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Consumers, Industry Calling For State Licensing Of Home Inspectors

ARVADA, Colo (CBS4) - More than 84,000 homes sold in Colorado last year. Most of those sales included a home inspection. Inspectors are looking for defects in houses that are for sale in an effort to protect the buyers, but many consumers have no way to know the qualifications of the inspector.

Right now, Colorado has no standards or licensing for home inspectors.

"He was saying the house was wonderful," said Molly Plutt, a homeowner.

Two years ago, Plutt bought a house that had had extensive remodeling. As part of the sales process, she got a home inspection.

"He said the roof was fine except the decking was a little soft, so all we needed to do was have the homeowners who were selling it, to re-enforce it with 2-by-4s," Plutt explained.

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Home Inspector Nathan Fairchild (credit CBS)

The sellers did the work and the sale when through. When Plutt went to have the house insured, the insurance assessor told her a very different story.

"They wouldn't… couldn't even pass the roof," Plutt said.

She had to get a new roof - $11,000 out of her own pocket.

"It was really demoralizing to be taken advantage of like that and to have no legal recourse," Plutt told CBS4.

"Well, you don't have a lot of recourse against a home inspector," said Jesse Witt, a lawyer specializing in housing issues.

Witt explained that home inspectors often write pretty broad disclaimers into their contracts and inspection reports that protects them from liability.

"Everything they said… they said, 'You need to have a second opinion.' Everything. Well, what's the point of me hiring them?" Plutt said in frustration.

Hiring a home inspector in Colorado can be a bit of a game. There are no state standards and the quality of inspectors varies widely. First-time home buyer, Kali Ferguson, found that out first hand. She had to have her home inspected twice.

"The first one was $300 cash," she said.

Ferguson said that she got a report that showed some minor problems, but didn't catch the gas leak in the basement.

"That's a pretty scary thing to miss," Ferguson told CBS4.

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(credit: CBS)

The second inspector caught the leak and dozens of other defects, both big and small.

"I would pay double for the inspection that I have. I mean I would be living in a house with a gas leak," she said as she shrugged.

The worst report CBS4 found was a criminal complaint with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office. An arrest affidavit alleges that in 2014, a man representing himself as a home inspector sexually assaulted a minor. Police are still looking for the suspect. Right now, there is no way to know who you're letting into your home when you hire a home inspector. Some lawmakers and industry advocates have lobbied for creating a state license.

A 2014 Sunrise Review by the Department of Regulatory Agencies concluded that Colorado should license home inspectors, as well as, require a home inspector exam, continuing education, and a criminal background check.

"I spent my whole first year training before I actually went into home inspections," said home inspector, Nathan Fairchild.

Fairchild has been a home inspector for 3-years. He's one of many calling for state licensing in his industry.

"If they regulated it, then they'd be doing more testing and they'd make sure that the guys who go out there are qualified to do this job," Fairchild told CBS4.

Consumers, like Molly Plutt, also hope that state involvement in the industry would bring some accountability.

"I want them to be certified. I want there to be some legal teeth behind the law," Plutt said.

A bill requiring state certification for home inspectors died in the 2015 legislative session. CBS4 reached out to state lawmakers who voted against it, but never heard back from them.

Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you'd like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.

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