Can I Sue My Home Inspector ?

By
Home Inspector with Elliott Home Inspection
http://actvra.in/cnc

To anyone who wonders why that Home Inspector is so critical of the property they inspect.

A special thank you to Elaine Baker of Inman News who gave me permission to reprint this informative article.

 

Inspector's in the House

By Barry Stone

Distributed by Inman News

About Barry Stone

Can I sue my home inspector?

By Barry Stone

March 06, 2007

Dear Barry,

I've read several of your columns where readers ask if they have grounds for suing a home

inspector. Your answer always seems to be "no." Could it be that you're providing cover for fellow

inspectors? --Jock

Dear Jock,

You have apparently read some, but not many, of my columns on home inspector liability and

suability. Many readers have written to complain about their home inspectors and to inquire about

inspector liability. When asked if a home inspector can be justifiably sued, my answer has

sometimes been yes and sometimes no, depending on the situation. If you've read only the "no"

columns, you've gotten the wrong impression.

Most home inspectors will be sued at some time during their careers. To quote a common saying

in the business: "There are two kinds of home inspectors -- those who have been sued and those

who will be." There are, however, specific circumstances that determine whether a home

inspector is truly liable for a disputed claim.

When property defects are not reported during home inspection, the inspector is liable if the

defects are within the scope of the inspection and were visible and accessible at the time of the

inspection. For example, a leaking drain below a sink would be within the scope, and in most

cases would be visible and accessible. A damaged roof would also be within the scope, and with

some exceptions would be visible and accessible. An inspector who fails to report defects such

as these could be subject to a lawsuit. However, if the bathroom was filled with storage so that

the inspector could not inspect below the sink, or if weather conditions on the day of the

inspection prevented the inspector from walking on the roof, the inspector would not be liable, if

(and this is a big if) the inspection report clearly states that these areas were not inspected and

that further inspection is recommended prior to close of escrow.

Conditions not within the scope of a home inspection are typically itemized in the inspector's

contract and in the report. These include conditions that are not visible or accessible because

they are underground or contained within the construction of the building. Other exclusions

include structural and geological engineering, infestation by wood-destroying organisms (such as

termites), low-voltage electrical systems, septic systems, water wells and more.

Home inspectors typically include language in their contracts that limit the chances of being sued.

These include mediation and arbitration clauses (not enforceable in all states). They also may

include specific monetary limits on liability (also not enforceable in all states).

Home buyers, however, can undermine a valid claim against a home inspector by repairing the

defect before the inspector has been notified about the problem. Home inspectors should have

the opportunity to view disputed defects, to discuss whether they are was within the scope of the

inspection, whether they were visible on the day of the inspection, and whether they existed on

the day of the inspection. Inspectors who are liable should be allowed to hire a repair contractor,

to make repairs themselves, or simply to pay the costs of repairs.

If a home inspector is notified by the home buyer but fails to respond or to accept reasonable

liability, pressure should be brought to bear, even if that means being sued. This has been my

recommendation in many past columns and will continue to be my advice to home buyers whose

inspectors are professionally negligent.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

Copyright 2007 Barry Stone

Reprinted with permission of Inman News

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Anonymous
Anonymous
Eric C Van De Ven

Christine,

Where in South Florida do you live? I serve Broward/ Palm Beach Counties.

The inspector should have been able to get a clear picture of the wrap.

As per the 1802 form:

Metal connectors consisting of a single strap that wraps over the top of the truss/rafter and is secured with a minimum of 2 nails on the front side and a minimum of 1 nail on the opposing side. That is a single wrap.

A clip is this:

Metal connectors that do not wrap over the top of the truss/rafter, or

Metal connectors with a minimum of 1 strap that wraps over the top of the truss/rafter and does not meet the nail position requirements of C or D, but is secured with a minimum of 3 nails.

Both must meet this:

Secured to truss/rafter with a minimum of three (3) nails, and

Attached to the wall top plate of the wall framing, or embedded in the bond beam, with less than a ½" gap from the blocking or truss/rafter and blocked no more than 1.5” of the truss/rafter, and free of visible severe corrosion.

I would call the inspector back and have him perform the inspection properly, or, contact your agent and tell them that you are going to get your own inspection and if his report is different and clearly shows that you have single wraps, you expect to be reimbursed for the inspection fee as well as any money paid for, as a result of the improper previous report.

Feel free to contact me if I am in your area. If not, the Florida section of Internachi has several quialified inspectors who would be willing to help you.

