Back to Home inspection didn’t find costly mould Home inspection didn’t find costly mould
July 22, 2011
Jeff Timmons has spent about $5,000 to fix up a guest bathroom in the home he purchased this year. It wasn’t a repair he wanted to do.
“We gutted the entire bathroom to the studs. Mould had infiltrated behind the tub. Everything had to come out.”
Nasty surprises are familiar to home buyers. But Timmons had paid for a pre-purchase inspection by Carson Dunlop & Associates Ltd., a firm known for high-quality work since 1978.
When he complained, he was given a refund of the home inspection fee (about $550). But he didn’t get any help paying for the repairs.
“A home inspection is a risk mitigation tool. It can reduce the risk involved in buying a home, but cannot eliminate it,” says Graham Clarke, the firm’s vice-president of engineering.
“Occasionally, home buyers will discover issues that were not revealed by a home inspection. There is still value in the home inspection, despite the fact that it is not a warranty on the home.”
Disclosure: I hired Carson Dunlop when we bought our house in 1986 and followed the inspector as he checked the major components.
He was clear about the limits of his work. For example, he couldn’t check the flat roof because it was too high (three floors above the street).
“When our inspection is limited in this way, we note it in the report,” Clarke said. “It’s important for our clients to understand the reliability of the information we provide to them.”
Other limitations include roofs covered with snow, garages and basements full of storage, sealed attic access hatches, furniture that can’t be moved and air conditioners that can’t be operated in the winter.
In Timmons’ case, there was no limitation on inspecting the bathrooms. He’d agreed to pay the asking price on his resale home after getting an excellent report.
He moved into the house three months after the inspection and found a flaw a few weeks later, while cleaning the guest bathroom.
“I noticed one of the walls wasn’t stable. It was obviously bulging out of the norm,” he says.
“When I removed one tile, a bunch came off. The wall had disintegrated behind the tile due to water damage. There were large amounts of mould. It was awful.”
Timmons hadn’t followed the inspector into the bathroom. Still, he thought the inspector should have noticed the bulge while inspecting the walls.
Clarke concluded the inspector wasn’t at fault after reviewing the complaint.
“We looked at photos of the area taken during the inspection. It can be tough to tell from a photo, admittedly, but there was no evidence of a bulge,” he said.
“Mr. Timmons felt the bulge was significant enough that it would have been discovered by our inspector if he had inspected the tub.
“Our take: Since we were comfortable that the inspector had inspected the bathtub enclosure back in January, the bulge could not have been as significant as it apparently was several months later.”
While agreeing to a refund of the inspection fee, Clarke insisted the client sign a full and final release. This meant he couldn’t go back to complain about other issues that may have missed.
If you’re getting a home inspection, it’s a good idea to follow the inspector the entire time. Take your own photos. Read the limitations and exclusions before you begin.
Finally, remember you may have to go to court to get reimbursed for repairs if you find problems you think the inspector has missed.
Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at email@example.com.