Thursday, October 3, 2019

How to Become a Home Inspector

home inspector
Add value to your contracting business
with the new Home Inspection course.

Are you interested in becoming a Home Inspector? Zack Academy recently partnered with Axium Academy to offer a new, comprehensive Home Inspection Training course. This course will teach you how to assess various metrics of home performance and make reports and recommendations to prospective home buyers, or owners looking to make improvements. Offered both online and in-person, this course is a great fit for those involved in the real estate or construction industry, or anyone interested in a new career path!

Here are the steps for how to become a Home Inspector:

  1. Register for the Home Inspector training program
  2. Attend the training sessions and shadow expert Home Inspectors on real inspections, in person or by video
  3. Review videos, readings, and quizzes created by industry experts
  4. Pass the nationally-recognized Home Inspector Exam (fee included with registration!)
  5. Get to work!

This new Home Inspection Training program offers in-depth instruction on home inspection. You'll receive hands-on training in the in-person course, while the online course provides video instruction and live webinars. Upon successful completion of this course, students can earn a certificate from InterNACHI, an international authority on home inspection. This program is designed to provide you with everything you need to jumpstart your Home Inspector business.

One of the most exciting benefits of this course is that students will learn how to a variety of home inspections. In fact, students can think of this course as a six-in-one deal. This course covers:
  • roof and attic inspection
  • heating and cooling inspection
  • interior and exterior inspection
  • plumbing and electrical inspection
  • basement and crawlspace inspection
Additionally, this course includes an intensive marketing and business course to teach students how to sell their new skill. Students will learn detailed information on the operational expenses and market trends to expect when adding an inspection service to a small business. 

Students will also learn more about how to market their new service with expert tips on creating business cards, websites, and flyers. Students will finish the course with a specific marketing plan to help them keep track of daily and weekly activities.

In both the online and in-person course, students will leave class with customizable inspection forms to use on the job. This course also provides all graduates with six months of free membership to InterNACHI. A membership to InterNACHI includes a wealth of helpful videos, continuing education, message boards with inspection experts, and exclusive discount on tools you may need in the field.

Ready to register? Keep these tips in mind:
  • Do have reliable access to a computer with high speed Internet if you are interested in the online version of this course. Devices such as cell phones and tables can sometimes have difficulty displaying course content.
  • Don't be concerned about your experience level. This course has no prerequisites so anyone can register.
  • Do remember that you have the option to take the InterNACHI exam and earn the InterNACHI certificate in this course. Make sure you ask about it!
  • Don't hesitate to call or chat with Zack Academy for more information about this course!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

California Signs Law Protecting Homeowners from Paint Companies


lead paint window
A new California law will protect homeowners seeking lead abatement from legal
retaliation from large companies. 

Last month, the governor of California signed a new lead paint bill into law. Under AB 206, homeowners and public agencies will be protected from claims related to lead abatement work. The bill is designed to prevent larger companies from suing property owners in retaliation against owners seeking damages for lead paint exposure.

The new legislation comes shortly after several national companies made headlines for a class action lawsuit involving several Californian counties. The counties sought damages for lead paint that Sherwin-Williams, ConAgra Grocery, and NL Industries previously sold to property owners in the area and resulted in a lead poisoning crisis in old housing stock across the state.

The litigation between the cities and national retailers played out for nearly 20 years involving several countersuits. One such countersuit involved the companies attempting to reduce their settlement by deducting the costs of previously abated local homes. In another countersuit, the companies implicated the counties themselves as nuisances. In the end, the companies agreed on a $305 million settlement which will go toward inspecting and abating affected homes.

Despite federal intervention and local initiatives, lead paint exposure continues to pose a threat to millions of American families. Lead paint was widely used in homes prior to 1978. As a result, many old homes are potential sources of lead exposure.

Lead exposure is associated with cognitive delays, reproductive defects, bone deformities and organ failure. When the paint in old homes starts to chip, it becomes a danger for tenants who can inhale or ingest lead paint.

This new legislation will help protect victims of lead paint exposure by protecting their right to participate in lead abatement programs without it affecting their legal standing.

