It is generally accepted that termite and wood boring pests are a part of living in in WA. The soil conditions are conducive to these pests. Termites can do an enormous amount of damage to a property, to the extent that a property can be made structurally unsound. For this reason, most WA residential property purchase contracts contain a clause that makes the purchase conditional on a pest/termite inspection. Quality, qualified, accredited and insured pest inspections can provide enormous assurances to property buyers. But, what if the person you engaged to undertake the pest inspection had no qualifications, no experience and no professional indemnity insurance? You might be surprised to find that this bizarre situation is very real in WA!
1 Regulatory Protection
So let’s be clear, in WA there are absolutely no regulations, rules or requirements around who can conduct pest inspections. That’s right, nothing! You, your mother, your son or anybody else could equally undertake a pre purchase pest inspection and charge you for it without any regulatory restrictions.
Anybody can start up a pest inspection business today and commence undertaking pest inspections without a hint of regulatory intervention or oversight. Buyer beware!
What’s even scarier is that these inspections can be undertaken without any professional indemnity insurance, further exposing the end client.
Key Learning – WA Consumers have no regulatory protection when it comes to pre purchase pest inspections.
2 How Is This So?
The Regulatory environment in WA is managed by the Department of Health (DOH) and is focused exclusively on the application of chemicals associated with pest treatments. It is only when a pest inspector wants to actually treat pest infestations with chemicals that he or she needs to be licenced. So if a pest inspector is only going to inspect a property for pests with no intention to treat an infestation or apply chemicals, he or she does not need to be licenced.
Key Learning – Regulatory protection for consumers only kicks in when chemicals start to get applied.
3 Are Pest Inspections in WA Important?
The WA Government thinks so. In their publication, the Department of Mines, Industry
Regulation and Safety Consumer Protection “Guidance notes for homebuyers –
Timber pest inspections and reports” the publication starts with; “Before you buy a home, it is recommended that you have a timber pest inspection report.” So let’s assume it is a safe bet to get a timber pest inspection report prior to buying a new home. To read this publication click here.
Key Learning – Pre purchase pest inspections in WA are important.
4 Is There an Australian Standard for Pest Inspections?
Yes. AS 4349.3-2010 Inspection of buildings – Timber pest inspections is the relevant Australian Standard for Pest Inspections. However, in WA this does not assist Property buyers to any large extent as:
3.2 TIMBER PEST INSPECTORS
The person undertaking the inspection shall be informed about principles of construction including type and style of building relevant to timber pest activity and damage. The person shall also be informed about the ecology, behaviour and identification of timber pests and be familiar with the damage they cause and the procedures required for their management and control.
1 The respective state or territory legislation may include requirements beyond this Standard.
The unfortunate position in WA is that there is no legislative requirement.
So it is positive that the Australian Standard recognises that the actual pest inspector should be informed about the requirements for a pest inspection, but cold comfort in WA in that there is no regulatory support.
Key Learning – Consumers must ensure that the pest inspection that they purchase is undertaken in accordance with AS 4349.3 2010. The report must state this.
2 What Relevant and Formal Qualifications Does Your Pest Inspector Have?
So as an alternative to having no qualifications, a pest inspector who is also licenced by the DOH is a step in the right direction. DOH is responsible for administering pesticide licences in Western Australia. Licences are granted to persons that have attained or, are in the process of attaining an appropriate qualification that permits them to undertake pesticide treatments in public and commercial places for payment. So this actually has nothing to do with pest inspections but a pest inspector who is licenced to undertake pest treatments is absolutely a step in the right direction.
The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1911 (the Act) and the Regulations require that pest management technicians and provisional technicians be licenced to use pesticides in public and commercial places. Under the Regulations, the licence holder may use pesticides only for the endorsements and authorisations listed on their licence and, according to any conditions listed on their licence.
Types of Licence
The DOH issues two types of licences:
- Pest Management Technician licence
- Provisional Technician licence
A licence serves four purposes:
- Endorses the license holder to handle or use pesticides for the type of pest control work the licence holder is qualified to undertake.
- Authorises the license holder to use such ‘restricted-use’ pesticides as the licence holder is qualified to use.
- Sets particular conditions under which the licence holder is permitted to use pesticides.
- Identifies the licence holder as a fit and proper person to hold a licence to use pesticides in Western Australia according to the Regulations.
Holders of a full Pest Management Technician Licence with Endorsement 3 is the best formal qualification that a WA property purchaser can look for in their pest inspector. Key attributes of this Licence include:
- At least 18 years of age.
- Employed in a pest management business that is registered by the DOH OR you are self-employed in your own pest management business that is registered by the DOH.
- Have completed an approved qualification or competency skill set from Appendix 1.
- They do not have a Provisional technician licence.
Key Learning – Consumers must ensure that their pest inspector is a WA Licenced (Pest) Technician
6 AEPMA’s Industry Code of Best Practice For Termite Management
The professional pest management industry’s peak national body, the Australian Environmental Pest Managers’ Association (AEPMA) has developed a Code of Practice For Prior to Purchase Specialist Timber Pest Inspections.
