Hi all, even though I have over 2 years under my belt as a home inspector, I still obviously consider myself newer to the industry than some of the seasoned veteran inspectors here. I obviously have yet to feel the sting of a lawsuit over an inspection (and hope to never have to but…). Question is, for any of the veterans, have you gotten stung with one or more suits over the years? Any certain things you learned from them as to what to do/what not to do in regards to them? I understand if you cannot give specifics if a suit/settlement is involved, just my curiosity getting the better of me tonight…
Yeah, me too I’m concern about this too, I really don’t want any of my clients to sue me in case I miss something on my inspection, although i am still covered with my E&O insurance
Go here joeferry.com he came to Florida and spoke to our Chapter. Relived much anxiety.
Good website. Chiun, just my humble offering, but if you go into inspections worried about missing things, you will miss things, because you are already admitting that you may not know what you are looking for. My advice would be stick to what you know, for instance if you are not familiar with construction practices on frame homes built in the 1940’s…then do not accept a home inspection on that type of house, as you WILL miss things due to unfamiliarity. Refer it out with the understanding that you might be able to shadow that person so you can learn. Missing things in my opinion comes from unfamiliarity. For instance, there are alot of mobile homes around here and I do get calls to inspect them. I obviously ‘could’ inspect them, however as my experience is with site built homes, I forego doing them as I do not want to incur that liability at this point in my career. I will at sometime look into getting training on them and shadowing someone with experience in regards to them but for now, I pass.
As you all know anyone can sue for any reason. The first line of defense is a good inspection agreement. The second is to set the expectations for the client. Let them know what you can and cannot do. The third is to never guess at something. If you don’t know then let them know that you need to research it before you can comment. The fourth thing is to establish a relationship with someone like Joe ferry just in case the time comes that you need their service. Lastly trust your gut feelings. Don’t be afraid to walk away from an inspection if your gut tells you too.
These things have worked for me for over 10 years. I have never gotten that letter in the mail.
Thanks Greg, yeah I learned quickly cutting my teeth in the construction/remodeling field that managing clients expectations is a high priority and can solve alot of problems before they get started.
I felt the same way after listening to Joe. If you are competent, then managing customer expectations really seems to be the key to avoiding
The best way not to get sued is to mark other or unknown on your reports.
Or use those forms with John’s name on them. Oh wait!, then he’ll sue you.
I will tell you from first hand experience, that no matter what our esteemed attorney says, you can and will be sued…for anything.
The key thing that all inspectors and in particular, newer inspectors need to know, is documentation. Document everything, more specifically, what you didn’t/couldn’t inspect, and why. Take pictures as well, but be forewarned, if you do miss something, the pictures may hurt more than they help.
Back when I did termite inspections, I performed on average, 10 inspections a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. The individual I worked for told me, “We are going to get sued one day, it is invertible, just do the best you can”.
That having been said, I will now relay to you the incidents where the company got sued.
- While performing a termite inspection, I came upon a room that had boxes stacked all along the walls and there was just a path leading through the center of the room. What I failed to do was document this on the 1145 form.
Three months later we get a call that the guy has termites. The owner of the termite company and myself went to the property and in the room with all the boxes, which had since been removed, we found damaged baseboards. The damage was caused by subterranean termites.
The client was at the original inspection and knew about the boxes. The owner of the termite company said we (I) would treat the property for free. The client agreed and I treated the property.
Three months later, we got served with papers, we were being sued and the reason was failure to document and the attorney representing the homeowner, knew that our insurance company would settle. And they did.
2)In the previous example, I made a mistake. In this example, just the opposite is true.
I inspected a home in Fort Lauderdale. It was a two story home that had termite damage everywhere. Unfortunately, you just can’t write “everywhere” as a location of damage on the 1145 form.
Instead, I filled out the form and then typed on the back of the form, all of the locations where both subterranean and drywood termites were found. It took up the entire back of the form which was 11 x 14 inch form.
The home was also under warranty from Terminex for both types of termite.
Three months later, served again. The head of the department that was in charge of termite inspections, Joe Parker, said that the report I submitted was the most through, well documented report he had ever seen. Didn’t matter. Our insurance company settled anyway.
In the first example, I made a mistake. In the second example, nothing could have been done differently. The result of both examples was a lawsuit, that was settled, mainly, because we were required to have insurance and any attorney knows that you go after the “deep pockets” when you are going to sue someone.
As a home inspector, I have been sued once.
I inspected a home that was remodeled by a couple of guys. It was done very tastefully. In those days, I did the termite inspection as well as the home inspection.
While doing the termite inspection, I noticed evidence of drywood termites and while in the attic, three beams that were destroyed by subterranean termites. These beams had been sistered using bolts and did nothing more than provide something for the roof decking to be nailed to.
I asked the current homeowners, who had purchased the home less than six months previously, if they had gotten a termite inspection done. They said yes, and all was clear. Long story short, the buyer of the home, my client, an attorney, ended up getting $5,000.00 at closing to cover the damage and treatment costs, from the previous home inspection company. One would have thought she would have been happy.
At the inspection, I told her that the a/c system was 9 years old. The air handler was in the attic and was rusty in some areas, but the coils were clean and the unit was cooling. In fact, we shut the unit off during the inspection because it was too cold in the home. I also informed this lady that the duct work was round metal wrapped in insulation and was original.
I also informed her that as the unit was older it is probably not very efficient and in the event that something fails, it might be a good idea to update the system and recoup the money via savings on the electric bill.
A year later, I get a letter from an attorney saying that due to excessive electric bills, the client changed out the air handler and the duct work and somehow, this was my fault.
I had a friend who is an attorney and said it was frivolous and he would take care of this. After going to court, my attorney instructed me to settle this matter as I may win, but, it could take years and cost thousands of dollars. I asked why settle, I did nothing wrong? He said," Firstly, the Judge isn’t going to separate you from the company, regardless of the pre-inspection agreement. Secondly, the Judge, your former client and her attorney, are all on a first name basis in open court.
I ended up settling this matter for $2,000.00 paid out over six months. The attorney was less than thrilled when I showed up to his office with the first payment…all in pennies!:mrgreen:
He went back to the Judge and then I got a letter that all future payments would be in check form. The second payment consisted of 30 checks.
He then went to the Judge again and I got another letter saying that the remaining payments would be in the form of one check or money order, for the amount of $333.11.
The point of all this is to have an iron-clad pre-inspection agreement and as it is law here in Florida, that should make things easier.
If you cannot get to something, document it. If you get to a home and it is cluttered, document that and take pictures. Documentation is the most important part of the job. If it isn’t documented, it doesn’t exist.
For newer inspectors, you may want to get errors and omissions insurance and although it may be expensive, it may save you one day. I have never had it.
ha ha ha So it was you?!
Thanks very much Eric ,This is good information for us all . Well explained .
Russ, by relived I meant after after hearing some of the naysayers here and fear mongers worried about being sued over leaving a shadow behind I should have said confident, in my abilities and the knowledge of good defense. If you worry about being sued go get a job. Buy the way Hope all’s well and look forward to our next lunch
Anyone can sue anyone for anything. All they must do is pay the filling fee, under $200. It can stay open for 10 months, if the platiff does nothing or they call keep it open for yrs by adding misc docs every 10 months. Civil suits are a problem, the system is broken. Remember, this country graduates thousands of attorneys every year and they must sue to get a pay check