Termite Plague

Reporter: Laura Sparkes

"They're missing termite damage they're missing structural items, they're missing drainage issues" says Howard.

They're in plague proportions. Termites - costing us $1 billion in repairs every year. Worse still, many experts are missing the damage. Professionals we rely on before buying the biggest investment of our lives, leaving buyers under the false illusion their homes are free of termites.

"So we were fuming that we trusted these people to do what we paid for and they did not provide" says Bec.

Bec Domladovac's pre-purchase inspection report clearly stated the house she wanted to buy had no active termites or damage. Wrong, just weeks after moving in.

"We could actually put our hand through that and completely rip it out without any tools thats how damaged it was."

The repairs will cost thousands.

"People ending up in court people ending up in divorce, people ending up losing their homes because they can't afford the rectification that are caused by the cowboys" says Howard.

Howard Ryan from PPI has been a licenced builder and consultant for 30 years. Today he has to tell another new homeowner that the house they were told was free of termites - is in fact infested.

"I feel they're treating their customers with contempt because they're charging for something that they're not experts, there are people out there doing pest and building inspections for $300 , well thats just outrageous" adds Howard.

Howard says cheap quotes equal less experience and time taken on the report and with the rush of buyers using the Federal Government's first homeowners grant, business is booming, to the detriment of consumers.

With 70% of inspectors uninsured and about half not even licenced builders, its a minefield for buyers to choose someone. Most go with one building inspector that does both the building and pest inspection.

John May, technical manager of Amalgamated Pest Control says "We're finding 1 in 4 homes on average are finding termite damage. You can be pretty well assured that within 50 metres of your home there are termites."

Surendra Singh paid $350 for a building consultant to carry out a building and pest inspection. It clearly stated no active termites were found inside the house, yet on his final inspection of the house Surendra was shocked.

"I found on the corner of the bedroom a small mud cone! You can see active termite walking on the wall."

He's had to spend $70,000 to fix the damage.

The problem is there's no-one to come to the rescue of buyers like Mr Singh. Most state governments don't even licence building consultants who carry out the inspections. NSW did but recently decided the system created too much bureaucratic red tape and they abolished it, saving themselves $22,000 every year but leaving buyers unprotected. Now anyone can become a building consultant and its up to consumers to choose the right one."

"Yes we do require consumers to do a bit more due diligence in preparation but we think that is the best measure they can take to protect themselves against low quality reports" says Jo Tripodi.

In NSW, Minister Joe Tripodi's Office of Better Regulation is abolishing the licencing system. He believes it was inept.

"It means the field of potential people who can do that work for them has increased substantially and consumers won't rely on a licence as an indication of quality they'll make their own inquiries."

From a real estate perspective, Peter O'Malley from Harris Partners warns some agents take kickbacks from building consultants for every customer they refer. "Because there's an ongoing relationship it can lack independence and as a homebuyer that's not what you're looking for."

Fed up, Howard has set up the PPI registry to give buyers' peace of mind. Inspectors have to prove their experience, qualifications and examination techniques before going on the list.

"They should have been in the industry doing inspections for approximately 5 years plus, they should have done over 1000 inspections plus, have a builders licence and they should be able to provide you with a current certificate of professional indemnity insurance and their prices should start from about $400" says Howard.

For Bec, its little comfort, her only word of advice: "Go around with the inspectors yourself and have a good look around the property we identified the issues after the experts had been."

Pre Purchase Inspectors Registry

Website: www.pre-purchase.com.au

Amalgamated Pest Control

Website: www.amalpest.com.au

Tel: 131 961