reviews?
- Where can I find these reviews online?
Building inspections in WA are completely unregulated – buyer beware!
There are some spectacular, experienced and knowledgeable building inspectors and there are some building inspectors who should not be operating in the industry. If you are putting your life savings (and a huge debt) into buying, building, renovating or investing in your dream property, you need to have absolute confidence in your building inspector.
Asking the questions detailed above should go a long way to providing you with the necessary confidence in your building inspector.
Houspect WA provides a quality WA based building inspection service offering a diverse range of building inspections across all of WA.
- Every Houspect building inspector is individually registered as a WA Registered Builder with a minimum of 20 years construction experience.
- Every Houspect WA building inspection is subject to a minimum of two independent quality reviews. Reports which identify structural or significant defects are reviewed by one of the Houspect WA Directors.
- Houspect maintains $5M in Professional Indemnity, $20M in Public Liability Cover and $50M in Workers Compensation cover.
- Houspect WA building inspectors review their Safe Work Method Statement prior to completing every inspection
- Houspect WA does not pay, gift or induce any third party for referrals. Houspect values its independence and the quality of service it provides.
- Houspect WA inspection reports are conducted in accordance with AS 4349 and contain a large number of photographs of all issues identified.
- Houspect WA has been in operation for more than 30 years and has conducted in excess of 50,000 building inspections in WA. We have an enviable track record and have received a large number of quality independent reviews. Our service centre located centrally in Balcatta supports all of Western Australia and is staffed by quality trained employees who are able to answer questions on the most complex of building inspection issues.
- Houspect is a member of the MBA, HIA, SCAWA and AICWA.
Build, Buy, Invest in property with confidence.