So a bit of a story here and i will try to offer as much onfortmatiln as possible; I have heard from a client this morning who claims “10’s of thousands of dollars” in damage that was not reported during inspection. I performed inspection in 8/2018 and client purchased home in 9/2018. She says that the mold in the crawlspace is terrible and needs fixed and she believes it may be in the walls, etc. And I need to send ‘her’ my insurance policy, to forward to her attorney, to make a claim.
A few thoughts I’ve had that I would like some feedback on, please.
In our pre-inspection agreement, it states that client must notify us in writing within 7 days of taking notice of said defect: which clearly she has not, it’s been well over a year and she has been meeting with contractors and such since 5/2019. First I’ve heard of it was this morning in 2/2020.
I feel that I should be communicating with her attorney and not her directly at this point, right? I don’t want to offer my insurance information to just any person that asks for it. Maybe I’m wrong.
I am not a mold inspector and have never claimed to be. It states very clearly in our pre-inspection agreement that mold will not be included in my inspection.
Finally, the crawlspace was not readily accessible at the time of inspection and that is what is in the report. The crawlspace was damp, small, and had various debris scattered throughout making it nearly impossible to inspect. All of this is noted in the report and was talked about at length during our post-inspection walkthrough.
I’ve done nearly 200 inspections and have not yet had this dreaded conversation. First time for everything, right? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Sounds like you reported correctly and that they are having issues outside standards of practice. If they want your insurance information, I would be contacting insurer and asking how they recommend handling. Sounds like merit less claim… you have a signed agreement?
Thank you for your replies. Yes, dampness was reported and a general “install 6 mil or heavier vapor barrier” was recommended. Further, in the case of grounds, because the property is located on a hillside I called for the consideration of installing a French drain on the uphill side. I do have a signed agreement, which is basically the standard NACHI template with very slight alterations. And I did not provide her with a printed copy of the SOP but I always include a link to it in the pre-inspection agreement.
Hate to say it, but it sounds like you were prescribing repairs for things that may or may not correct the issue(s) at hand. French drain and a vapor barrier? What exactly is that going to fix? What did your report say exactly? Who cares what was talked about at length during the inspection, what good is that going to do you now? What is documented in your report is all that matters. Did you recommend that crawlspace be made accessible or further evaluated by someone that could assess it (during her inspection contingency period)? So if you see something that resembles mold you don’t let your client know because your agreement disclaims it? What about a conducive condition to mold like a small, “damp”, crawlspace?
As long as you have that signed inspection agreement, her attorney is likely to tell her she has little to no recourse. You stated that you are not a mold inspector. Your service agreement also likely expires in 1 year, mold can grow in 48 hours, and it was in a location that you disclaimed you could not access.
If you have E&O insurance you need to notify and forward everything to them and they’ll issue you a denial letter to provide her.
Josh, not sure what I said that makes you feel that I was aware of any mold and was withholding that information. I am of the belief that virtually any house will benefit from a vapor barrier in the crawl and nearly all houses in my mountainous region will benefit from well-placed French drains. These were not necessarily prescriptions for exclusively mold, instead are components of a long-term maintenance strategy. Am I wrong to suggest easy and relatively cheap things to my clients that will likely save them money of the course of their ownership?
Patrick, thank you. These are the ‘next steps’ I needed to know. Much to consider (and reconsider) here in light of this conversation.
DO NOT GIVE YOUR INSURANCE CONTACT INFORMATION! If you have E&O insurance and the client or their attorney contacts them directly the insurance company will want to make the situation disappear quickly and MAY send a payment to them without having to inform you…then send you an invoice for your deductible and then it gets messy…Personally, I would consider contacting Joe Ferry if this goes to the next level.
I don’t know about that. If he is not signed up before the inspection he will not be covered & perhaps charged a small fortune for the service.
IMO DO NOT respond to the client & contact your E&O provider. Let them do their job & determine what the next move should be.
Looks like the chances are good for a “letter of denial of liability” due to your signed agreement with limitations, no notice for over one year. Just looking for big pockets to go after & blame you.
Thank you all for the responses. Fingers crossed this doesn’t become a big ordeal. Looking forward, I will considering contacting Joe Ferry and see what services he offers in the case this ever happens again.
Brian, didn’t you say you used an InterNACHI agreemnt template? Did it not have this paragraph below? I thought I got it from InterNACHI and use it in my agreemnt proposals but either way this paragraph in your agreemnt would limit your liability to the amount of the inspection fee that was paid by the client. See paragraph below that all inspectors should use in their agreemnt proposals:
IV. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
BY SIGNING THIS AGREEMENT, CLIENT ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THE INSPECTION FEE PAID TO THE INSPECTOR IS NOMINAL GIVEN THE RISK OF LIABILITY ASSOCIATED WITH PERFORMING HOME INSPECTIONS IF LIABILITY COULD NOT BE LIMITED. CLIENT ACKNOWLEDGES THAT WITHOUT THE ABILITY TO LIMIT LIABILITY, THE INSPECTOR WOULD BE FORCED TO CHARGE CLIENT MUCH MORE THAN THE INSPECTION FEE FOR THE INSPECTORS SERVICES. CLIENT ACKNOWLEDGES BEING GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE THIS AGREEMENT REVIEWED BY COUNSEL OF HIS OR HER OWN CHOOSING AND FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGES THE OPPORTUNITY OF HIRING A DIFFERENT INSPECTOR TO PERFORM THE INSPECTION. BY SIGNING THIS AGREEMENT, CLIENT AGREES TO LIABILITY BEING LIMITED TO THE AMOUNT OF THE INSPECTION FEE PAID BY THE CLIENT AND THAT ANY CLAIMS/ LEGAL ACTION MUST OCCUR WITHIN 2 YEARS FROM THE DATE OF THE INSPECTION.
I’ve been told that a judge will sometimes consider that inadequate.
Anyway, she doesn’t know that it’s mold or she would have included the results of mold sampling and laboratory analysis. It might be dirt. Some people make a habit out of trying to pry money out of other people.
Follow Chuck’s advice.
Say and provide nothing to your former client from this point on, notify your insurance carrier of the unspecified claim that has been made against you, and wait for and follow your insurance carrier’s instructions. Be mindful of the fact that there are certain “landmines” in your E&O policy that could allow your insurer to exclude coverage under certain conditions (such as claims against you for breach of contract, making it unwise for you to bring contract language into the discussion at this point) so carefully read your policy and ensure that you are and remain in full compliance at all times. Good luck.