Homeinspector ordered to pay $18,645 to buyer http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2013/2013onsc5561/2013onsc5561.html
An Ontario case, [FONT=“PT Sans”]Rimmerv. Building Insights Inc.](http://canlii.ca/t/g0jc1), may give some comfort to potentialbuyers – but it probably keeps home inspectors awake at night. It features ahome inspector who was ordered to pay almost $19,000 to a buyer who hired him,all because he reported on a significant defect verbally, rather than inwriting.[/FONT]
Randy was thinkingof buying a home for sale in Cambridge, Ont. He made the seller an offer thatwas conditional on obtaining a satisfactory home inspection. Randy then hired ahome inspector, who was duly registered with the Ontario Association of HomeInspectors, to obtain an inspection report on the various systems and
The inspectiontook about an hour to complete, with Randy accompanying the inspector as hetoured the home. During this process, they carried on a conversation about thevarious concerns that the inspector could observe. These included cracks in thebrick masonry and concrete driveway in one area and other seemingly minorproblem areas. The inspector provided a written report, which Randy lateradmitted that he merely “skimmed”.
Apparently relyingon that report, the next day Randy waived the home inspection condition in theAgreement of Purchase and Sale and proceeded to buy the house.
After the dealclosed and Randy moved in, he noticed for the first time that the kitchen floorwas not level. When he put a tennis ball in the centre of the kitchen, itrolled to the south. After consulting with an engineer, he learned that thewestern foundation wall was sinking, and had been for some time. He lived withit for a while, but later obtained a second report from a structural engineerthat confirmed the same results. He was advised that to keep it from sinkingfurther, parts of the home needed either a reinforced foundation or theaddition of secondary supports.
Randy suedvirtually everyone who was involved in the deal (including the seller, the realestate salespeerson and the home inspector), but he eventually consented todismiss his lawsuit against all but one of them: the home inspector.
At trial the judgeruled that although the inspector had conducted the inspection in a professional,thorough and conscientious manner, he had still fallen short of meeting thestandard of care that was expected of him – that of an ordinary, reasonable andprudent home inspector in the same circumstances. This breach in his duty madehim negligent, making him legally liable to Randy for damages.
While theinspector observed during the inspection that the kitchen floor had anoticeable downward slope, and although he mentioned it to Randy verbally, thecourt found this was simply not enough.
The sloping floorpointed to a foundation defect, and therefore amounted to a “’significantdeficiency for the proper functioning of the dwelling, for its safe andcomfortable use as a residence, and for its value, the court ruled. This wastrue notwithstanding a lack of expert testimony to indicate that the slopingwould certainly get worse in the future.
The courtdetermined that the problem was sufficiently important to be worthy of bringingto Randy’s attention.
Secondly, thecourt concluded that while the inspector was aware of its significance andmentioned it verbally, it was unfortunately not communicated to Randyeffectively – it was not “’brought home” to him. Especially in light of thespecific wording of the home inspection agreement (which obliged the inspectorto make a visual inspection only, but to report any “’significant”’ items aswell as “seriously deficient systems and components or those nearing the end oftheir useful life”), it was the inspector’s duty to include the observation inhis written report. This was the level of notice that was required under theStandards of Practice imposed on home inspectors by the professionalassociation.
The fact thatRandy merely skimmed the report (such as it was) was immaterial since it didnot affect the inspector’s own level of duty.
Finally, Randy hadclearly relied on the home inspector’s assessment when making the decision onwhether to purchase the home. The court was satisfied that had he beenmeaningfully alerted to the existence and extent of the sloping kitchen floorin advance, Randy would not have waived the home inspection condition in theagreement, at least not without an adjustment to the purchase price to reflectthe cost to rectify the problem.
Since theinspector had fallen short on his obligations to Randy, he was liable for thespecific damages that Randy incurred as a result of the shoddy inspection – thecost to shore up the foundation and re-level the kitchen floor. The courtordered the inspector to pay Randy $18,645 to cover those costs.