Case or no case?

Hello assembled brain trust,

I am a recent first-time homebuyer who payed a small and reasonable fee for a home inspection as part of the standard real estate transaction process. The inspection found no serious concerns and the purchase went through. The home is approximately 40 years old but the kitchen, HVAC, etc., had all just been renovated by the sellers. I am no expert in any of this.

Approximately 45 days after the inspection, the kitchen sink began backing up so a plumber was called in. The diagnosis was incorrectly installed waste piping and p-trap assembly, all of which the plumber says was not up to code and should never have passed the home inspection. In fact, the assembly was of such poor design that it was taken back to the company to use as some sort of “what not to do” training. The repair bill for replacing the entire waste piping and p-trap assembly correctly, in accordance with local code this time, ran to about 3 times the cost of the entire home inspection itself.

My basic question for this community is: how upset with my home inspection company do I have a right to be?

  1. Is the plumber correct – should this have been caught by the home inspector?
  2. In your experience, do I have a legitimate legal case in small claims court for:
    a. Refund of home inspection fee
    b. Repair costs

I look forward to your comments.

Thanks -

What state are you in?

Hello Breen,

Welcome to the wonderful world of home ownership maintenance.

First off all contractors say that the home inspector should of caught this, when in fact most contractors have no idea of what a home inspection is.

A home inspection is not a code inspection. So it really doesn’t matter if the installation meet code or not.

You have lived in the house for 45 days before it backed up. Therefore it must have been draining properly during the inspection and the first 44 days that you lived in the property. We do not have a crystal ball that will tell us when things will break in the future.

Did you call the inspector and have him look at the problem before you had it fixed?
Did you sign a pre inspection agreement?
What city is the home located in?
Did your inspector tell you that he was giving you a warranty with the inspection?

Sounds like the plumber ripped you off if it costs 3 times the inspection fee to replace a p-trap.

I think that you will find the answers to all of your questions in the inspection agreement that you signed.

Hi Breen, sorry to hear about your troubles. Just curious, do you know if the trap was visible during the inspection? Quite often I find cabinets packed full of towels etc, making it impossible to see the drain pipes. I would recommed calling the inspector first to discuss if you haven’t already done so.

Many other questions here. What did your agreement say? Did you sign one? Did you get a copy of the standards of practice that the inspector used? What city are you a resident of? Some rules and regulations are different from other cities, states. Did you get other opinions, or did you just have the one plumber repair the drain issue? We, as inspectors, inform the buyers of any defects that can be readily visible. The buyer makes the final decision on whether or not to purchase the property.

I have run into this before. A home buyer called me ten days after they moved in when the main sewer backed-up into the basement. She was pretty adimant, and understandardly so. I told her to call a plumber to have the sewer scoped, and cleaned, as stated in my pre-inspection agreement. The plumber took out several paint rags that went down the toilet and into the sewer by painters that were contracted by the new buyer to paint the interior of the home.

If the drain was working at the time of the inspection, we cannot be a predictor of future conditions. Talk to the inspector to see what she/he says. Something can be worked out, IMO, if it was missed.

Thanks all -

The house is in Northern Virginia. It was vacant during the inspection and the plumbing was readily visible.

I did call the inspection company first and their representative was very unhelpful and unconcerned. He simply stated that what I was telling him made no sense and that they weren’t responsible for anything.

The signed agreement essentially states that the inspection service is a professional opinion and not a promise or guarantee. It also states that I am responsible for the inspector’s attorney’s fees and court costs regardless of judgement, dismissal, or settlement…which is why I’m hesitant to start a legal action without checking into it first.

I completely understand the point about things just breaking vs having a crystal ball. I wouldn’t have a problem with plain old bad luck. But the issue, at least according to the plumber, was the improper design/configuration/installation of the piping…exactly the type of thing for which I thought I was paying an expert to give me an opinion.

Dont expect a reply.

I believe this is a ruse.

It is not in the AskNACHI forum.

Look at the opening line.

The questions are leading.


Joe, you might be right. It does sound like this person is actually an attorney, looking for professional inspector responses. People like this should not be allowed on this message board. If Breen knows how to read, I suggest that he/she reads the inspection reports again. Someone maybe looking for an excuse here.

Anytime a first-time poster goes to the Legal Forum and starts a post with “assembled brain trust”, something is definitely wrong.

Trying to reply a second time…apologies if this is a repost…

The home is in Northern Virginia. It was vacant and clear when inspected. The plumbing was plainly visible.

I did call the inspection company first. The person on the phone stated that what I was telling him made no sense and that they were not responsible for anything.

The agreement says that the inspection is a professional opinion and not a promise or guarantee. It also says that I would be responsible for any attorney fees or court costs regardless of outcome. So I’m rather hesitant to file a case. But I thought I’d see what the opinions of some home inspectors were as to whether or not it was such a poor job that I should go ahead anyway.

I completely understand the point about things just breaking vs having a crystal ball. I wouldn’y have any problem attributing the repair bill toi plain old bad luck. But the issue, at least according to the plumber, was the improper design/configuration/installation of the plumbing…something I thought I was paying to get an expert opinion on.

PS – Good Lord, you all are a suspicious lot!

I think you may have a lawsuit, but it is not with your home inspector.

First, you need to find out which of the two main plumbing codes your plumber says were violated in the installation of the service. It is likely to be either the Uniform Plumbing Code or the International Plumbing Code.

