State of Missouri.
Apparently there are no licensing requirements in Missouri and unfortunately no mandatory minimum inspection requirements.
Estimated 15,000 gallons of water leaking per month.
If this was occurring prior to the purchase then there is no way this could not have been known by the homeowner. Were you able to retrieve the previous water bills to determine when the leakage started? Here again though unfortunately Missouri has virtually no mandated disclosure rules and nothing to cover this type issue. Missouri property conveyance laws can be found here.
Chapter 442 Titles and Conveyance of Real Estate
If you were provided a disclosure form of any type you should read it over again and go to the form source for a description of how it is to be filled out. If the form was not properly annotated for this situation then your State may have fraud and deception laws that might cover this.
Other posters seem to suggest that enough disclaimers are likely inserted into agreements that customers must sign prior to home inspection, that any additional information is irrelevant.
It is important for Inspectors in any State to use a contract with any limitations made clear to set the client’s expectations. It is also very important for the consumer to thoroughly read any contract and fully understand it before they sign. But again we do have many Inspectors who place many different and well worded caveats and disclaimers that may not be completely clear.
For non-experienced first time home buyer paying a reputable costly inspector, it appears that the only way the can find out if there is a leak between the house and the meter is the hard way, since there is no way that a new home buyer would just simply “know” to do this.
Unfortunately there are many Inspectors that only perform the minimum amount required by whatever standard they are following. Here in Texas our Standards Of Practice (SOP) is the minimum required and there is so much more that can be done. Other Inspectors do perform way beyond any minimum requirements for all clients and do provide additional support to the first time home buyers. This is one case where going beyond the minimum might have helped catch the issue.
If you don’t mind me asking how many Sq. Ft. is the house and what was your fee for inspecting the house without any additional services fee?
Do you maybe think that inspectors should include this in their jobs, if only to simply tell the buyer to shut off the main themselves and check if the water meter is spinning, thereby making any discussion about inspector’s liability moot since they wouldn’t do it. It just seems to me like this should be a part of the home inspection one way or another. Simply telling your customer about this could save them thousands of dollars.
In Texas our SOP only requires that we report on the location of the water meter and that is all. However the very first part of my inspection protocol is to locate the meter, inspect it, check for leak dial movement, then actually turn a hose bibb (exterior faucet) on at a very little dribble and check the leak dial again to ensure it is functioning. These meter leak dials are very sensitive and at 15K Gallons a month that is a substantial leak occurring which should cause the leak dial to rotate. Some times the meter box is flooded or some municipalities place special locking covers on them and these are reported as inaccessible for viewing.
I do this not only for the client’s benefit checking for possible leaks but also for my own protection. If nobody is in the house and that leak dial is moving it is noted and the first thing done after walking through the door is to search for a possible cause. If it can not be found or is obviously a flooding condition then again for my protection the seller’s Agent or builder (new construction) is immediately notified.
As for manipulating any main valve that is a risk that must be assessed on any home. Many main valves located on the exterior of existing homes are in very bad shape and it is a significant liability risk to attempt manipulating them. Instead they are reported on in their poor condition with the recommendation the seller display to the buyer its operation. If it fails let the seller assume the risk and expense.
Surprisingly, the Home Inspector said that he would “go after the previous owner,” since the water company informed the previous owner of the leak, and the previous owner did not disclose this. Home Inspector said that it is irrelevant that the house contract included an “as is” addendum - that not disclosing this is fraud.
Yes that is very surprising that the Home Inspector made that statement! If you have that in writing I would most certainly hold the Home Inspector to that claim. I am not an Attorney but unless there was a requirement to disclose this (see my comments above) then there may be no basis for “Fraudulent Activity” by the seller. That would be something for your Attorney to review and determine though.
I am also surprised that this is in no way part of current inspection process for any of the professionals posting here. What chances does a first time home owner have to protect themselves against this? It seems zero. None.
There is “a way” for this to be part of any Home Inspector’s inspection protocol. Again unfortunately many subscribe to the “Do the minimum” mantra and forget how going beyond the minimum not only helps the client but can also help protect the Inspector!