AR Briefly

Arkansas licensing board for home inspectors will be combined with two others under bill

By: - March 7, 2023 8:16 pm
Republican Sen. Kim Hammer of Benton succeeded in passing a bill regulating how counties can switch to paper ballots on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. He's seen here with Sen. John Payton (R-Wilburn) at a 2022 Arkansas Legislative Council meeting. (Courtesy of Arkansas Senate)

An Arkansas Senate committee approved a bill sponsored by Benton Republican Sen. Kim Hammer (at left) that will combine three real estate-related licensing boards into one. (Courtesy of Arkansas Senate)

A state Senate panel on Tuesday approved a bill that consolidates three real estate-related professional licensing boards into one despite strident objections from members of one of the boards.

Senate Bill 354 would abolish the Arkansas Abstracters’ Board, Home Inspector Registration Board and the Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board and replace them with a single board called the State Board of Appraisers, Abstracters and Home Inspectors.

Testimony against the bill came from members and former Home Inspector Registration Board members, who said a lack of representation on the new 10-member board was a primary objection.

“We’re losing five board members,” former inspector board chairman Robert Neel told the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, noting that the new board will have only two home inspectors on it.

“We feel we’ll be under-represented,” he said.

Half of the members of the new board created by the bill must be practicing certified or licensed appraisers and representatives of various appraisal disciplines: residential, commercial and industrial, forestry and timberland, rural, “and any other appraisal discipline,” the bill states. In addition to two registered home inspectors, the board would also include one member who represents financial institutions, one who is actively involved in making abstracts or is knowledgeable about that business, and one who represents senior citizens and consumers. All members would be appointed by the governor.

Inspectors who spoke against the bill also said their role is to protect consumers and substantially different from appraisers and abstracters. Abstracters are specialists who provide the technical description of a piece of property in a title that accompanies a real estate transaction.

“This bill is a disservice to the public,” current inspector board chairman Daniel Burkhead told the committee.

Secretary of Labor and Licensing Daryl E. Bassett, whose department oversees the current boards, disagreed and said the bill is about efficiency and accountability.

Diana Piechocki, executive director for the appraiser licensing board, said the legislation “will provide better services for licensees and the public.”

“Consolidation will allow for cross-training” of employees, she said.

Currently, the inspector board has only one employee, the appraisers board has four and the abstracters board none, according to testimony. All of them work for the Department of Labor and Licensing.

Several inspectors who spoke complained about the relationship between their board, their sole employee and the Labor and Licensing Department, which assumed oversight of the board as part of former Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s government reorganization initiative in 2019.

“It’s been a disaster since the transformation,” Burkhead said. “This is about control. If it was about efficiency, they’d give us an extra employee.”

Dillon Erwin, a current home inspector board member, said Department of Labor and Licensing officials “are not understanding and not caring.” The effect of the department’s offers of help for the board’s employee has been “like a 3-year-old coming into the kitchen and offering to help,” he said. 

Neel said he didn’t think the board is opposed to “shared administrative help” so much as “the loss of consumer protection.” 

Bill sponsor Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) said the consolidation of the boards has “been brewing for two years.” 

“I don’t think the quality of service will be compromised,” he said.

The committee voted 5-2 with one member not voting to send the bill on to the Senate.

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Sonny Albarado
Sonny Albarado

In his 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. He retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2020 after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years.