State lawmakers proved yet again this week that it’s good to have friends in high places.
House Speaker Thom Tillis appointed Joseph Ramsey of Raleigh to fill the “public member” seat on the North Carolina Home Inspector Licensure Board.
The board is made up of four inspectors, one contractor, one real estate broker, and the “public member.” The law required that the “public member” must be “not in one of the professional categories” of home inspection, licensed contracting, or real estate brokerage.
However, Joseph Ramsey holds an active real estate broker license. So in omnibus corrections bill H335 yesterday, lawmakers added two words to the legal qualification for the seat: it now reads “not actively engaged in” one of those professional categories.
Tillis defended the rule change yesterday. “I think you could argue that when you’re making decisions that affect an industry, insight into that industry is probably helpful, as long as the overall board is well balanced. And I believe the board is.”
The appointee, Joseph Ramsey, said no one had consulted him about the change made to accommodate him. “I have no knowledge,” he said today. “Haven’t been asked, haven’t been contacted.”
Ramsey said he has held an active NC real estate broker’s license since 1977. “I have that license for the purpose of my other business, which is association management and corporate relocations.”
“In order to be able to work in the appraisal industry, you have to have a broker’s license, he explained. “I’m not actively engaged in the business of selling or listing homes. I think the last time I did that was sometime in the 1980s.”
“I don’t see the fact that I hold a real estate license in any way, shape, or form a hindrance to me being able to serve on that board or fulfill the duties of that office,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey’s wife, Betsy Ramsey, is the director of member services for the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors. Ramsey doesn’t think that should be relevant to his appointment, either.
“She does not hold a license, and in no way participates in buying and selling property,” he said. “She works for the association, which is a non-profit entity.”
The rule change didn’t please the NC Licensed Home Inspector Association.
The group’s lobbyist Thomas Moore said Ramsey isn’t the problem. “No one in my association has expressed any concerns about him. It’s more the precedent it sets for the board – the opening up of the appointment on that board to anyone.”
“The way we understood it before, it would be a member of the public that’s not involved in home inspection and also not in real estate,” Moore said. “We would like to keep things the way they were.”
The change, which was made in private in conference committee, happened so quickly that Moore had little time to express his concerns to lawmakers. “We were a small fish. There were a lot of other things in that bill. There was no way it was going down.”
Moore denies there’s any tension between inspectors and realtors, but privately, some inspectors say otherwise. “This is just another example of how the realtors try to control how home inspectors do business,” said one home inspector who asked not to be named for fear of losing referrals from realtors.