Handling Complaints

I’m very interested in how we handle complaints from clients or their agents.

What was your latest complaint? What happened? How did you resolve the problem?

I appreciate your time. Thanks.

Ben Gromicko

We charge extra for complaints :slight_smile:

I always reattend the property and deal with the client face to face and have them tell me what the concerns are. This approach has been very satisfactory. It averts any hostilies or demands. I usually offer to refund the inspection fee, thus far I have never had to return an inspection fee. All by being nice and being of service. No run arounds. The buck stops with me.

Particular concern?

Give me a call if you need some ideas.

I answer them immediatly with a phone call and set up a time at their convience and make sure I get there early never late .
So far it has been concerns they have no client has ever been disatisfied that I know of .
Some agents well that a different story . Some are unhappy all the time.


I’ll start.

I had a complaint a couple weeks ago. The client was inflamed because they just recently hired an HVAC professional to service their heating system. A cracked heat exchanger was discovered. They also hired a duct cleaning company, and asbestos was found inside a closet. They called me, I reviewed the inspection report, photos, SOP, and agreement. In the report I recommended that the heating system needed service and further evaluation by a professional prior to closing. And I also informed them that asbestos is beyond the scope. Unfortunately, my client used my report to negotiate for some money instead of following my recommendations. My client hired professionals after they purchased the house. I was able to explain to them about the scope of a home inspection and the Standards of Practice, and the importance of following recommendations of the report prior to closing. However, the client and agent were not satisfied, I was informed that they would intentionally spread bad news about my unprofessional service. Nothing I could say would satisfy them. Even if I paid for a new heater and asbestos removal, it would just be proof to them that I was negligent. Summary: No cash payment, about one hour of time in communication, unsatisfied client, unsatisfied agent, bad mouthing.

My partner inspected a million dollar house. It took all day. There were about 70 windows. There was about 3 square inches of wood rot on a sill board that was discovered by the client when gardening. We decided to quickly offer to pay for the repair of the wood rot, instead of explaining about “representative number of windows” and windows behind dense vegetation being restricted from close inspection. It was a quick and easy solution that seemed to satisfy the client. Summary: Small cash payment, little time wasted, client and agent satisfied.

Ben Gromicko

Good point Ben.

Ben I think you did well some people go through life never being happy and then there are others that are so great to deal with .
Please do not loose any sleep If you keep many clients happy you will be Happy unfortunately one can upset a person for a few days.
Thanks for your post you have helped many of us for our future complaints .
… Cookie

The agent is just trying to cover their own butt with their client. It is easier for them to jump onto the side of the angry client than to join with you. Sounds like you did everything possible short of confessing to the Lindberge kidnapping and it did not have any effect. You told them to bring in a professional for the furnace, which they did, albeit after the closing, so they have no one to blame but themselves. Move on, learn from it what you can. One good thing comes from these encounters…our “antenna” gets more sensitive at detecting buttholes.

This and Roy’s approach are best and it also applies to other industries. People want to feel that they matter. A simple visit to the home could diffuse most situations of negligence after all we are human. No sense in compounding the problem.

I had a window that was blocked by a dresser during the inspection. I recommended to my clients that they either hire me to come back to there final walk through to check the window or they could do it them selves but I explained my limitations to them and blah blah blah. After they bought the home they realized the window had a blown seal. They called and I went over to the house with my report and pictures showing them that the window was not accessible to inspect at that time. The client laughed and said oh I’m sorry did you think we were complaining about your service. You were great we just wanted to tell you that you were right and we should have had you come back to the final walk through. I ate dinner with them had some cocktails and a few laughs. The moral is you never know how the situation will truly be until you see them in person. We now get together every couple of months and have diner and they have become friends of ours.

Like Raymond Wand, my partner and I have a policy of going back to the property and meeting the client face to face. It is true that by meeting them in person, apparent problems and tensions dissolve into nothing right there. But we don’t always re-inspect - we calculate the cost.

The company policy of returning to the property costs - money, time, effort. Do you take the time to calculate the cost of re-inspecting?

Dan had a complaint about something at a house. I can’t remember the problem, but the cost of repair was about $450. We decided to meet the client at the property to take a look. Well, the appointment was scheduled for 5:30pm (rush hour). After riding in the van with Dan for about 20 minutes, I realized that we’re actually losing money. We each average about $100 per hour doing a full home inspection. With this problem, there are two inspectors (Dan and myself), each spending about 3 hours performing a re-inspection on a complaint. That’s $600 dollars we could be making doing another home inspection, or marketing, or something else productive. And after re-inspecting, we may come to the conclusion that we need to pay for the cost of repair. A potential cost of $1050. And I’m sitting in traffic, no family time, no hot dinner, and I’m losing money as the clock ticks by. I turned to Dan and said, let’s go home, and mail a check for $350 to the clients with the complaint. And move on.

