28 September 2009

New Arkansas Law Could Hinder Mold Detection, Home Sales

Story from Arkansas News

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas homeowners could see a delay in the detection and removal of health-threatening, property damaging mold because of a possible shortage of inspectors that also could potentially slow home sales when new licensing requirements go into effect next year, industry officials say.

nahi home inspectorFew current home inspectors meet the qualifications set forth in the new law, and completing the requirements for state certification could take months, if not years, said Kyle Rodgers, president of the Arkansas Association of Real Estate Inspectors. He estimated that only about 15 percent of the association’s 300 members currently do mold inspections.

“The state is going to lose a lot of people who are providing a service to the people of Arkansas and there’s no easy, quick way of getting people to the training,” said Rodgers, who works for A+ Home Inspections in Siloam Springs. “We feel there are going to be parts of the state that are not going to be serviced by a mold inspector because there won’t be any licensed in that area.”

State Plant Board Director Daryl Little, whose agency is responsible for writing the licensing regulations, said he was aware of concerns about the law, set to go into effect Jan. 1.

“But we really don’t know how many people have those credentials and we probably won’t know until we start issuing the license,” Little said.

Rodgers’ association and the Arkansas Pest Management Association opposed the legislation approved by the Legislature this year, while the Arkansas Home Builders Association and the Arkansas Realtors Association did not take a position.

Currently, home inspectors and pest control personnel who spot suspected mold in homes and alert the owners without any specific certification. Act 1467 requires that all mold investigators be licensed and regulated by the state.

The law defines mold investigator as someone who, for a fee, “performs the service of examining residential or commercial buildings to confirm or refute the presence of a proliferative source of mold in a residential or commercial building.”

To be licensed, mold investigators, as the law describes them, will have to be certified as an industrial hygienist by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene; as a microbial consultant or indoor environmental consultant by the American Indoor Air Quality Council; or must successfully complete at least 20 hours of college-level microbiology.

The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, said she introduced the measure at the request of some Northwest Arkansas real estate agents who “felt like something should be done to keep all kinds of lay people from making pronouncements of mold in homes.”

Madison said the word “mold” has such a negative connotation that if used inaccurately, it can greatly affect property values.

“Anyone who makes such a determination … needs to be qualified,” she said.

Scott Bray, who manages the pest control section at the State Plant Board, said regulations to implement the new law should be completed next month and presented to the agency’s Pest Control Committee in late October. The regulations then would be presented to the Legislative Council’s Review Committee.

Home inspectors and termite inspectors say their job responsibilities will have to change because of the new law, which they say could delay information getting to perspective homebuyers.

“It’s a bunch of bureaucracy being added on unnecessarily,” said Hubert White, owner of Professional Property Inspections in Hot Springs.

White said he never tells homeowners he found mold but lets them know of the possibility, then sends samples to a laboratory in Arizona for testing, a process he said costs the homeowner up to $300. No one has questioned the accuracy of his mold sampling and use of the Phoenix lab during his eight years in business, he said.

“I won’t be able to give them that verification via sampling” under the new law, White said, adding that getting certified would be expensive, estimating it could cost up to $1,200. “And then there’s state registration fees. Who knows how much that could be?”

License registration fees for an Arkansas home inspector at the state Plant Board start at $150 a year, but the agency has not yet determined what the fee would be for a mold investigation license.

A termite inspector also will not be allowed to tell a homeowner of any potential mold problems they might discover while inspecting a home, said Mark Hopper, owner of Hopper Environmental Services in Mountain Home.

“We will not be able to tell anyone that they have mold in a crawl space because we will not be licensed or certified to identify it,” Hopper said. “The way the law is written now, our hands are tied when it comes to reporting mold.”

Bray said inspectors will have to make some adjustments under the law.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect what they do as much as they’re going to have to tweak their inspection process and they’re going to have make sure they don’t issue any statement that says you have mold in the house,” he said.

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