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Home Inspector with Key Termite and Pest Control, Inc.

I have seen a disturbing trend in the Termite Control industry as it relates to Real Estate in the last few years. When I first started in the industry in 1979, our governing agency was an avid protector of the consumer. The Structural Pest Control Board held its licensees to a strict standard for protection of the consumer. If a Termite Operator (like a broker) or Field Representative (like an agent) made errors or omitted visible problems from an inspection report, they were responsible to correct the error or omission at their expense. Report requirements can be found in theĀ Structural Pest Control Act (State law which is a combination of the Business and Professions Code and the California Code of Regulations). The Board would issue many "Specific Notices" which would supplement and clarify questions as to how the Structural Pest Control Act would be applied. The Board was one feared, because if a consumer filed a complaint, the Board Investigator would do a diligent inspection and hold the Operator accountable for ALL errors discovered. Our liability is staggering if you look closely. This kept the quality of inspection high, and gave the consumer the quality they expected. A decade ago or more, the Act was revised with some minor changes and all of the Specific Notices were made null and void. Along with this change came a new "Operator Friendly" tone from our governing body. It now seems that we as Termite Operators are being protected from the Consumer. We no longer fear the Board the way we once did and the consumer has less protection. It is my impression that the Board, as a ruling body, was tired of defending their position in court from angry Termite Operators who were caught in errors. Sitting in the witness chair in court, being grilled by a savvy attorney about what the defendant was "able to see that specific day", I am sure is no fun (determining what was "visible at the time of inspection" is harder to defend as time moves on). I believe the Board was weary of these encounters and began to take a lenient approach to resolving complaints from consumers. Unfortunately, this has allowed poor quality companies (either unethical, uneducated or both) to continue in business and become a black eye to our industry. Most Brokers and Agents I work with understand these facts and choose not to accept opinions from poor quality companies. However, I have noticed that the current financial crisis and threat of short sale or foreclosure has made the "lowest bidder" much more attractive. More and more I see Termite Inspectors failing in the areas of diligence and required report findings. This causes the buyer to inherit visible problems which should have been dealt with. Unfortunately, the buyer will probably not find this out until they sell their home years later or happen upon it in a remodeling project.

The real problem is the conflict of interest built in to the Inspection Report, as we are required by law and the Real Estate industry to bid upon the corrections we recommend. This is a double edged sword. The incentive works both directions. THE CHEAPEST COMPANY; If a termite inspector finds fewer problems, or comes up with less expensive (often substandard) corrections, he will attract the listing agents and a profitable share of the termite control business in his area. That is as long as his errors are not found out or at least handled when they are discovered. THE HOMEOWNER MARKET; The other side of the conflict is an inspector who sees and inspection as a "treasure hunt", and focuses on the money he could make on the most expensive corrections he can justify. This is most often seen in companies who target the home owner not involved in a real estate transaction. THE MIDDLE GROUND; These companies wear two hats. First is the diligent inspector hat, which completely ignores any financial incentive during the inspection and renders a diligent inspection with required corrections and keeps in mind that there is both a buyer and seller involved. The second hat is very important, the bidding hat. Prices quoted for minimum repair work needed to restore structural integrity in a workmanship like manor and comply with building code (recommending more repair work that needed is a violation of section 8666 of the Structural Pest Control Act). Termite control should be performed with the same intent. Recommend treatments you know will eliminate the infestation. There are many legal EPA approved methods available, but few that actually work. There are many compromises in this area. The problems stem from section 1991(a) (8) (C) which allows alternate termite treatment options in which the Termite Operator is confident "exterminates the infestation." There are only two methods proven to control Drywood Termites as an "All Encompassing" method, Fumigation and Whole Structure Heat" (not spot treatment of heat). I have noticed some MIDDLE GROUND inspectors sliding downward to compete with the CHEAPEST COMPANY because of the slow down in the industry.


I always remind my inspectors; "Don't miss the big stuff, don't be picky on the small stuff, and then come up with the most reasonable correction at the best price" and "If you make a mistake, fix it right."



Feb 19, 2018 06:56 PM
Mark Maxwell

Yes, crap is what a poor quaility termite company gives the consumer. Lack of integrity may make one attractive to the seller of a property, but screws the real consumers. The real consumers are the lender and the buyer of the property.

Feb 20, 2018 03:18 AM