Electrical Fire...

I had a call today to do a walk in pre-litigation inspection this coming Thursday. What it details is that after a home inspection by another inspector 9 months ago which said nothing about prior fire damage involving the Range Hood and it was not disclosed by the homeowner…the prior homeowner acknowledges the fact there was a fire at a later date but the HI is refusing to admit he missed it.
Now the new homeowner wants me to walk in and tell him, his Attorney and Engineer if this should have been caught by the prior HI. There is also a real sweet smell in that area that will not go away no matter how much cleaning is involved and he’s about to rip his cabinets out after the litigation.
My questions are:
1.) What would cause the lingering sweet smell? They are thinking its some cleaning solution that was used after the fire.
2.) With me being only 6 months in the HI business, should I tell him to just call someone else or just do my thing and hope for the best?
3.) If you guys advise me to go ahead and do the Inspection, how much should I expect to charge for such an inspection and what could possibly follow?

Thanks and sorry for the lenghty post…

Also, All of the info was told to me on the phone so I know nothing other than what I was told.

Tracy Echols

If you only have 6 months experience i would give back to someone else

What are you, visually, going to provide to the client that hasn’t been observed already? Are you going to knock holes in walls and do destructive testing? What do they expect of you? Some people think dead rats in the walls smell ‘sweet’. I would pass it on to someone more experienced.

I would likely pass on it. They want you to say that the previous inspection should have caught it but you have no idea what it looked like the day of the inspection. The cupboard above the stove may have been packed full of stuff so it could not be seen. The sweet smell would only be your opinion and that could get you in trouble if you tried to guess and were wrong. If you do decide to do it, make sure you only describe in detail what you saw at the time of inspection. Do not say anything about the other inspector and if you can’t figure out the sweet smell say just that. Rememder that a lawyer will be going over your inspection looking for holes and if he finds one you could be up s h i t creek.

I have been involved with litigation before and every time I had to prove my qualifications for the opposing side. This can be hard to do without documentation.

On a side note I could not testify to what someone else did or did not do unless I was present at the time they were doing whatever was being done.

One thing to remember is that what you say will be recorded so it may jump up and bite you later on.

Should you decide to do this my advice is to think long and be slow to speak when answering any questions.

The homeowner and his attorney are on a fishing expedition. They will keep calling home inspectors in until one says “Yes, this should have been documented in a HI report.” This helps beef up their case. They really don’t want your input or involvement unless you state the above and are willing to document it and go to court if necessary to support their case.

I personally would not want to say what should or should not be discovered and put in another persons HI report. Who knows what the circumstances were on the day of the inspection but the original inspector, which you are not.

I say run away from this one.

you should charge $2700.

You should make sure you have about $10 million worth of insurance.

Then go for it! :-0

Make sure your insurance company understands that you are not doing a home inspection here. The property is not for sale.
That simple point may exclude you from insurance coverage.

You can go look at it just like they can and take pictures and report what you see. You have no qualification to go beyond observation.

So ask yourself, why do they want me to go look at this and put something in writing?

Many of us do this all a time, but if you just became a home inspector you need to ask yourself how much experience you have to contribute to this endeavor. and why are they inviting you to the party?!

I would not touch that one myself.

I would recommend running from that like an ex-wife…just sayin…

Your playing with fire, and may get burned… Just saying.

Is MS a state that requires licensing/certification, education or to follow an SOP of any type? Did they provide you with the prior home inspection agreement? Did they provide you with the prior report? If there is no licensing/education required, what what makes you an expert (be ready and have that information available, it will be the FIRST thing you prove). No state SOP? Not much you can prove that the other inspector HAD to find that defect. Without the agreement available to you, how do you know what the inspector and the person that hired him agreed too? Maybe one of those walk and talk verbal non written, maybe it was a inspector asked to look at one specific item and this was in the close vicinity (kinda like you are asked to do, write your agreement to reflect this). If they didn’t give you the report, how would you know the condition at the time of inspection? Maybe the cabinets were full as suggested and he disclosed this in the report. Maybe the range hood wasn’t even installed yet. Maybe the entire kitchen wasn’t installed yet and the cabinet installers put a screw through the line.

One last thing. There are courses that you can take for being prepared to be an expert witness. One big item is that you are only an advocate for your report, not an adverse witness for the other report. All you can prove is what YOU saw on the date YOU saw it. You can quote thing like, SOP says this, my peers do this.

P.S. Make sure your agreement states what your fees are per hour, minimum amount of hours (I did 4 hours minimum), when does the clock start and end (drive time too, count? from?), what material do you need to provide?. If witnessing by phone, do you need to provide a notary to swear you in over the phone and forward the documents to the court? (consider that and make a fee for that as well). Last but not least, collect the 4 hour minimum UP FRONT!! It is standard for expert witnessing and the attorney will not bat an eye at $500 if you can help him. No one ever sued an attorney for $500 and came out a winner, lol.

Yes, MS is a License state with SOP’s to follow, etc…I have passed all the necassary tests and such and I enjoy this work and bust my butt for my client. See below for our SOP’s on interior…

10.1 The [FONT=ICHMHC+TimesNewRoman,BoldItalic,Times New Roman][size=1]inspector [/size][/FONT]shall:
**[FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1]A. [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMJD+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][size=1]inspect[/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1]:

  1. the walls, ceilings, and floors.

  2. the steps, stairways, and railings.

  3. the countertops and a [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMJD+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][size=1]representative number [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1]of [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMJD+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][size=1]installed [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1]cabinets

  4. a [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMJD+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][size=1]representative number [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1]of doors and windows.

  5. garage doors and garage door operators.
    [/size][/FONT]**10.2 The [FONT=ICHMHC+TimesNewRoman,BoldItalic,Times New Roman][size=1]inspector [/size][/FONT]is NOT required to:
    **[FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1]A. [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMJD+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][size=1]inspect[/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1]:

  6. the paint, wallpaper, and other finish treatments.

  7. the carpeting.

  8. the window treatments.

  9. the central vacuum [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMJD+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][size=1]systems[/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1].

  10. the [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMJD+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][size=1]household applicances[/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1]. 6. [/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMJD+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][size=1]recreational facilities[/size][/FONT][FONT=ICHMMG+TimesNewRoman,Times New Roman][size=1].

Was it visible? Where was it visible. Has the damage been further concealed/exposed/repaired? Most of us are standing in front of range hood and cabinet… not elevating or gaining different perspective.

If they answered these types of questions and it was found that the damage was in same un-changed condition as it was at the time of inspection… then it’s worth a trip and charge to see

and THEN you can answer the question " I can/can’t state that the damage would have been apparent in my opinion at the time of inspection"

I’m not sure of your state laws… but if you’re not familiar with liability as an expert or whether to ask to be indemnified as such, tread carefully.

I would decline to get involved. Litigation is time consuming and expensive for everyone involved in the case, including the witnesses.