April 18, 2012 01:31 PM #139
Rainmaker
74,351
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

the sweep told me the fireplace is unsafe because it was not properly installed, and that ANY WETT certified inspector should have caught it...Mike

Mike I am in Chicago and that is something you Canadians would know more about however after looking at this link..http://www.wettinc.ca/courses.html it sure seems like he should have caught something unsafe if it is in his SOP.

The Chimney sweep could be making a mistake but like all my advise starts out "you need to call the original Inspector" and ask him about it and see how he responds before going any further.

April 18, 2012 03:07 PM #140
Anonymous
Anonymous
Tom Hession

christine,

This is a common problem in Fl.  The reinspector should have the picture with only 1 nail otherwise they couldn't take your credit away. Ask the reinspector or citizens for a copy of the picture showing the nail. 

You could also hire a contractor to remove your soffits and insert the required nails into the wrap or clip to restore your credits. In most cases the ROI is less than 2 yrs. 

Hope this helps...

April 19, 2012 05:10 AM #141
Anonymous
Anonymous
sarah

My son and his wife bought a house less than a year ago.  The inspector passed everything on the house and the first season (winter) they used the furnace, they were poisoned by carbon monoxide.  The inspector stated that the dust in the furnace was "roof dust?"  I have never heard of this nor has anyone I have talked to, including businesses of home heating service, who stated it was burnt metal and condemmed the furnace on the spot at inspection.  The first inspectors wife represented the person selling the house that had been on the market for two years as well.  My son's daughter had two and a half times the amount of carbon in her body as is acceptable.  She was 14 months old at the time.  I am wondering if my son has a case to sue the inspector to pay or assist with payment for a new furnace.  My son would not have been able to buy the house had he known about the furnace.  It has been two months and they still cannot afford to buy a furnace.  Don't know what to do.

Sarah

May 05, 2012 01:08 PM #142
Anonymous
Anonymous
RAY KOPEC

HAVE A PROBLEM WITH AN INSPECTOR NJ. I'M THE SELLER & HERE ARE JUST A FEW OF THE PROBLEMS IN HIS OPION HE SAYS IS COSTING ME THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. THIS ONE IS JUST RIDICULOUS. COST ME OVER $300. THIS IS TAKEN STRAIGHT FROM THE REPORT. WOOD DESTROYING INSECTS:THERE WAS INFESTATION NOTED FOR CARPENTER ANTS THAT WILL NEED TO BE TREATED WITH A ONE YEAR WARRANTY. SO I SAID SHOW ME. ON THE GUTTER ABOVE THE GARAGE HE SHOWS ME 2 ANTS WHICH WERE REDISH & NOT BLACK. THEY WERE ABOUT 8 FT APART. DEFINITION OF INFESTATION To inhabit or overrun in numbers or quantities large enough to be harmful, threatening, or obnoxious. SO 2 ANTS 8 FT APART & I ASKED THE EXTERMINATOR THATTHE ANTS WERE REDISH BROWN & HE SAID FIELD ANTS. OH, HE DIDN'T FIND ANT INFESTATION. IT COST OVER $300 BECAUSE HE SAID SO & I'M THE SELLER RESPONSIBLE. NOW THE ROOF. THIS WILL COST ME 10KTHANKS TO THE INSPECTOR.FROM HIS REPORT: HE SAID

THE ROOF WAS PUT ON IN 95. 25 YR WARRANTY. THERE ARE NO WHATEVER HE WAS SAYING. IT WAS 10 AM YOU COULD SEE FOR MILES. CLEAR DAY. HE WAS ON THE ROOF. VISABILITY, IS THAT AN EXCUSE TO SAY THE ROOF IS NO GOOD. A ROOFER JUST SAID THE ROOF IS STILL GOOD FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER 5 YEARS.THE BUYER KNEW HOW OLD THE ROOF WAS. I TOLD THEM ALL. JUST BECAUSE IT'S NOT 20 YRS DOESN'T MEAN IT HAS TO BE REPLACED AND THAT IS WHAT THIS INSPECTOR DID FOR 2 HOURS. A BATHROOM LOCK DIDN'T WORK MUST BE REPLACED. IT OFF THE GARAGE. IT NOT ONE OF THE 2 MAIN ONES. WHY IS HE DISCUSSING A 10 DOLLAR DOOR LOCK. THE WOMEN SAT THERE ALL DAY WITH HIM. I DON'T KNOW WHAT SHE SAID TO HIM BUT SHE WANTS A NEW ROOF & HE GAVE IT TO HER & SHE WANTS A GAS FIREPLACE. NEW CHIMNEYS FOR HER GAS FIREPLACE. WHEN A ROOFER CAME TO GIVE AN ESTIMATE SHE WOULD TELL THEM HOW MUCH NEW ROOF,BOARDS ETC. I GAVE HER 25 K OFF THE LIST PRICE SO SHE CAN FIX THE ROOF IN 5 YEARS OR WHATEVER BUT THANKS TO THE REPORT. THERE'S MORE BUT TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK. I COULD SEE WITH NO PROBLEM. HOW COULD HE SAY THAT AT 10 AM CLEAR DAY.

