Over the years I’ve been asked by many to help clarify exactly what qualifies a home inspector to perform residential inspections in Western NY. Many buyers, sellers and even some real estate agents don’t have a good understanding of the importance of ensuring that before a home inspection is scheduled that you ensure your inspector is licensed.
As a NY Licensed Home Inspector, I wanted to provide helpful information about exactly what the requirements are to perform residential inspections in Western New York.
Who is qualified to conduct home inspections in the Buffalo area?
In Buffalo and all of New York, nearly all home inspections are conducted by licensed home inspectors. Although the practice of home inspection is defined and regulated in part by Article 12-b of NY’s Real Property Law, an individual doesn’t actually have to hold a home inspector license in a few situations.
Professions that are exempt from home inspector licensing
- Registered or licensed architects
- Professional engineers
- Code enforcement officers
- Home inspector trainees who are supervised by licensed inspectors
My hunch is that architects and engineers were exempted from licensing in part because they’re often involved in residential construction activities, and lawmakers wanted to avoid any confusion or conflict with home inspector regulations. In practice, I’m aware of at least one home inspection company that employees only professional engineers.
In terms of the code enforcement officer exemption, I don’t see that they would ever inspect homes for buyers in the same way that a licensed home inspector would. Instead they’ll be visiting homes that are under construction or that are undergoing construction work, and signing off on work permits. As with architects and engineers, I’m sure that lawmakers wanted to avoid legal confusion and so exempted code enforcement people from licensure. I’ve never heard of a full-time code enforcement person also acting as a home inspector, but it seems that it would be legal per the law.
In my opinion, it’s best to hire a full-time home inspector who has some type of public-facing business, that’s also BBB accredited. If a home inspector is a part-timer with no verifiable business or background I’m not sure that I would personally choose them.
What’s a home inspection?
According to Article 12-b of the NY Real Property law, a home inspection is the process of observing and reporting (in writing) on the various systems and components of a residence. Included in this definition are pre-purchase home inspections for buyers, as well as other residential inspections. Testing for radon or inspecting for pests is explicitly excluded from this definition.
I’ve included the legal description of the “home inspection” below, for your enjoyment. But keep in mind that there’s a huge range of quality when it comes to home inspectors in Buffalo & WNY.
“Home inspection” means the process by which a home inspector observes and provides a written report of the systems and components of a residential building including but not limited to heating system, cooling system, plumbing system, electrical system, structural components, foundation, roof, masonry structure, exterior and interior components or any other related residential building component as recommended or required by the department through regulation to provide a client with objective information about the condition of the residential building. The home inspector shall clearly identify in the written report which systems and components of the residential building were observed. A home inspection shall not include an inspection for radon or pests.”
Make sure you research home inspectors before committing to one for your real estate investment. My business, Alto Home Inspection LLC, was created with the mission of helping buyers and sellers understand the true condition of their properties. This mission statement extends into home inspections for buyers and sellers, professional radon testing by a state certified laboratory and mold testing and assessment services in the Buffalo area.
One way that some home inspections are better than some is the quality of the report. Licensed home inspectors are not required to create a report that includes pictures, or is easy to read for the average homeowner. Try to ask for a sample inspection report before committing to a particular inspection company. Trust me, they aren’t all the same.
Are all houses and multi-tenant buildings covered under the law?
The legal definition of “residential building” actually covers buildings that have from one to four residences, as well as garages or carports.
So, if we are talking about inspecting your average house then the services of a licensed home inspector must be used. The same goes if you are investing in a duplex or 4-plex, and are looking for an expert home inspection.
But, if you are a big-time investor and are buying a 20-unit investment property, then any qualified inspector or other professional can legally inspect the property. However, Alto Home Inspection LLC is qualified to inspect this type of property, so contact us if you’re looking for a customized inspection that will detail problems with each specific unit.
What are the minimum requirements to be a licensed home inspector in Western New York?
To obtain a home inspector license anywhere New York state, there are a number of requirements that must be met:
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Complete a 100-hour specialized course that’s been approved by the state
- Complete 40 hours of training in the field with a licensed home inspector, including mock inspections
- Pass the National Home Inspector Exam (as of August, 2020 this requirement has been waived in lieu of the former state exam)
- Secure a general liability insurance policy, intended to protect the homeowner from damaged materials
- Pay a $250 fee
Renewal of the NY home inspector license is required every two years, with 24 hours of continuing education required at some point during that period.
When was home inspector licensing established in New York state?
Regulation of the home inspection industry was signed into law in 2004, and licensing was first required by December 31, 2005. In 2019, the law was amended to require passing of the National Home Inspection Examination in order to obtain a license.
What entity is in charge of licensing for home inspectors?
The New York Department of State is responsible for initial licensing and subsequent renewals.
Are there home inspectors in the Buffalo area who aren’t licensed?
I can’t say for sure, but based on stories that I’ve heard I am guessing that there are possibly a couple. I’ve been asked once or twice by real estate agents if I’m licensed. In those cases, I think that the agents were probably upset that instead of choosing their preferred inspection company, they decided to hire an independent home inspector.
How can you check to make sure that your home inspector is properly licensed?
The New York Department of State maintains a public website where you can check the status of a home inspector’s license.
Bradley Beck is NY Licensed Home Inspector #16000086029, and owns Alto Home Inspection LLC, a home inspection company in the greater Buffalo, NY area
Does home inspection licensing affect mold testing and assessments?
Inspection services concerning mold are specifically exempt from home inspector licensing. But that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily legal for a home inspector to perform mold inspections.
The New York Department of Labor manages licensing for mold contractors, including mold assessors and remediators. Unless a home inspector is a NY Certified Mold Assessor, they are unable to perform mold inspections.
Mold inspections can be described as any activity that seeks to identify the presence of mold, including visually identifying its presence, conducting a mold assessment or interpreting results of lab testing.
Alto Home Inspection LLC happens to be a NY Certified Mold Assessor and can assist with any mold challenges that you might have.
How about radon testing? What are the state requirements for that?
Radon testing is also exempted from home inspector licensing in the state. But there’s a little more involved in this one than with mold testing.
A few facts about radon testing in the Buffalo area:
- Any home inspector can test for radon
- If anyone (home inspector or not) wishes to use an electronic continuous radon monitor (CRM), the CRM must be owned by a New York Certified ELAP Lab. This means that you cannot simply purchase a CRM and use it to test for radon. If you do so, you’ll be breaking state law.
- Many radon testers in Western NY use charcoal canisters to test for radon. These things are old-school, slow and although accurate are doing a disservice to home buyers because of the delay in processing time.
I suggest that all radon tests are performed by Buffalo radon labs that are certified ELAP laboratories. Labs such as this, including Alto Home Inspection LLC, are subjected to stringent requirements to ensure test accuracy.
One of my goals in writing this article was to help my readers understand what home inspector licensing really means, which I hope will make you a more informed researcher when it comes to finding a highly-qualified home inspector for your home purchase. If I can help in any way, contact me at your convenience!