This is a quality document which outlines how quality inspections are conducted. The full Code of Practice can be reviewed here.
The Association has also developed Code of Best Practice for Termite Management which can be reviewed here.
Key Learning – Buyers must ensure that their pest inspector is a WA Licenced Technician who is a member of AEPMA and subscribes to the AEPMA Code of Conduct and Code of Best Practice.
7 What is the Ultimate Protection?
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, Builders and Pest Inspectors never start a job without ensuring that their Professional Indemnity insurance is in place prior to commencing. In Australia pre purchase pest Inspections is a highly litigious area of building inspections.
Having appropriate Professional Indemnity Insurance cover is critical not only for the pest inspector but also for their clients. Sadly, in WA there are a significant number of pest 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.
Key Learning – Buyers must ensure that the pest inspector that they are engaging is a WA Licenced Technician who has at least $2M in Professional Indemnity Insurance.
8 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 pest inspectors and clients who engage the pest inspectors to go into the property.
Key Learning – Buyers must ensure that the pest inspector that they are engaging is a WA Licenced Technician who has at least $2M in Public Liability Insurance.
9 Should Building Inspectors Conduct Pest Inspections in WA?
There is a growing trend for Building Inspectors in WA to conduct Pest Inspections. At Houspect WA we do not support this position. Our view is that building inspectors need to be at a minimum, WA Registered Builders with 20 years direct construction experience. They know and understand what goes into constructing a building. They are not pest inspectors. They do not hold a WA Pest Management Technician Licence.
At Houspect WA, we believe the two professions are separate and home buyers are best served by having two independent professionals inspect the property they are choosing to purchase and provide substantive reports consistent with their respective industry requirements.
Perhaps the last word on this issue should be left to one of the Pest Inspection industry’s largest Professional Indemnity Insurers – Rapid Solutions:
“The current practice of one person undertaking building and pest at the same time is creating more issues than benefits for customer and the inspectors.
Increased pressure from the property and real estate sectors in rushing through pre-purchase inspections has resulted in some building inspectors taking-on the role of pest inspectors and vice versa.
While in some cases, this approach seems logical and time efficient we have noticed a worrying trend and increase in the number of claims.
The claims are being made against the liability and professional indemnity policies of inspectors who are performing multiple tasks and inspections.
Increased time, cost and efficiency pressures are resulting in home buyers and the real estate sector setting expectations that make it very difficult for thorough, detailed inspections to be undertaken in expected time frame and within budget restraints.
The issue is that both inspections are very detailed and require different skill sets and levels of experience and qualification.
Pest inspectors undergo a high level of specialist training that takes time to complete. The training is matched to on-the-job experience in their local area. This ensures that pest inspectors can provide the most thorough service to the customer.
Over the past two to three years we have seen a rise in the number of claims where one inspector has taken on both roles while trying to maintain reporting quality to the relevant Australian Standard.
Some of these have included claims against the entire purchase price of the property. This is because the process of one inspector carrying out dual inspections for building and timber pests, failed to identify and report alleged damage and or alleged defects in accordance with relevant standard.
From a claims experience, two separate technicians carrying out respective building and timber pest inspections independently, directly correlate to a better outcome for the homeowner, inspector and ultimately lower risk for a potential claim”.
Basil Taylor, Claims Manager
Key Learning – Don’t be fooled by the “economies” of a building or pest inspector trying to do both a building and pest inspection at the same time. Get two professionals to do their respective jobs.
Pest inspections in WA are critical! There are a large number of examples where significant damage has been done to buildings by termites. Quality, accredited, skilled and appropriately insured inspectors can reduce the risk.
Consumers need to ensure that the pest inspector they have engaged meets the minimum requirements for a quality pest inspection. At Houspect, we believe these requirements include:
- The pest inspector should hold a WA pest management Technician Licence
- The pest inspector should be engaged full time within the pest inspection industry and have a minimum of 5 years direct pest management experience. If the pest inspector identifies a pest infestation, they should be able to treat the issue if you want them to.
- The pest inspector must state that that their pest inspection report is compliant with Australian Standard AS 4349.3
- The pest inspector should confirm that they are a member of Australian Environmental Pest Managers’ Association (AEPMA) and that they are committed to the Association’s Code of Conduct which covers Pest Inspections.
- The pest inspector should provide you with appropriate evidence of their current professional indemnity insurance indicating a minimum of $2M in cover
- The pest inspector should provide you with appropriate evidence of their current public liability insurance indicating a minimum of $2M in cover
- The pest inspector should be solely committed to undertaking a pest inspection and should not be attempting to simultaneously conduct a building and pest inspection at the same time.
Houspect Building Inspectors are individually WA Registered Builders with a minimum of 20 years’ experience. They are not pest inspectors, they do not conduct pest inspections and they do not apply pest treatments. However, if you need a pest inspector in the Perth metropolitan area, we know pest inspectors who meet all of the above requirements. Call us.
Build, Buy, Invest in property with confidence.