Barry Stone

**Negligent Electrical Inspection Suggests Possibility of Other Oversights
By Barry Stone
Saturday, December 9, 2006; F06

Q: DEAR BARRY: I recently bought a home from an investor who renovates and then resells old houses. Everything was going well until our main circuit breaker started tripping. An electrician told us that our new 100 amp service panel is connected on a 60 amp service line. He speculated that the seller installed the new panel himself, without a permit and without hiring an electrician. None of this was reported by our home inspector, who didn’t remove the panel cover during the inspection. He now claims that anything that was not visible is not within the scope of the inspection. Who is liable, the home inspector, the spec seller, or both?
A: DEAR CHRIS: Your home inspector should have removed the panel cover to inspect the breakers and wiring within. This is standard procedure for a competent inspector. Inspection of the electrical system, if the inspector does a thorough job, should also consider the relative capacities of the service lines and the service panel. For the inspector to dismiss these oversights as conditions that were “not visible” is baseless denial.
When home inspectors correctly disclaim electrical defects that are not visible, they are referring to conditions that are concealed within the construction, hidden by personal property or buried underground. This disclaimer does not excuse blatant failure to remove the cover from a breaker panel. Inspectors who overlook this essential part of an inspection are professionally negligent.
The seller, of course, was also negligent, but this may have been a matter of electrical ignorance, rather than ill intent. On the other hand, replacing a breaker panel without a building permit is illegal, and a professional real estate investor should have known this. If a permit had been obtained, the municipal inspector would have required an upgrade of the service line, consistent with the capacity of the new panel. To address this issue now, an as-built permit should be obtained from the local building authority, and the power company should be notified that the service line needs an upgrade.
Before you begin any repairs or upgrades, the home inspector and seller should be notified of the problem and given an opportunity to respond. Both are individually liable for lack of disclosure. If neither will take responsibility, you can provide them with formal invitations to small claims court. If you do this, be sure to have plenty of photos of faulty conditions and some written reports from electricians and other professionals.
As a final thought, a home inspector who did not remove a panel cover probably missed other issues in the course of his inspection. Therefore, a second inspection of the property is warranted. Find out who is the most thorough inspector in your area and get a second opinion on everything. You may find that additional defects should be addressed with the seller and with the first home inspector. If it becomes necessary to take legal action, consult an attorney for procedural advice.
Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site,, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.
Distributed by Access Media Group

Boy, he doesn’t even ask why the inspector did not remove the cover.

Not enough info to make an educated answer, Barry Stones M.O.

Not many clients follow me when I do an inspection, maybe he didn’t see him remove the cover…

To play devils advocate, if it is an old house it probably had overhead service…


More info is needed before you suggest to sue, jack-a**

Barry Stone is a big scumbag NAHI member, the group that permits inspectors to sell repairs to correct defects they find on their own inspections, so I don’t think he is in any position to be giving any advice whatsoever.

What does a tripping main breaker have to with undersized service entrance conductors? The breaker protects down stream - not up stream. The SEC should be over heating before the main trips. Still a problem of course but symptoms don’t match the condition.

The ESA recommends that inspectors not remove the covers at all.

I remove the cover for the distribution breakers every time. I will peek, if I can though the cover for the SEC but will only remove it occasionally. Canadian panels require the division between the distribution breakers and the SEC. The US does not. Applying this article to Canadian inspectors must take this into account.

Yes but at least he has stopped I think saying what association you should use for a home Inspector .
He made a decision with out knowing all the facts unfortunately this does happen .
I try to never give a definite answer with out seeing the concern.
There are usually three sides to every story your side my side and what actually happened .
He is not always wrong and he does get people thinking about home inspectors.
Roy Cooke

The more I read of Barry the more I am convinced he should be “stoned.”

OK Roy… I’ll give him a second chance. My understanding was that he was a big NACHI basher and a member of scumbag NAHI, but that was an impression I acquired a couple years ago.

Good for you Barry No Associations mentioned .
**An Entire Profession Takes It on the Chin

By Barry Stone
Saturday, December 16, 2006; G05

Q: DEAR BARRY: Home inspectors perform an inadequate service, a fact that is overlooked in your column. I hired an inspector not long ago and found his work to be a waste of money. All he did was look around and report the obvious. I could have done as much myself instead of paying a so-called expert. Home buyers deserve better than this. For example, why don’t home inspectors look under carpets for asbestos, mold or signs of vermin? Your interest in promoting home inspectors prevents you from understanding this. Get a clue. – William
A: DEAR WILLIAM: Home inspection can be a waste of money or a valuable benefit, depending on the quality of the inspector you hire. If your home inspector did little more than “look around,” you have a legitimate grievance, but not a case against an entire profession.
I frequently discuss negligent home inspectors in this column. I also frequently recommend that home buyers hire only inspectors who are qualified and experienced, who provide detailed evaluations of homes, and who disclose defects that could not be found in the course of a simple look around.
For example, one inspector I know found the following defects in the past week:
· Over-spanned framing in an attic that caused the roof to sag.
· Rust damage in the burner chamber of a gas furnace.
· A disconnected safety shutoff switch in a forced-air furnace.
· Circuit breakers that were oversized for the wires in the circuit.
· Faulty grounding in an electrical subpanel.
· Buried gas piping that lacked rust protection.
· A bathtub whirlpool pump that was not grounded.
· Lack of tempered safety glass at a staircase landing.
· A fireplace chimney that was too short at the roof.
· Improper placement of piers under a home.
These are examples of defects routinely reported by qualified home inspectors. Such defects would not be discovered by home buyers conducting their own walk-through inspection or by inspectors with inadequate experience.
As for your suggestion that home inspectors check beneath carpets for asbestos, mold or vermin:
· How much carpet should home inspectors lift? Should they raise a few corners or roll back the carpets in each room? If they don’t do it all, how can we be sure they will not miss a serious problem?
· How do we explain to sellers that we must move their furniture to inspect beneath the carpets? If sellers agree to this, how many additional hours will be needed to complete the inspection, and how much should inspectors charge for this time?
· If furniture or personal items such as a vase are damaged while being moved, who should pay for repair or replacement?
· Once the carpets have been laid back down, who should pay the carpet layer who refastens the edges to the tack strips?
Practicality imposes limits on home inspectors. An inspector cannot view everything without creating unacceptable problems. Still, a qualified home inspector can find many defects, providing valuable disclosure to home buyers. If you should ever hire another inspector, be sure to find someone who is truly qualified.
Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site,, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.
*Distributed by Access Media *