Client complaint

I had a client call me and complain today. I did an inspection on her home 2 months ago. She said she plugged her radio and coffee maker into a receptacle outlet in the kitchen. The new radio died (fried) and the coffee maker steamed and smelt burnt. There was no GFCI in the breaker panel or receptacles for the kitchen. I told her to call an electrician. She isnt very happy. Any suggestions?

Sounds like an open neutral that an electrician would need to track down and fix. I’m assuming this wasn’t the first time she used the receptacles.


Did you schedule a visit to check it out while sparky is there?

I fail to see how this is remotely your problem two months down the road.
Tell her to call an electrician.

I guess she’s mad at you because you don’t use a crystal ball when you inspect? She needs to go pound sand.

Senice you are from BC area.,

I have a hunch { rough idea } the kitchen have MWBC { multiwire branch circuit } and somehow the netural went bad and cause the voltage get unbalanced.

That person need to get ahold of electrician to trobleshooting that one.


IMO, It doesn’t hurt to offer some free advice even 2 years after the inspection, it’s good PR. She does need an electrician. Talk is cheap, though. :stuck_out_tongue:
Assuming it’s a typical split duplex outlet, the upper and lower receptacles would be on separate circuits, but they may be sharing a neutral, right?

Jo0hn Kogel

I had a radio like that once. :smiley:

Lexapro might make her Happy, you might suggest that. :wink:

Maybe some of this?:

[quote=“jkogel, post:7, topic:31908”]

IMO, It doesn’t hurt to offer some free advice even 2 years after the inspection, it’s good PR. She does need an electrician. Talk is cheap, though. :stuck_out_tongue:
Oh I agree. I guess I took it that she was mad at Mark for not catching it before it happened.
I am all for good PR, but ultimately this is not Mark’s fault.

Fair enough. Even if she’d never used that outlet, Mark tested it, top and bottom, and it was ok, right? :stuck_out_tongue:

BTW, for BC inspectors, the new code allows for 20A kitchen outlets which are not split, and you can now have two, but only two adjacent outlets on the same #12 conductor.
The 15A split duplex circuits are still allowed as well, and i don’t know which uses less copp$$er. Seeing mostly 20A being installed.

John Kogel

I talked to an electrician today and he said it was likely an open neutral as well, he will be going out to the home. I pull a face plate(s) off kitchen receptacles to ensure top and bottom are wired on seperate circuits. There was no open circuit on any of the receptacles I tested on the day of the inspection. So how does an open neutral happen? A white conductor splice/connection comes apart all by itself? Was this condition most likely present on the day of the inspection? The only electrical mods she has made since the inspection is, her hubby added a GFCI receptacle in the bathroom and installed a new dishwasher.

You may have found the problem, and have also been cleared from any responsibility. :slight_smile:

Actually… the keyword is ‘hubby’.


Sounds like this may be the source of the problem!! Did Hubby, most likely NOT an electrician, try to steal a circuit for the dishwasher from a split receptacle set (2 allowed per 14-3 circuit) and screw up the neutral or do a poor Marr/Marette connection for the neutral that eventually let go?

Did a 12 year old semi-detached inspection a few years ago. The electrical panel was close to perfect with all wires arranged in parallel, plainly labbeled, etc…you know, the one you find every few years that you want to take a picture of as an example of really good work!

So I figured this place should be a breeze electrically until I started testing the kitchen counter receptacles. There were 3 but #'s 1 & 3 were not split…just standard 120 V recepts. Stood back and looked…and then it hit me. These were starter semis and did not have dishwashers as part of the original package. This unit had a dishwasher installed in front of #3 recept. Took the cover off #3 recept and found that someone (the electrician that lived in the other semi !!!) had stolen a circuit from the split recepts to feed the dishwasher. This saved 4-6 hours of time to run a new dedicated circuit from the panel. Since #1 & 3 recepts were on the same 14-3 circuit, #1 was also lost as a split receptacle.

So… a licensed electrician took something that was legal/required and altered it to not meet codes in order to save some time!!! This was the last inspection of that week done late on Friday…I get a call from the electrician early Sunday evening!! He firstly asks if I was a licensed electrician to which I said “No”. He begins to berate me for calling something like this “not being an electrician”, to which I stopped him and replied “Buddy, do you know that I have been twice asked to join the local Electrical Inspectors Association , once by the Chief Electrical Inspector and once by a Field Inspector that I had the chance to do a presentation with to the local Realtors Association”. (many years ago)

That stopped him in his tracks and then I quoted the code on these items from memory…to which he asked “Do you have your code book open in front of you?” “No”, I said… Silence for a few seconds until he said “Well, since you’re going to report me, I might as well give you my license # now!” I told him I would not report him but would expect that item to be corrected (for free) by the closing date!!

I agree with everyone on the dishwasher theory. Nice hubby.

Though it is our reaction to go tell her to “pound sand”, you should set up a protocol for answering clients complaints and stick to it.

First of all you should have the complaint put in writing and submitted to you (as required in your inspection agreement).

Next you should set up an appointment to go back to the house and reinspect the condition (as required in your inspection agreement).

You should respond to your client in writing addressing only the issues in the complaint. Address each issue paragraph by paragraph until you’re done. Do not volunteer additional information that is unnecessary.

Any issues that the client addresses that are outside the scope of home inspection should have attached copies of your SOP, inspection report, inspection agreement etc. explaining why they are not pertinent.

It is highly recommended that if the opportunity presents itself, you attend the diagnostic inspection of the electrician or any other contractor involved.

We can all sit back here and speculate that you did a good job and inspected everything properly. We can say that your client is a crackpot and has un-realistic expectations. We can blame the husband for installing a dishwasher incorrectly. But, the fact of the matter is we have no evidence of anything and it is all speculative.

If you don’t follow the above procedure there is a possibility that if you tell the client to just go find an electrician and leave it at that, you may find yourself holding a letter from her attorney sent to you by certified mail.

There is a possibility that you missed something. Like two neutral wires from different power legs. It could be a wire nut hidden from view or right there in front of you on the neutral busbar.

There is a high probability that the electrician will find something and without knowing the background in question blurt out the old “your inspector should have found this” scenario!

By reinspecting the situation you are responding to the clients wants and needs as well as giving yourself the opportunity to further document existing conditions. You will have the photographic proof of what caused the condition before the electrician gets his wire cutters out and corrects the situation. There’s no way to prove after the fact what was there.

That letter from the lawyer may not show up for over a year from now. Not until after an associate at work relates a story about her friend who had a brother-in-law whose cousin had the same situation and sued their home inspector and won a lot of money.

Just my thoughts and humble opinion.

The electrical inspection appeared to be a clean original install except for GFCI receptacle problems in bathroom and exterior. David, is right and I thank you for your advice.