THANKS

June 20, 2012 06:14 PM #143
Rainmaker
74,351
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Hi Ray

I think you had cap lock on but as far as Inspections go a seller has no obligation to fix anything and if the Inspector said you need a new roof for instance then all you need to do is have a Licensed roofer state everything is fine,he takes all liability at that point and you are off the hook .

Inspection reports unless from a AHJ meaning city/town code inspector are private for the person with whom the inspector contracted and is a service done as an dis-interested third party.

How the buyer and seller interact as a result is totally up to them.

Actually found a big infestation last month and thought I was looking at wood shavings as I stuck my hand into them only to find out later it is basically their poop (called frass).

I was invited back a couple days later to meet the exterminator as I wanted to be sure I was correct.

Remeber H.I's are generalists and when it comes to something with great expense potentially involved we would be stupid not to defer.

Below is a picture of one of the little guys I found and they were caught before any strucural damage could be found.

 carpenter ant

Below is a picture of the frass I found and glad I washed my hands as I always carry a bottle of sanitizer.

Carpenter ant frass

June 20, 2012 06:54 PM #144
Rainmaker
74,351
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Sarah ,Sorry I missed this as I have had a busy season however that is terrible and as always can not be the Judge however I put in all my reports that there should be a maintenance inspection performed by an HVAC tech at least once a year and paper work to support that.

Roof dust sounds pretty odd to me also.

How could you say a year later they can not afford a new furnace as they must be heating the home and sad to say it but they may have gone over what they can afford in buying the home.

Certainly as I always state you can sue anybody for anything but you are a third party and it is impossible to decide who said or did what on a forum.

The rust could be signs of a bad exchanger,downdrafting,condensation,and many other issues while Carbon Monoxide can also be caused by something such as no makeup air due to a sealed closet with no ventilation.

June 20, 2012 07:07 PM #145
Anonymous
Anonymous
paige

We just purchased a home in Traverse City, MI using a USDA Rural Development Loan. The house needed to be inspected and all repairs had to be completed prior to having funding approved. We had a company inspect and the first time they came to inspect, they found a list of repairs that needed to be fixed. The seller agreed to fix the repairs, and when the repairs were completed the inspection company came back and approved all the repairs. The list of repairs included:

GFCI receptable in garage

GFCI kitchen receptacles

GFCI bathroom receptable

Covered knockouts in electrical panel

Corrected triple tapped breaker

Covered open junction box in attic

Covered bare wire in attic

Secured all new circuits

Repaired tub drain to ensure drainage


We closed on the house and took possession the same day. When I was cleaning out the bathtub I could feel water under the liner and could hear the water squishing around when you pressed on the floor of the bathtub. The next morning, not even 24hrs after closing. We took our first showers at the house. The bathtub started draining normally but after 3-5minutes of showering the bathtub drain started to back up. The water ended up slowly draining. Then when I attempted to take my shower, not even 3 minutes into the shower, the same thing occured with the water draining normally then completely stopped. We decided not to use the shower from that point forward. Maybe 15-20 minutes later, the water in the bathtub had then drained, the toilet started gurgling and a few bubbles burped up and water (clear) came up into the bathtub. The toilet was working up until that point. When the toilet was used, water would come up into the bathtub and seep out from under the toilet. All the other plumbing in the house was working fine, including the bathroom sink. But when we tried to brush our teeth the water running in the bathroom sink made the bathtub again fill up with water. We had a plumber come out and assess the problem, and he advised to snake the drain for clogs and advised that there may be roots in the pipes which he can scope for but has to schedule another appointment. And as for the bathtub liner having water underneath, there seems to be a broken pipe that cannot be accessed without removing the entire bathtub. The house was built on a slab and there is no crawl space making repairs difficult. We reached out to our USDA loan specialist for guidance but haven't heard back. We do not have the money for the repairs and feel that the home inspector is liable since they approved the repairs, especially since one of the loan requirements was to ensure proper drainage in the bathtub. Now all the plumbing is not working, we tried running the washing machine and it made the toilet overflow. We are unable to live at the house until the repairs are completed and it is one of the requirements for our loan that the home be our primary residence. I did get in contact with the home inspection and they feel they did an adequate re-inspection. The inspector said, "I would estimate the water ran a good 5-8 minutes or so while I was in the attic (reviewing the other repairs.) It was because of this I deemed the tub drain was working properly. I'm not sure how much more water is used during a typical shower, but felt the amount I introduced was adequate for testing. This is certainly as much as we normal use during our normal inspection process."


