Understanding municipal real estate inspections

Howard HandlerWhile a majority of Illinois municipalities do not require municipal government inspections of a property prior to closing, a decent number do. These government inspections differ from private inspections in a number of ways. Private inspectors are licensed by the state of Illinois, must provide a minimum level of service, and undergo continuing education. Furthermore, consumers have a choice among a large number of inspectors.

On the contrary, municipal inspectors do not need to be licensed by the State of Illinois and are not required to meet any minimum qualifications. Some are very experienced and credentialed, while other municipal inspectors have limited training. And the scope of the inspection varies from municipality to municipality.

What happens after the outcome of the municipal inspection depends on the municipality. Some municipalities require violations to be corrected while others’ inspections are advisory only. Inspection fees for government inspections vary, but most are $150 or less and are typically paid for by the seller.

It is for these reasons that buyers should strongly consider hiring a licensed, private inspector in addition to any government inspection.

The Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) Government Affairs generally works to oppose government inspection programs. However, where the inspection programs continue to exist, the IAR local Government Affairs Directors are regularly working to decrease the burden and adverse consequences that often result from these programs.

In the city of Berwyn, for example, the West Towns Chapter of the Chicago Association of REALTORS® (CAR) is working with city officials in developing clearer standards revolving around their city’s inspections, including a comprehensive inspection checklist. As it stands now, Berwyn inspection policies are not articulated on paper and are interpreted differently among city officials. While Berwyn has good intentions, the lack of transparency and inconsistency increase the chances of abuse and inconsistent standards. Additionally, it makes it difficult for the community to judge the merits of a particular inspection program.

Commendably, the city of Berwyn has agreed to work with the CAR West Towns chapter on improving the transparency and efficiency of their inspection program. REALTORS® and their clients should expect no less.

IAR Government Affairs has produced a report detailing inspection requirements throughout Illinois. IAR members can download the report for free here: http://www.illinoisrealtor.org/sites/illinoisrealtor.org/files/Advocacy/Inspections.pdf

If you encounter inspection issues that should be addressed by REALTOR® Government Affairs, contact your local REALTOR® Association and ask to speak to the Government Affairs Director.

Howard Handler is the Illinois Association of REALTORS® local Government Affairs Director (GAD) representing North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® and West Towns Chapter of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®

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