To learn more about the bill, visit California's legislative website.To learn more about lead paint safety and removal, and how to get involved in this field, visit Zack Academy. Zack Academy offers a variety of lead paint training courses both online and in-person for your convenience.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

EPA Inspector General Recommends Improvements to RRP Rule Enforcement

lead paint
The EPA Inspector General found that the agency is not effectively enforcing
its RRP rule due to a lack of communication between regional offices.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General concluded in an audit that EPA is not effectively implementing its lead-based paint rule. The Inspector General cites insufficient communication between offices as the primary reason for inefficiency.

The Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule is a first line of defense against childhood lead exposure. Lead exposure is associated with cognitive impairments as well as bone, blood, and reproductive diseases. There is no safe level of lead exposure; adherence to the RRP rule is critical as EPA estimates 18 million lead renovation projects occur each year.

However, EPA is having difficulty enforcing its own rule due to a lack of coordination between regional offices. According to the report, EPA is not sufficiently tracking regional targeting strategies or RRP outreach activities. Critical information on inspections is also lost between the offices. As a result, the EPA is not accurately evaluating its progress on reducing lead paint exposure.

The report also noted the current EPA administration's failure to mention lead paint as a priority in its 2018-2019 National Program Management Guidances. The 2020-2021 Guidances mention reducing lead exposure as a priority, but provide few measures of progress or information on how this goal will be achieved.

The Inspector General issued several corrective actions with two of them already pending upon release of the report. These corrections include an update to current program guidance, improvement on management oversight, and the creation of more transparent, measurable goals.

One of the most interesting recommendations is the establishment of a forum to share best practices and innovations between the various regional EPA offices. In the report, the Inspector General expressed that EPA regions could benefit from sharing "regionally developed tools, ideas, and approaches."

To learn more about this report, visit the EPA website. To learn more about the RRP Rule and lead paint certifications, visit Zack Academy.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

7 Ways to Get More Restoration Work From Your Online Presence

This is a guest blog post from Scott Miller of The Growth League.


Having a strong online presence is critical for the success of your restoration business. Below are seven ways to boost traffic, build your brand, and find new clients.

  1. Update Your Website. It may seem like an obvious strategy, but too often we get busy in the field and forget or don't make time for the website. Google and the other search engines like to see updated and relevant content. If you can create a simple schedule of making small monthly updates to your site, it will pay dividends over time.
  2.  Solicit Google Reviews. This is HUGE. How can you get more Google reviews? You team does a great job, right? Ask your customers to post a review about their experience. Create a link to the review page and text it and/or email it to your customers. It will help drive more traffic to your site and could be the deciding factor between you and a local competitor. The other benefit to this is it’s a great morale builder for you and your team.
  3. Utilize SEO. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the work related to setting up your site to rank high organically (being on page one of Google without having to pay). You could certainly learn to do this yourself, but it also might make more sense to hire a company to help you with this. 
  4. Start a Pay-Per-Click Ad Campaign. More and more, property owners are turning to search engines to find water damage companies to help with their losses. As deductibles continue to rise, people are reluctant to call their insurance company, so they just do a quick Google search for a service provider. With pay-per-click (PPC), you set up your campaign with simple text ads, a geographic target area and a daily budget. You can turn the campaign on or off at any time, so you are in complete control. The easiest way to get started with this (on your own) is to sign up for Google AdWords Express.
  5. Write Blog Posts. These are another way to keep your site up to date. We’ve all been to sites that look they haven’t been touched since the early 2000’s and it doesn’t give us the feeling that the company is relevant. Write about how you help your customers, profile an employee, talk about the continuing education classes you sponsor, or the best way to prevent water damage in a home. If you don’t know how to post yourself, just write your article in Word or Google Docs and send it to your web person to post for you.
  6. Guest Blog. Write content for others in complementary industries. Insurance agents are a natural for this. If you can provide them with content for their blog, you’ll be helping them and yourself at the same time. Home inspectors, Mortgage bankers and local hardware stores are three business types that may have an interest in your articles as well. Who else can you think of that would be a good fit for an article written by you? 
  7. Register on Local Online Directory Listings. If you haven’t already spent a couple of hours getting your business added to free local online directories, this is an easy way to make a difference in how often you are found online. Here’s a link to a list of local directories. Also, do a Google search for small local directories. Ex. “Local business directory in Philadelphia, PA”. Be sure to be 100% consistent with the way you type all your business information (address, phone, web address). The more consistent the listing are, the better your results will be.