Is it always worth going out and re-inspecting a problem that has arisen? Or do you make any calculations of the personal cost (your time, your effort) versus the monetary cost of sending a check to the complaining client?

I figure its the cost of doing business, that is returning to investigat a complaint. I am a sole proprieter and likely not as busy as you, so I don’t sweat returning. Usually I can accomodate the appointment within one or two biz days. The realtors have always liked my ability to respond quickly and thats a good reflection on them for recommending me the way I see it.


I do as Mark does. A good inspector should also be a good applied Psychologist. Get to know the client, and get them to trust you. You work for them and owe them that. But, NEVER betray that trust.

I, up front, tell the clients that my job is to EDUCATE them about the property, and about houses in general. If they want to use the report to negotiate or reduce the price, that is for their lawyer or Realtor to do, not them.

Have Realtors who complain and tell their buyers that the house is being sold “as is” and that they don’t need an inspection. I counter with, “But you don’t know what is, is. I am here to tell you”.

I also look my client, right in the eye, and make them promise me that they will read the WHOLE report and call me if they have ANY questions (I even have that part in the report). So, if there is any problems, I can always (jokingly) tell them that they broke their promise to me and I made them promise so that I could helps them.

Get them to trust you. Life is way simpler, that way.

I tell my clients the same thing. Call me post inspection if they don’t understand something, or if they feel I missed something, before moving in or after moving in. I am also sure to tell them post inspection help is part of the service. Now if I could only get them to call with questions! :mrgreen: :smiley:

I don’t know how many times I have gotten, what I expected to be, THE CALL. But, so far, all but 3 have been them telling me about some problem and asking for advice, a contractor referall or some other thing, NOT having to do with me screwing up.

Gotta love it.

I once had a complaint about a roof leak that happened over 300 days after my inspection. In short, I didn’t pay for the repair. Most complaints happen within the first month or two after my clients move into the house.

When do you get complaints about an inspection? Do most complaints come within the first month that the buyer moves into the house? 3 months after your inspection? 6 months?


In my experience its 2-3 months after the inspection. Most recently a purchaser who was not present for the inspection. He subsequently moved in and put the house up for sale. A purchaser came along and put an offer in conditional upon inspection. The purchasers inspector indicated the roof was in need of replacement and the chimney flashing was in need of repair. The vendor called me and questioned my earlier report for him and stated that the purchaser was asking for $5K off the list price to replace the shingles and chimney flashing.

I returned to the property within 20 minutes as it was just down the road. I explained to the vendor my position and told him I would gladly refund his fee. He said no that would not be necessary and that he would want me to do another inspection once the building was sold. I think he told the purchaser to take a hike, because he believed me over the other inspector. I haven’t heard from him since. I have also inspected this same house 4 times over the last 5 years and it is a historical one room school house.

I guess it depends on the circumstances but thus far I have been lucky I guess. (touch wood)

I got a call recently about an inspection that I performed on Sept. 5th. The woman moved a few days ago. Had the air conditioner on all night - it was very hot. In the morning she went into the bathroom, and the plaster ceiling above the shower fell and was lying in the tub in pieces. Water was leaking out of the ceiling. She immediately called her agent, who was very dissapointed in the inspection service, and told her to call the home inspector immediately because neither one could figure out what was going on.

I determined that the cost of repair was a few hundred dollars, maybe $500. I assumed it would take me about 1 1/2 hours to re-inspect and diagnose. At my rate of $100 per hour, that’s $150 cost for my time and effort. I knew that my 90-day warranty that I include with my inspection service would not cover water damage; so I couldn’t utilize that. It was cost effective for me to return to the property and evaluate the problem in person.

The air handler in the attic was leaking. The water catch pan underneath was overflowing and not draining. The condensate leak caused the damage.

In my report I wrote many things in my favor, including but not limited to recommending service, inspection and further evaluation of the air conditioning system; and the system had not been serviced for 3 years; and it was over 21 years old and at the end of its service life; etc.

I found out that the client and agent did not negotiate for anything to be done prior to closing or purchasing the property. None of my recommendations were followed.

I explained all this to the client, and I wrote a letter to the agent. I’ve attached the letter to this post; I thought you may like to read it. (I’ve never attached anything to a post before - so I hope it works). My intention is to share how I handle complaints, so that we can learn from each other, and protective businesses as a result.

A good home inspector always tries to emphasize that taking care of small problems will keep the homeowner from having to deal with big problems that result from not taking care of the small problems. I always try to take care of complaints when they are small rather than having to deal with big issues later. It seems that oftentimes the homeowner just wants someone to listen to a complaint and offer recommendations. That is as much a part of my business as writing reports or doing inspections. It is not money or time wasted if it allays a lawsuit or lousy reputation. My opinion—its just how I do business.