Home Inspector's responsibility debated

This mornings Real Estate section in our local Community Newspaper had two(2) articles about Home Inspections/ Inspectors.

The first was about reponsibility by the H/I for the tub overflowing, while he had it running to test/inspect the operation. The first problem I see, he left the bathroom, for about 45 minutes, and returned only after the seller/buyer starting yelling. It was stated that damage was controlled, but cleanup costs were about $2000. OUCH! The initial response by the H/I was “it’s not my fault”.
What do you think? What would you have said or done at that moment?
The article was off “Scripps Howard News Service” and the commentating inspector was obviously slanted toward one H/I society association.

The second article, byline AP with collaboration through the Nat. Assn. of Realtors, was a good article, pushing the need for Sellers to consider contracting for a pre-listing H/I. All the typical reasons were given, but what I liked the best about the article was the fact that a Realtor Assn. was promoting this service. In my area of the country, Realtors are typically against this type of service and will steer potential Seller/Clients away from getting H/I’s done.
Makes me always wonder why the Realtor takes the stance, what they are afraid of, "Disclosure?, Negotiations?, maybe more effort?, who knows. I personally think the whole process would be easier, working from knowledge.

There you have it…

When he turned on the water he was responsible to the extent that damage was preventable…he should have stayed to monitor it. Tough lesson…

Yes, some Realtors see the value of pre-listing inspections and some want to know nothing and hence have nothing to disclose.

First Article
Yes, it was his fault. I never leave a room even for a moment with the water running. With my routine, even the toilet has finished refilling before I leave the bathroom.

Tough lesson indeed, but one that should only have to be learned (if at all) ONE TIME. Let a tub (or sink, or basin) overflow once, shame on it (of course, you’re still responsible for the fallout). Let it happen a second time…well, shame on you-know-who.

The examples are probably countless, but…

*OPEN the oven before you just…turn it on.

*In a home that’s been unoccupied and vacant for a while…RUN the hot water at a tap/fixture before cranking-up the dishwasher.

*If you walk roofs, and there’s ANY question in your mind about the supporting structure…LOOK in the attic FIRST.

*DON’T turn-on closed valves. Unless you’re feeling very lucky. Or you have bottomless financial/insurance resources.

Ultimately, you’re responsible for your actions. Sh*t does indeed happen, even to careful folks, but the ol’ “it failed under testing” explanation does NOT cover every imaginable variety or instance of professional negligience or malfeasance. Safety first, and use your God-given brain matter. If you want to be a cowboy, then be a cowboy, not a professional property inspector. At least not at the same time.


Where can the article about seller inspections from NAR be found?


;)Well said Chris,its called being responsible.Your a guest in someone elses home and it should be treated that way.Matt


The article was in our local paper and was a grab from Associated Press (AP), with input from NAR. Try www.Realtor.org. I haven’t looked at the site myself, but you probably can find a reprint on their site somewhere.

Good Luck

I liked Chris’s post.

I use a Sonin Water Alarm ALL the time. Its about $15 at Amazon or elsewhere. I avoid leaving a bathroom but distractions happen. It has been a life saver.

Had a toilet refill tube come loose on a flush and leak through the lid. Not my fault but I paid for cleanup.

I do not test to the flood level rim or rim drain to reduce risk. I realize it is a bit less of a test but I perceive the liability as less than the alternative and have not had a complaint in 10 years. I fill enough to flood the drain under the sink to disclose leaks.

Another example is electric ranges. I have tested many for 20 years. I believe one could skip the range altogether and defer to the home warranty company (why not they use us!). If I had a complaint I’d pay for the repair / replacement. I think I would come out ahead in two areas. 1) no time wasted checking it 2) I do not forget it and take a risk of burning the surround. Many other examples exist where inspectors do things that reap little benefit but present significant damage risk.

Perhaps it’s a perception. My Clients perceive a higher quality inspection and report when I do more. Additionally, I carry general liability insurance to protect me if I cause damage. I carry errors & omissions insurance to protect me if I don’t do or report something.

GL is about $300 a year.
E&O is about $4,500 a year.

I think I would rather file a claim against my GL than my E&O.

News You Can Use!




I thought that sounded familiar. Note the original publication date of October 2003.


The article I read was in the Ledger report you found, David Bradlet w/ AP
News Service. We have a Cherokee Ledger and a Cherokee Tribune, both in
Woodtsock, Ga. (Cherokee Co.).
I’m not familiar with the other articles you found, but interesting reading.
What did you think of the “Bradley - AP” article?



Under most purchase and sale contracts, you will find that the buyer is contractually responsible for this issue as they are the only ones connected to the home being inspected, and it is them that hired you.

However, ethically and morally, this is the inspectors issue, of course. If the inspector was diligent in his job, he would not have left the oven on, ran the dishwasher or oven without looking inside first, left the tub running unattended etc. etc. Your general liability insurance is in place for these mishaps. We have had similar cases with new inspectors over the years, only a few TG, they are embarrassing, but more so if you try to pass the blame to someone else.

If the tub leaked because the overflow was defective or not connected, this is a different issue and of course, failed under test.