I would like to get some input on how other inspectors would handle this complaint.
I inspected an older home (1955 Vintage) on April 3rd of this year. I found numerous problems with the home (Client bought the home anyway) including a water heater that was at the end of its life. I stated in my report that the water heater was serviceable on the day of inspection but was “at the end of useful life and that they should budget for a new water heater in the near future”. I received a call from the clients fiancee on July 12. She was irate and insulting. She stated that the water heater started leaking from the top a few days after they moved in around the May 1st. I explained to her that I was on vacation and did not have access to the report and that I would be back in town on Saturday July 14 and that I would like to come by and take a look at the problem. I asked her why she waited 2 1/2 months to notify me and she said she was trying to make a claim on a home warranty policy. She claims that the Insurance Co. had sent someone out to look at the water heater and they told her that the water heater was hooked up wrong and that the home inspector should have found that, and that they were denying the claim. I asked her what was hooked up wrong and she could not tell me and she refused to let me stop by to look at the problem.
When I arrived home from vacation I looked up the report and I had specified in the report very clearly that the water heater was old and may need replacing soon. I called my client and the fiancee answered the phone. I asked to speak to my client and she said I would have to talk to her. I informed her that I needed to talk to the client that hired me to do the inspection. She did have him call me back. This client followed me around on the inspection and I asked him did he remember us discussing the age of the water heater and HVAC systems and that they could go bad at any time and I asked him if he had read this on the report. He agreed that he had. I again asked could I come by to look at the problem to ascertain if I could have missed something. He refused and said they were waiting for a plumber to look at it and then I would hear from them. The conversation then turned suddenly somewhat threatening and he stated that he was too mad to deal with me and he did not know what he would do if he had to deal with me and told me I would have to talk to his fiancee.
The contract that he signed states that he should have notified me within 10 days of finding the problem and it also states that I have the right to do a reinspection of the problem before any work is done to correct the problem.
I say take the initiative and write a quick letter to the client. Enclose a copy of the contract with the appropriate areas highlighted as well as any pertinent parts of the inspection report, also highlighted. I wouldn’t necessarily send it return receipt, but I would send it priority with delivery confirmation. Explain that it would be best if any further communications be in writing to avoid the potential for further misunderstanding.
Offer to HELP them fight the insurance company. I’ve done it about once a year, all successful. I always tell my Clients that “if they are having something remodeled, renovated, or replaced, and are not comfortable with the price quote, or if they are having a problem with their insurance company, to give me a call. I’ll go to bat for them.”
That’s how you turn the proverbial lemons into lemonade. The client is simply looking for help. If you can help him, you’ll win a huge word-of-mouth referral. If not, you’ll probably spend a great deal more time and money in just dealing with it.
Offer to stop by at the same time as the plumber - that way you can hear from the horse’s mouth if you missed anything. How can it be hooked up wrong? Hasn’t there been someone living in this house previously? Wouldn’t it be noticed if it was not working?
The denial from the warranty company sounds fishy, and you’re just the man to help work it out!
Andrew is right. How can the water heater be hooked up wrong so that it would contribute to the tank leaking? Sounds like maybe the real estate agent who should have provided the warranty coverage maybe didn’t really buy the policy the buyer thought was in place.
Agree with everything said above. Additionally, when you are confident that you reported everything correctly, as it seems you did, I see no reason to re-visit the property, especially if the client has a hostile attitude.
This illustrates the reason to take lots of photos during the inspection as they can often save you time and unnecessary trips.
I don’t think that’s the case. Insurance companies love to deny claims because a great majority of people won’t question them. I always do, especially if a Client is involved. “Pre-existing conditions” and similar phrases are bogus code phrases for “We don’t care. We’re not paying.” I’ve always found that insurance companes become very practical and pay claims very quickly upon writing a short letter to the State Insurance Commissioner. You wanna see a claim paid fast, overnight FedEx even? Write a letter to the SIC and send a copy to the insurance company. Don’t be afraid to HELP your Clients, even if they seem hostile. They seem hostile because no one is HELPing them, and the lack of HELP is costing them money and time, and time is money. A simple “I can HELP you fight your insurance company if you’ll let me” usually defeats any hostility.
Re the “incorrect install”, do you have a pic of the water heater? These days I *always *take a hi-res wide angle pics of the WH, furnace, air-handler if separate, and electrical panels w/ an w/o the dead fronts. 1) I can review then when writing the report. 2) Often, if you optimize them in Photoshop, you can see more than you did on-site 3) I can review them if a client has questions 4) I can post them here is I have questions, need suggestions for report wording, etc.
I guess re-visiting the property is simply that extra level of customer service that I am famous for in my businesses. I like working with people, and a face-to-face meeting is always more cordial than fighting over the telephone or by email, as many of us who attended the Toronto convention can attest. That extra level of customer service gets me many, many referrals.
I only know of one warranty company that will not try to get out of a claim at any cost.
I have recently had a knock down-drag out with a warranty company on my daughters house. They didn’t know who they were talking to and made all kinds of bogus reasons the unit was not covered.
Do as Russel says and help in the fight.
If the client is still to mad to deal with, quit your verbal conversation (you’ve said too much already). Get their complaint in writing and respond with your supporting documentation (as others have posted).
I agree with most posts above; but have not seen mention of realtors. My experience is most unhappy clients will first go to their realtor. This, of course, is the proverbial “hand that feeds you.” Thus, a letter to the buyers’ and sellers’ agents and brokers stating your side and your repeated attempts to rectify the situation may save you from non-referrals from these agencies.
As far as “hooked up wrong” water heaters, I’ve seen a bunch of them and yes, they will still “work”. Here’s a few examples:
cold supply hooked up to hot discharge nipple and vica versa.
T&P plugged or capped off.
T&P piped to somewhere else.
no or inadequate venting.
no shutoff on the cold water side.
shutoff valve on the hot water side only or both.
and many, many more unfortunately