Second, check with your jurisdiction (city, county or state) that enforces the codes and ensure that your plumber is referring to the code that your jurisdiction actually enforces.

Third, check with your authority having jurisdiction for a permit for the plumbing work that was done to your house. The permit will reflect the date(s) the work was performed and will show whether or not anyone from that jurisdiction followed up to inspect it.

If no one inspected the work, and there is a law/ordinance in effect that requires the work to be inspected, you may have a lawsuit against the city, county or state that is tasked to perform the inspections.

If there are permits required and one was not obtained, assuming that you can somehow identify the plumbing company that illegally installed the alleged errant plumbing, you may have the right to recover your damages from them.

As for your home inspector, he is NOT a code inspector and is not authorized to determine what meets or fails to meet code. These interpretations can only be made by the jurisdictions that enforce them.

Inspectors who have attempted to make such calls are often contradicted by contractors who later come out to make repairs…who are then contradicted by code inspectors who inspect the repairs. Only authorized code inspectors can make this call…not even the plumber who claims the work was out of code.

Good luck in your recovery efforts.

Do you have any pictures of the supposedly wrong waste piping and P-trap? That would help us visualize what you are complaining about.
As said in previous posts-Home inspectors are NOT code inspectors.
If the drain worked during the inspection and now 45 days later the sink is backing up I wonder what YOU put down the drain.

If the cost was 3 times the inspection fee to fix the problem I wonder how much you paid for the inspection. Did you go for the lowest cost inspector?

Mr. Moore -

No, I don’t have pictures. Nothing funny was put down the drain. The plumber snaked it and declared that the installation was the prob5em. I went with the inspector recommended by my realtor. Inspection was $235. Repair about $750.

Mr. Bushart -

Thanks and you’re probably right. Given the costs of litigation and the amount I’m out, it’s probably not worth the effort.

All -

Thanks for your responses. I just wanted to get a feel for what the experts thought of the situation.

Let me get this straight, Breen, you actually used a cheapo inspector that was referrred by the Realtor (the individual who gets paid only if you buy the house)?](*,) If so, the you and the Realtor are more responsible for your unfortunate mishap than the cheapo inspector. Sad but true.

Regardless of the fee paid and the other comments posted this inspection company followed poor complaint proceedures when dismissing the concerns of their client without any consideration for the problem. The least they could have done is revisit the property (partially for their own welfare) to examine the situation and determine the need for the client to even hire anyone. Improper P trap installation doesn’t really make any sense as a description for the problem being encountered. P traps are pretty much manufactured as installed so I have to assume the problem was with the drain piping and not the P trap. Regardless my opinion is that no it isn’t worth suing over it. But, I don’t think the company treats it’s customers in a proper manner either so you might consider reporting them to the BBB. You might find out later that the plumber should be reported to them as well.

Breen -

There are several things that immediately peek my antenna:

  1. The plumber is NOT the code official, AND a home inspector is not doing a code inspection. Many things in a home can be working BUT not meet current codes. The home inspectors checks operation.

  2. Even if something is NOT up to current code, it may have met code when built OR the city / county may have chose not to enforce this.

Three months ago I ran into a remodel that had put a bathroom around the electrical panel - I had to climb into the tub to get to the panel. The city had LET them do it OR overlooked it (it was permitted).

I can venture my opinion / the plumber can venture his, BUT the city or county is the ONLY party that can ENFORCE or NOT a code requirement.

  1. Therefore DID the sellers get a PERMIT to have the remodelling work done, AND if so where is the permit and final code inspection?

  2. If they didn’t get a permit, I’d be looking to my sellers for this…

  3. Your problems may be the sellers own doing.

  4. I also find it questionable the plumber took the parts with him, so the inspector or his expert can’t look at the problem.

  5. Last week, my neighbors kitchen sink backed up. She called a local plumber, and he told her the cast iron “P-Trap” was defective (clogging up inside) and needed to be replaced. He replaced it / for $645 (with the 10% senior citizen discount).

I figure there was about $25 worth of materials and he was there a grand total of about 2 hours and 10 minutes according to her.

Think about it.

Which is why I said you might want to consider reporting the plumber to the BBB too! It’s far to easy for contractors to throw the inspector under the bus as a part of their sales routine and it is a dishonest practice. After all no one knows the condition or functionality of a system at any point in time other than the individual who was present and examined it then.

BREEN! Take pics next time. No lawsuit if there is no picture. Who knows what it looked like?

Too little information to go on here. Can tell you one thing, most inspectors do not inspect to code, some bozos do though. Did your inspector or the agreement you signed explain to you that your inspector did in fact inspect to code?

How much plumbing did you replace? Drain and Vent piping? What type of piping was replaced? $750 for some under the sink repairs is beyond crazy.

45 days, no issues? You said the home was renovated, does that include the plumbing? P-Trap would clog if it was installed wrong and you put food down the drain or other stuff.


Do you have a right to be upset? Yes. Does that get you anywhere, IMO…no. Lessons learned? Yes. Next time do your research and hire the best inspector in town, you can find him trust me. Plumber, get 3 estimates.


  1. Maybe

a. Maybe
b. Maybe

Wow… in my neck of the woods to replace the p trap and drain assembly would of cost around $200 maybe $300 depending on materials used. The stack is a different matter.