Electrical issues on every inspection

Hello fellow inspectors. My question is on how to deal with electrical issues and requirements. After all we are not code inspectors. I have a hard time telling clients that they need to install AFCI where they are recommended or required. Great deal of money involved. I have only found one panel where AFCI was installed. Therefore I have recommended having a certified electrician evaluate the electrical system on every report I have completed. How do you all handle this?

If it is an item that was required at the time of construction and missing thats one thing but if the house is older say a 1950s home AFCI were not a thing. On the newer house where they should have been installed I would simply note that they are missing and recommend instillation. On the older home, in your state are you required to bring everything up to current code?

You can recommend, never require anything that’s not present.

Sounds like you are recommending an upgrade to the present system.
Your job is to evaluate that what is present meets it’s intended purpose & is safe.


What he said!


So would it be safe to day, recommend adding AFCI as they have saved 1000s of homes and lives from fires.

“During any future up grading of the electrical system or for added safety, we recommend installing GFCI and AFCI outlets in all appropriate areas to further reduce shock and/or short hazards. Exterior outlets should be weather-protected types. Appliances with three prong plugs need to use a grounded outlet for proper safety.”


To start, it’s not your job to tell them what they ‘need’! You have absolutely no authority. Your authority comes from the fact that you have the ear of the person that signs the check at closing. They can sign it or not based upon the contents of your report.

Also it sounds like your expecting an AFCI in every panel. Well no one is required to upgrade anything that wasn’t a code requirement at the time of installation. And you don’t know what that code was because the Code was what the AHJ decided it would be, and they are not always around any more.

No one is ‘required’ to fix anything you call out. They have the option to negotiate the terms of the purchase agreement or walk away.

(Sorry if I was redundant. I did not read any replies to your post).

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Where is this defined? How does a home inspector determine what is “safe” and what is not in 100 year old house?

You need to change that inspection/reporting style.


It would be safer to say just what you see that is there.

If your state requires that you observe and report all AFCI presents, do as your told.
Talking about stuff that does not apply to the vintage of the house just opens you up to argument, conflict with REA’s, and liability. You are responsible for what you say, so it might be best to say as little in your report as possible about things that do not apply.

When I do a walk-thru with clients after the inspection, I ask about their concerns and address them. If they have concerns about anything, I offer suggestions to improve the house after they own it.

Once you experience the nightmare of your client who demands anything and everything in your report to be addressed, You will likely reconsider packing your report to try and justify your fee to your client. You already got the job. There is no reason to impress anyone further.

There are two types of clients; Those that owned a house before who knows what they want and need based upon past experience (and don’t want to go there again), and first time buyers that have no clue and will take everything you write as a major issue. In my experience the first group becomes annoyed with redundant minor issues and the second becomes overwhelmed from the buying experience and will just walk away for no reason.

Just my perspective…


Don’t care the property age. I think you read too much into it.
Trip hazard, inoperative GFCI, exposed wiring, boogers on the windowsill, etc.

I did not… many “CMI’s” and otherwise “expert” HI’s claim “it was not required at the time of the construction”, we’re not code inspectors, blah blah… therefore I don’t put it in the report. So, again, I ask… anyone… where do you take the “safety” standards from. The fact is, most state’s SOP are very general and do not specifically address or define all safety concerns like AFCI… they just say “safe” What does that mean? Is the house safe without AFCI? safe in old house but not in new house? Is the house “safe” without supplemental grounding electrode? is it safe because it has not burned down yet?

The answer to this question will help future inspectors. I already know the answer for myself… I do, however, want others to hear it from others, especially the “experts” :slight_smile:

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I was taking to Roy on the phone this morning.
We were havin’ fun, saying:
OMG! The home is missing grab bars in the tub & shower, no fire extinguishers present, the boogers on the windowsill tasted bitter!

Well I’m no expert and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn last night.

IMO as home inspectors we can and are obligated to call out safety defects as we see fit. If I see a receptacle in a bathroom of a house that was built in 1910 without a GFCI devise, I’m calling it out as a safety defect, same goes for the kitchen, but exterior, garage, unfinished areas of basement I put a note recommending as a future upgrade to install GFCI devices.

and regardless of the age of the house I also call out smoke detectors and always recommend Ionization & photo-electric type detectors be installed in appropriate locations.

As for AFCI devises or the lack there of, I test them if they are present but that is the extent of it.

No state SOPs that I’m aware of use the word “safe.” The term they use is “material defect.”

A material defect is a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people.

Lack of stair handrails poses an unreasonable risk. I do not call out handrails that aren’t returned to the wall. I call out 50s bathrooms without outlets, because the result will often be extension cords out of light fixtures. While this is an upgrade it can be said to have a significant adverse impact on the value of the property. I do not call out entry half-baths without outlets because it is code without purpose to my mind. Others will disagree.

The OP needs to distinguish between material defects and upgrades and providing a reasonable report for his clients while following the SOP.


You have not answered the question… you just listed what you call out, that does not help explain what “safe” is.

Again, I ask, what do you call those things that you do, the list you gave of, based on? how did you decide to call out GFCI? is this some sort of standard? someone gave you this list? someone taught you the list? NACHI list? what is it :smiley: Where do I get this secret list that seems to vary from inspector to inspector :slight_smile: Like Roy & Marc, they call out bitter boogers on the sill, go figure!

and why is AFCI not part of the list you call out?

So you have created your own list of what is unsafe (or as you call it, material defect) and what is not, based on your own opinion… fair enough as long as you admit it’s “my list”.

Here is New York SOP:
Section 197-5.3 Minimum Requirements

(b) Home inspectors shall report on those systems and components observed that, in the professional opinion of the home inspector, are deficient, not functioning properly and/or unsafe.

This is from your own state, Maryland:

  1. These standards of practice set forth in this chapter:

(b) Apply to a visual inspection of the readily accessible areas of the included items, components, and systems are performing their intended function or are determined to be significantly deficient.

  1. Significantly deficient” means to be unsafe or not functioning as designed or intended.

Afternoon, Gordon. Hope this post finds you well.

I deal with miswired electrical issues at almost every home I inspect. I will list the defect/deficiency and remedy/ies. I report more than most inspectors I believe.
Think Paint with a wide brush. Use wide brush strokes when you can reporting. Saves time.

Common electrical system miswiring defects.
1: AFCI or lack thereof.
Observation: Electrical.
Missing AFCI protection.
Recommend: A licensed electrical contractor install AFCI protection on/for required lighting branch circuits.
Act on recommended referrals.
Missing GFCI protection.
Recommend: A licensed electrical contractor install GFCI receptacles above kitchen counters and where required.
Act on recommended referrals.
Limitations: Panel covers: Disconnect covers are not removed by the building inspector.
Circuit labels. The accuracy of the circuit index (labels) was not verified.
System ground. Quality of ground not determined.

I hope you get the idea.
Feel free to email or call if you do not.

Best regards.

As I said, "No state SOPs that I’m aware of use the word “safe.”