Scott Miller has been in the restoration industry since 2005 and focuses on helping owners grow revenue, improve profitability, manage cash-flow and develop a culture of accountability with their teams. He is a certified coach with Best Year Yet and The Center for Executive Coaching. You can contact him at thegrowthleague.com or by email.



Wednesday, July 24, 2019

How to Become an IICRC Journeyman or IICRC Master

As you start to build your restoration career, the internationally recognized Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) offers advanced designations to showcase your expertise.

The first level is called IICRC Journeyman, followed by the prestigious IICRC Master designation. In this post we'll review how you can achieve these statuses to set yourself apart from the crowd.

JOURNEYMAN


How to become an IICRC Journeyman:
  1. Earn the certifications listed below for the track of your choice by attending the classes and passing the certification exams. 
  2. Gain at least 1 year of experience in the field after your first certification is complete.
  3. Maintain your individual certifications with IICRC.
  4. Once these criteria are met, your Journeyman status will be awarded by IICRC.
Journeyman Track Requirements:
  • Journeyman Fire & Smoke Restorer (JSR)

MASTER


How to become an IICRC Master:

After three consecutive years of experience as an IICRC Certified Technician you are eligible to pursue the Master Track. The training required is based on which track you wish to pursue.

Master Track Requirements:
  • Master Water Restorer (MWR)
    • Complete Journeyman Water Restorer (JWR) requirements and hold designation for at least 12 months
    • Additionally become IICRC certified in:
  • Master Fire & Smoke Restorer (MSR)
    • Complete Journeyman Fire & Smoke Restorer (JSR) requirements and hold designation for at least 12 months
    • Additional earn IICRC certifications for:
  • Master Textile Cleaner (MTC)
    • Complete Journeyman Textile Cleaner (JTC) requirements and hold designation for at least 12 months
    • Additionally complete certifications for (excluding the one you already completed for JTC):

Ready to get started or further progress on your IICRC Journeyman or Master designation track? View the Zack Academy Cleaning & Restoration catalog to find our full schedule of IICRC certification courses, offered by top-notch IICRC approved schools and instructors!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

HAZWOPER Training Information

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, or HAZWOPER, is a set of regulations implemented by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). HAZWOPER protects workers whose jobs expose them to toxic substances. These regulations also inadvertently protect civilians by teaching workers how to safely and efficiently respond to these type of emergencies.

HAZWOPER training is extensive, so in this article we answer some frequently asked questions about HAZWOPER certification.

Does my company need HAZWOPER training?
HAZWOPER training is designed for workers who are exposed to dangerous substances through work including the clean-up, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste. Generally, if your company performs work on a contaminated site or provides emergency response or treatment services for hazardous waste, then you need HAZWOPER training. It's best to consult your state's program if you're uncertain; some states have more specific regulations on HAZWOPER training than others.

What kind of jobs can I take on with a HAZWOPER certification?
HAZWOPER certification allows your company to perform work on sites where exposure to hazardous waste can occur. This includes settings such as plants, factories, disaster zones, and more.

What kind of HAZWOPER certifications are available?
There are three levels of HAZWOPER training:
General Site Remediation can be further broken down into the following classes:
  • 40-Hour HAZWOPER: designed for students who are plant workers, environmental engineers, or involved in other safety and health operations
  • 24-Hour HAZWOPER: similar to the 40-hour class, but designed for employees who have a much lower risk of exposure
  • 8-Hour Annual Refresher: required refresher class for all levels
  • 8-Hour Supervisor: supplementary course that teaches management skills, planning, and specific site safety for management positions
Emergency Response Operations can be further broken down into the following levels:

  • HAZWOPER First Responder Awareness (FRA): designed for individuals who may witness a hazardous substance release and alert the proper authorities
  • HAZWOPER First Responder Operations (FRO): designed for "first line" responders who will protect people, property, and environment; stops the spill from spreading and prevents further exposure from a safe distance
  • On-Scene Incident Commander: compliments the First Responder Awareness course; designed for individuals to assume control of a chemical release
  • Hazardous Materials Technician (HAZMAT Tech): designed for individuals who respond to chemical releases to stop the release; this discipline includes emergency response planning and incident command system
  • Hazardous Materials Specialist (HAZMAT Specialist): similar to HAZMAT Tech, but with in-depth training on chemicals, toxicology; would be the role responsible for communicating with government authorities
When do I have to take a refresher course?
HAZWOPER re-certification must be completed every year by the anniversary date of the initial training.

