Lawsuit vs Texas Inspectors

Homeowners’ suit claims inspector failed to detect mold

5/14/2009 4:00 PM
By Kelly Holleran

Two Jefferson County individuals say the home inspection company they hired before they bought their home failed to identify mold growing within the house.

Cole and Latisha Landry filed a lawsuit May 12 in Jefferson County District Court against Louis Ashy, doing business as Pillar to Post.

The Landrys claim they asked Ashy to inspect a home located at 677 Ridgewood in Port Neches on Dec. 8.

“Defendant was to inspect the property and indicate the items in need of repair or not functioning and report on those applicable items,” the suit states.

Ashy failed to detect mold growing on the home’s HVAC unit, the complaint says.

Only in mid-January, after the Landry’s move-in date of Jan. 9, did they find the visible mold growth throughout the HVAC cabinet. Visual water marks could also be seen on numerous locations in the cabinet, the Landrys say.

After finding the mold, the Landrys hired an environmental consulting and testing professional and learned that concentrations of various molds were identified in air samples, according to court documents.

“The inside samples held concentrations of Penicillium/Aspergillus were greater in the HVAC closet and the children’s bedroom,” the suit states.

Ashy was guilty of negligently failing to adequately inspect the property and of failing to state in his report there were visible signs of water marks and suspected mold growth in the HVAC closet, the complaint says.

The Landrys are seeking unspecified treble and discretionary damages of less than $50,000, plus attorney’s fees, costs and other relief to which they may be entitled.

Brandon P. Monk of The Monk Law Firm in Port Arthur will be representing them.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: E184-045.

(I wonder if the Ashy’s belong to ASHI…)

That’s why my client signed Inspection Agreement states, in bold font:

The Texas SOP that this inspection was apparently performed under as well as the ‘new’ SOP exclude mold as well. The inspector will likely have a strong case to support himself yet the plaintiff will very possibly prevail. Jefferson county (my home town area) has a strong national reputation for being consumer friendly with lawsuits, especially class action suits (not that this one is of course). The ‘visible water marks’ could prove problematic for the inspector.

What I find to be significant is that the state with the oldest (and some within the state who sleep with copies of it, consider it to be the best) home inspection licensing law in the books…still uses the court to settle disputes.

In this case…as in many, many, many others…licensing did nothing to ensure a quality inspection, did nothing to protect the consumer, and offered no satisfactory recourse to the consumer to be made whole.

The state governed SOP did nothing to address the needs of this consumer…and still fails to protect the inspector from litigation.

HI licensing laws in every state should be repealed.

Having an License, or not having a License, has no bearing whatsoever on lawsuits.

I agree, entirely.

That is what makes the proponents of licensing laws look like idiots as they proclaim that the lack of a law leaves the consumer helpless. With a law or without a law…the option for litigation remains.

Who opens the AC cabinet? That’s not under any SOP that I’m aware of.

This lawsuit is a result of the Texas real estate commission (who rules home inspectors) decision to mandate E&O insurance for inspectors.

Now, the SOP can be disregarded and the client can file the suit with the understanding that the insurance carrier will be likely to settle. Prior to mandatory E&O, there would have been no incentive for such a frivolous suit.

Maybe James, Maybe not. I have in the past been led to believe that a Licensed Standard would reduce the possibility of lawsuits, as long as one adheres to the Standard. From my personal experience I know that not to be entirely true.

But on the other hand, I still believe that in an unlicensed State on would still be more likely to get into even more trouble with regards to lawsuits.

But, like HI E&O Insurance salesmen before me, I have no credible evidence to back up my BELIEFS. :wink:

And like me you have no credible evidence to back up this BELIEF. :mrgreen:

Missouri, like Alberta, are unlicensed and under attack from those who insist upon the need for licensing.

Missouri has several hundred (exact number unknown) home inspectors and have had 6 BBB complaints in five years. Alberta has 225 home inspector businesses and have had 18 BBB complaints in four years.

Though there is no demonstrated need for licensing, those who want to control others (mostly for their own financial gain) work hard at convincing the public of their need for such a law. Often used by the Missouri legislator who the lobbiests pay to write and introduce this legislation is his mantra that consumers have no where to go when they get a bad inspection.

So far…the only consumer advocacy group to go on the record has opposed such legislation.