Any help would be appreciated! 

August 06, 2012 06:40 PM #146
Rainmaker
74,351
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Hi Paige

General Inspections point out issues observed at the time of inspection such as a plugged drain however a Plumber is a specialist who should examine plus make repairs .

Why are you not calling out the Plumber?

Did he not provide an invoice?

Home inspectors use normal operating controls such as your Inspector did when he ran the tub for 5-8 minutes which is a descent amount of time however the Plumber perhaps might investigate the main drain line by doing a video scan which is well beyond what a Inspector would do.

I often do final walkthroughs myself but do not supply a secondary report nor provide a warranty for a professionals work as that is their responsibility.

Make sense?

August 06, 2012 08:20 PM #147
Anonymous
Anonymous
concerned

hi 

im concerned about my home i bought it 2 years ago we hired a man with35 year experience and he said everything was fine in the wiring in the home we have noticed several problems the breaker box has like the bedroom 3 bathroom n hallway on one 15 amp then next has bedroom number 2 livingroom front porch light  the other has only one with kitchen bedroom1 n bathroom n back porch light when moved in when you plugged soemthing into the master bathroom socket it would make a popping noise we asked about it and they said it was nothing well now there is a burning smell in bedroom 2 and we had a electrician come the wires is burning and the only way to fix the problem is to rewire the doublewide which includes tearing through the walls n ceilings is there anything i can do to either get out of the loan or have the inspector pay for this because it was over looked during the inspection or what can be done i need advise asap!

October 14, 2012 12:03 AM #148
Anonymous
Anonymous
Joey
First time home buyer. I just bought a home short sale and just keep unwrapping more and more serious issues. I was told everything was to code and had passed inspection. If I had one little earth quake the whole house would fall to the ground or on us. My foundation is all jacked up. Cracks outside the house and inside as well. Not one good straight board under there. Goffer mounds all the way to the top of the house. Everything is on a lean. Half boards that don't fully go across the house and just boards screwed and stuff in wrong places that aren't doing a thing for support. My electrical is bad and shorting. My roof structure is a joke and held up by weak boards and improper settings from an addition they added on and had permits, passed inspection right!.. All in all can I do anything about this? I seriously wanna walk away from this house there's so much money to dump in it to make it safe and it makes me sick. I don't know what to do I'm stressed out that my friend/realtor would sell a house like this to me. Joey
November 30, 2012 12:19 PM #149
Rainmaker
74,351
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Dear concerned as always details are important I can not see what is going on with yourwiring from here however bathrooms should be on a 20m amp circuit and if the conduters are rated at 14 gauge simply switching to a larger breaker would cause the wiring(conductors) to fry before they tripped the oversized breaker.

This means new wire needs to be pulled through the conduit or in your case new NM conductors I am guessing.You also may need to replace brach circuit wiring to have its own breakers which in some cases means replacing the panel.

Not sure what he saw however if the panel was not labeled he may have simply noted the 14 gauge was on a 15 amp breaker which is appropriate and not observed it was going to so many branches.

What were your estimates on the job and you mentioned double wide so is this a manufactured home ?

December 01, 2012 09:30 AM #150
Rainmaker
74,351
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Joey if it is that bad how did you miss the issues on original walkthrough and did you have an inspection as I find it hard to believe an Inspector would miss all that ?

My suggestion would be to skip a general contractor and get a Structural Engineer to look at the place as he will let you know what can be done in a more cost effiecient manner without losing your shirt hopefully.

December 01, 2012 09:34 AM #151
Anonymous
Anonymous
mary

I just bought my first home 2 months ago and the inspector told me that the furnace was in good conditions and him being professional i believed him. Well my heater stopped working and i called someone (professional) to come and take a look so they did and told me the furnace was no good and that i need i new furnace. Is there anything legal i can do? or call someone? Why would the inspetor tell me the furnace will still last for another 8 yrs?