To learn more about state requirements for HAZWOPER training, visit. To find approved HAZWOPER courses near you, visit Zack Academy. Zack Academy offers a variety of hazardous waste training courses both locally and online.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Florida Senate Passes Controversial "AOB" Property Insurance Bill

Legislators have passed a bill to address a controversial
Florida property insurance practice. However,
many property owners and contractors disagree with the solution.

Recently, Florida legislators passed a bill that will reform an insurance policyholder benefit known as assignment of benefits (AOB). SB 122 seeks to clarify AOB agreements and limit lengthy litigation. However, many Florida renovation companies have contested the bill, arguing that it favors insurance companies and puts increased risks on small contractors and remediation businesses.

An assignment of benefits is an agreement that transfers an insurance claim rights and benefits to a third party, such as a contractor hired to do repairs. This means that an insurance company directly interacts with the contractor, and ultimately pays the contractor. For most contractors, this practice safeguards them against clients who refuse to pay after services are rendered. For clients, AOBs can help get a project rolling quicker than waiting around for an insurance approval.

However, the practice has been exploited in some cases. Reports of contractors pocketing insurance payouts without performing the work have been reported across Florida. In other incidences, contractors have billed insurance companies for unnecessary services. These schemes are known to industry insiders as "AOB fraud".

Due to the way that many contracts are written, property owners are legally barred from finding another contractor to do the work. Oftentimes, homeowners resort to lawsuits after they have lost control of the claim process.

In an attempt to curb this dysfunction, lawmakers have created SB 12. SB 122 provisions include:
  • Define “assignment agreement” and establishing requirements for the execution, validity, and effect of such an agreement
  • Prohibit certain fees and altering policy provisions related to managed repairs in an assignment agreement
  • Transfer certain pre-lawsuit duties under the insurance contract to the assignee and shifting the burden to the assignee to prove that any failure to carry out such duties has not limited the insurer’s ability to perform under the contract
  • Require each insurer to report specified data on claims paid in the prior year under assignment agreements by January 30, 2022, and each year thereafter
  • Allow an insurer to make available a policy prohibiting assignment, in whole or in part, under certain conditions
  • Revise the state’s one-way attorney fee statute to incorporate an attorney fee structure in determining the fee amount awarded in suits by an assignee against an insurer
  • Require service providers to give an insurer and the consumer prior written notice of at least 10 business days before filing suit on a claim.

While the intent is said to protect consumers, some property owners and contractors disagree with the bill, which was heavily lobbied for by the insurance industry.

Property owners take issue with the fact that they must go through insurance companies to determine who can make repairs and how much they can spend. Insurance companies send "preferred vendors", or contractors affiliated with the insurance company. Many homeowners have complained that the preferred vendors do not perform the quality of work that they want, which can sometimes cause further issues and claims down the road.

For contractors, the bill would further lengthen the scope of a project with additional regulations. Contractors argue that they would receive less work once insurance agencies could require homeowners to only use a preferred vendor, making it especially difficult for small businesses. Furthermore, these new rules could allow insurance companies to underpay contractors that start work on a home without pre-approval from the insurance company, which is sometimes necessary to address emergency repairs.

Proponents of the bill insist that the AOB issue lies with frivolous lawsuits which are spurred by the promise of high payouts; prior to SB 122, the brunt of legal fees fell on insurance companies.

However, property owners and contractors contend that AOB agreements leave them with few options other than litigation.

SB 122 passed in the Senate and is slated to go into effect July 1, 2019. The bill will be applied prospectively, so it is unlikely to affect lawsuits filed prior to its passing.

To read more about the bill, visit the Florida Senate website. To learn more about assignment of benefits and what it means to you as a contractor, visit Zack Academy. Zack Academy offers a variety of remediation and restoration courses.