Texas requires that you open the Inspection panel on the HVAC unit.

The law cannot stop anyone from doing wrong, but it can be used
to punish the wrong doer or protect those who are innocent.

Home inspector requirements for training are better than letting
a hair dresser inspect houses the day after he gets laid off.

No law is perfect. Weak laws produce weak results. Stronger
laws produce stronger results. The most recent SoP was
written by home inspectors, not Realtors.

We don’t allow walk by and undocumented inspection here in
Texas, like James does, in his location. I understand why James
would not like that to change.

If you inspect the house and there is mold, even if you are not a
mold inspector, you can be held liable for the moisture that led
to the mold (and thus get hit for the whole thing).

My advise… buy a moisture meter, IR camera and stop being
afraid of making the realtor mad and write a hard report.

I am sorry to see a fellow inspector get in trouble, but it happens.

What exactly is being referred to here? I’m not talking about opening the furnace to the burners. Is that what they are talking about? When they said he didn’t open the cabinet I’m thinking the condenser cabinet. Someone please set me straight about what this guy did wrong.

We have to remove the inspection panel on the HVAC unit.
It usually slips off and snaps back into place when done.


We are supposed to remove these Mark.

HVAC = Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning.

Therefore what “panel” are you talking about. There are panels all over. I personally remove the panel on the furnace to examine the burners and gain access to the model & serial number label.

Maybe you have a picture of what you are talking about?

That is pretty much what I do Mark, and look into the return air compartment.

I believe missing water stains and or organic growth would be hard to do.

Mark they are talking about the furnace. There is no inspection panel on a condensor unit that I’m aware of. If there is someone clue me in as well. If there was any evidence of water stains or mold growth within this location this guy is screwed due to the simple fact he didn’t open the panel up and inspect the unit plain and simple. If that’s the case he deserves to go to court. That’s just stupid.

That makes sense. What about electric furnaces?

First off, a suit was “filed”. This is not a Surprime Court Ruling!

Any idiot lawyer can file a suit and not even read the Inspection Report! It happened to me! They didn’t even have all the paperwork.

James, this report is inconclusive and there is no information to support anything about licensing. They need to start suing lawyers for filing cases without the facts.

My state law says:

  1. You do not have to assess Mold. “Tennessee Home Inspector License Act of 2005”, T.C.A. § 62-6-301 : The report addresses only systems or components inspected that, in the opinion of the inspector, is significantly deficient or near the end of the system or component’s service life. This report does not address environmental hazards, including: Lead-based paint; Radon;* Asbestos;* Cockroaches;* Rodents;* Pesticides;* Treated lumber; Fungus;* Mercury;* Carbon monoxide; or* Other similar environmental hazards. This report also does not address wood destroying insects and organisms and does not address subterranean systems or system components (operational or non-operational), including: Sewage disposal; Water supply; or Fuel storage or delivery.

  2. You do not have to remove any panel that requires a tool. 4. Judgment of system efficiency or capacity is not within the scope of this inspection. Cooling systems are not dismantled in any way. Secured access covers are not removed. The interior components of evaporators, condensers and heat pumps are not viewed. The interior conditions of cooling components are not evaluated.

Home Inspectors are not required to: offer warranties or guarantees of any kind; calculate the strength, adequacy, or efficiency of any system or component; enter any area or perform any procedure that may damage the property or its components or be dangerous to or adversely affect the health or safety of the home inspector or other persons; operate any system or component that is shut down or otherwise inoperable; operate any system or component that does not respond to normal operating controls; move personal items, panels, furniture, equipment, plant life, soil, snow, ice, or debris that obstructs access or visibility; determine the effectiveness of any system installed to control or remove suspected hazardous substances; predict future condition, including but not limited to failure of components; project operating costs of components; evaluate acoustical characteristics of any system or component; or inspect special equipment or address issues that are not listed as components to be inspected by the Commissioner.

  1. An HVAC unit “makes water”, that’s it’s job! Water stains inside the unit? Well no kidding!

This is the “LAW” not some ASHI - NACHI SOP or someone’s made up business practice.

TREC = Texas Real Estate Commission. Here lies the problem.

We do not know how much or how bad any of the conditions were. Why don’t you get that info for us…

Yes electrical furnaces have panel access as well. Some units also have panels for fuses. Check those as well.