There is no license or certification required in California for private commercial building or home inspectors. No State office regulates or offers certifications or licenses. No inspection organization is recognized or endorsed by the State of California.
The State of California building regulatory agencies have not established any guidelines for privately performed building inspections. It is left up to the individual inspector. This is why it is so important to find an inspector with actual extensive building and inspection experience.
There are several professional organizations that offer certifications. Some may create confusion by presenting themselves with names including “American,” “National,” “State,” along with official looking logos, state flags and/or state seals. At first glance you might be under the impression that they are nationally or state approved. They are not. Certifications and logos may be proudly displayed on websites and business cards, but they are not licenses.
Years of experience in the construction industry. There is nothing more important when it comes to understanding building structures and systems. This cannot be taught in schools or by inspection certification organizations. To really understand buildings takes hands-on experience in all the various aspects (plumbing, air conditioning, electrical, structural, energy) over a long period of time.
Many people coming into the inspection profession have no construction or inspection experience. They may get training through an inspection organization that offers certification. This is a quick way to get into the inspection business, but the results depend on the individual and the organization. This process can have limited merit.
A California general contractor’s license in good standing is an important indicator of broad and varied experience with all the trades. Experienced general building contractors have a good understanding of all the trades because daily they inspect the work of the trades people who work for them. General building contractors generally start out as carpenters, and develop a firm understanding of the conventional framing section of the Uniform Building Code. They understand—and have built—concrete foundations systems. They understand ventilation requirements. They work with structural engineers and gain a fairly good understanding of structural engineering. They inspect the work of plumbers, electricians, and HVAC contractors. They comply with the orders of real ICC/ICBO/IAPMO deputized building inspectors. They spend years building in compliance with building codes. (In California, lower License Numbers indicate more years of experience.)
Does your inspector have design and planning experience? General contractors who have operated “design/build” companies are an exceptional type of builder. The ability to design and draw plans for buildings is an indication of real understanding of structures, building codes and planning ordinances.
Many private home inspectors never get to see things from the ground up. They don’t read blueprints and specification books. They may never have been present on a construction project. Again, look for broad and varied experience in the building trades.
Insist that your inspector has a Certificate of General Liability that includes protection for Errors and Omissions (“E & O”).
Ask for references.
Real estate agents may try to direct you to one particular inspector. Good agents will let you find your own inspector, or perhaps direct you to several and let you screen them. There are many fine agents who prefer a really comprehensive inspection that will identify all problems. Some agents don’t want an independent inspector coming into the equation being “too honest,” potentially delaying the sale. If an agent is directing you toward an inspector, you should determine why.
Watch for numbers on websites and business cards associated with the word license or Lic. Again, there is no license in California for private inspectors. Building Contractor’s license numbers should be prefaced with “Ca. Cont. Lic. #.” City Business licenses should be prefaced by “City Bus. Lic. #.”
Be aware of inspection companies that align themselves with Realtors and/or real estate associations.
Be aware that home inspection companies that offer termite inspections must be licensed by the State of California to perform this type of inspection. Ask for a license number and research it to see if it is in good standing.
Be aware of home inspection companies offering a roof inspection as if they are giving you something for free. They are attempting to fool you. Roof inspections are included in all standard home inspections.
If your inspector has a contractor’s license (a good thing), check to see if it is suspended, or expired. Inactive licenses which are not expired are ok. Check the license at https://www2.cslb.ca.gov/onlineservices/checklicenseII/checklicense.aspx.