Across the country every day, mortgage banks and lenders rely on property preservation inspectors to be the guardians of their assets. They are the eyes and ears of the asset portfolio managers who look for vulnerabilities (hopefully before they happen) and request remediation. The challenge is very few of the inspectors "get it." Most are independent workers, trying to make a few extra dollars, and not really vested in the outcome of inspections; transient workers looking to make a dime — or $6 as the case may be.

The industry is largely to blame. In the mid-1980s, an inspector was given $7 to inspect a home. In a failing neighborhood of closely packed homes, an inspector could handle 30 to 40 homes in a day, which yielded a living wage. But when the mortgage industry was robust and inspections were sparse, the lenders beat the rates down. Now, in 2010, the going rate is $6 (middlemen have raised their rates, but they continue to lowball the inspectors). With gas at $3 a gallon it is near impossible for an inspector to make a decent living — without cutting corners.

Paying a living wage and providing training such as certifying inspectors to be knowledgeable of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act would go a long way in improving the quality of the work.

And in this hostile climate, best practices should be to only use inspectors trained in the FDCPA. Inspectors who understand the act would behave more responsibly and courteously with people in default. This change in attitude should help foster better communication between the lender and the homeowner.

With stakes so high, it's time the industry steps up and protects the inspectors who are working to protect lenders' assets.

Shari Nott is the CEO of National Field Network, a Lakewood, N.J., property preservation boutique.

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