December 10, 2012 06:35 PM #152
Rainmaker
74,351
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Mary ,no professional Inspector would predict how long a furnace will last.

They can give you a list of average life expectancy but that is far as it goes.

Do you have it in writing he says it will last 8 years ?

The average furnace is predicted to last anywhere from 15 to 25 years and a Inspection is a snapshot in time meaning good on the day it was inspected as there is no way to predict the future.

Has a mechanic ever said "the car will last 8 more years" as an example of how silly that would be.

You can find a list of average life expectancy by going to the internationalassociation of home inspectors site at the link here.......http://www.nachi.org/life-expectancy.htm

December 10, 2012 07:05 PM #153
Anonymous
Anonymous
Zina Reyes

Hi,

I have a question regarding my home inspection. I purchased my property over 2yrs ago and since purchasing my property, I've found several things that should have failed the home inspection. My roof is one of the main issues and the home inspector never said I needed a new roof. There were wires that were out of place in my basement that should have never passed inspection. There is visible wood damage that shows there is a major leak in my basement right under the front stairs. The electrical work is very very poor. Everytime I have someone come in to look or fix something, they ask me if I had an home inspection and when I say yes, they are shocked. There were several things wrong with this property. I would also like to know if I can go after the previos owner as well. I am from Philadelphia, Pa.

 

January 17, 2013 09:58 AM #154
Rainmaker
74,351
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Not a Lawyer as I always mention however can you prove there were major issues and the owner knew about them ?

Bear in mind Contractors always throw the last guy under the bus but anything visible should be reportable by the inspector.

You need to check and see if you can file a claim of negligence and be prepared for court if it comes down to it with documentation .

Can you prove issues were visibel at time of the inspection and not hidden behind storage items for instance ?

2 years is a long time to wait so better check with the state if he is Licensed and be prepared for your claim to be scrutinized.

As always call the Inspector up,tell him what was found and when.That is your first chore.He may have an answer or he may even agree to settle but you must go there first by picking up the phone.

 

January 17, 2013 09:39 PM #155
Anonymous
Anonymous
Jay Lockaby

I bought a house in 2007 before I started working overseas and each time I've come home I've noticed things with the residence that draw concern. The house was new, built by the seller. As with most families we painted the interior which was all white and concealed alot of descepancies with the interior walls, blemishes and bowing. I removed the carpet on the second and third floors and found the floors to be "bucked". We can walk down the hallway on the second floor and some of the lights on the first floor will go out. I had the lower heat pump replaced last year and the company that installed the unit advised that the wiring under the house was horrible, stated most of it was wired "backwards" and he was suprised we didn't have $500 dollar power bills. I've also found buried shingles in my yard that the previous owner left along with other materials from his previous house that burned ( bad run-off from rain has uncovered them over this past year). I was able to confirm that the previous residence burned and this new one was constructed in the same place. This week I had some trees cutdown and the man cutting the trees asked if I was able to get insurance on my house and asked why. He informed me that when the house was being built it was just pieced together with what appeared to be scrap wood and he didn't think a residence built with uninspected wood could be insured. Obviously none of these issues were ever disclosed and my limited amount of time at home, probably 200 days in the last five years has limited my exposure to these issues. I'm checking with my local government agency to see who inspected my house during it's building phase, plus I'm looking to hire an independant inspector to do a thorough inspection to the extent of removing siding to check the status of the framework. Have I exceeded my limitations to pursue a course of legal action? I feel that the builder is just as guilty, if not more so, than the inspector. I'm from Aiken, SC

February 11, 2013 05:46 PM #156
Rainmaker
74,351
Bob Elliott
Elliott Home Inspection - Chicago, IL
Chicago Property Inspection

Hi Jay

The sad fact is most AHJ (authorities having jurisdiction) inspectors have zero liability.

They keep me in business.

February 15, 2013 08:02 PM #157
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anon101

Hi, I have a question..
I bought my house two years ago (August 10, 2012) and am in PA. We are in escrow so we had a home inspection and the inspector reported several things wrong. The seller fixed all of the things and we had a second inspection to make sure everything was up to code...Unfortunately, my porch which is built over a coal cellar has caved in... When I went through the porch we realized that it was built with styrofoam as a base, chicken wire and then an inch of concrete..
When standing in the coal cellar and looking up, you can see that the porch was poured on styrofoam thus making it unsafe and not permitted. I am wondering if we can go after the home inspector for repairs? I feel badly, but he should have seen the poor conditions in which the porch was built on and required that the seller fixed it.

July 15, 2014 07:34 PM #158
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