Need legal advice

I did a home inspection back in July here in Phoenix AZ on a home built in 1978. The MLS stated that the home had electric heat. There was no gas service in this home.When I did the inspection, I walked the roof and inspected the roof top unit, it was an older GOETTL unit, I put it down as a heat pump, the data plate was painted over. When I arrived the air conditioner (or what I thought was a heat pump) was running. It was cooling properly and the only thing I noted on the unit was the fins were severely damaged from hail. I recommend that I licensed HVAC contractor further review. I did not run the heat pump (or so I thought) on the heat side because it was July and the unit was operating on the cooling side when I arrived at the home. The home was not occupied, it was a being sold by an investor that “flipped” the home. Buyer waived the SPDS and clue report because the investor/owner had never lived in the home.

Problem- the homeowner tried to turn on the heat this past week and she had no heat. She has a home warranty and so she called them and they sent out an HVAC tech and the tech found after opening the unit that it was a rooftop gas furnace/AC unit. The furnace parts has been removed and the unit was only operable on the AC side. He said that can not help her because the furnace parts have been removed. Again, no gas service to this home at all.

The homeowner called me and wants to know who they need to call about this issue, they want someone to replace the unit with a working unit.

I feel terrible that I misidentified the unit as a heat pump because it did not have a gas line and the data plate was painted over. Some older units the reversing valve is not always in view I have found. I would like your advice on whether or not I am liable for this issue. I want to do the right thing. Is the seller partially responsible for listing that the home has electric heat?

You should contact Joe Ferry at
Good luck.

I don’t know what to tell you. But I’m subscribing.

Hi Mary Ann,

Bummer that it happened but its understandable. Few thoughts:

  1. I assume it was an packaged unit correct? If so there should’ve been tell tail signs that it was gas, example flue/exhaust.

  2. Did you document that you did not function or test for heat?

  3. Did you document that the data plate was painted over, therefore you could not determine the HVAC type, age or other important information pertaining to it?

  4. Perhaps there could be some recourse through the homeowner by the buyer such as false advertising and disclosure but I doubt the buyer wants to take that approach. I think that they will take the path of least resistance, that’s through you. If you have E/O I would not run it through them but certainly notify them. I would pay out of pocket as the cost will likely not be that much higher than your deductible. I would refund the inspection fee and credit that toward the cost of the HVAC unit. Then have them sign a release. That’s my initial thoughts based on the limited information you provided. But as always consult your attorney and E/O provider.

That really sucks, but this sounds like a situation where you legitimately missed something and the homeowner is paying the price. Did the homeowner call the listing agent? I’d encourage her to start there since the seller misrepresented the property. If all else fails though, I’d open up my checkbook and do what you can do to help make it right.

Samuel, thanks I was thinking the same thing.


I did document in the report that the unit was not tested on heat side due to the unit operating in cooling mode (July). I did document that the data plate was painted over and not legible. In my contract it states that the limit to my liability is twice the fee of my inspection, which I could reimburse toward the cost of the new heat pump that will be needed. The homeowners daughter is taking care of the situation because her mother is older and does not speak english. She is being very nice about it, just wants to know who is going to take care of this issue. I do feel partly responsible, but feel like the owner is always responsible. Thank you for the advice, greatly appreciated.

Opps, meant to say that the homeowner is partially responsible, not always.

You certainly don’t want to get your legal advise here:shock:
Although you will find plenty of good advise:)


I agree with you, her realtor is going to call the listing agent, but I do feel that I missed this one. I just have to look at it as a learning experience.

Did you use InterNACHI’s pre-inspection agreement?

Does AZ use a seller’s disclosure document? And if yes, do you have a copy of it?


I did use InterNACHI inspection aggreement. I do not have a copy of the seller disclosure because it states on the MLS and buyers agent informed me that the seller did not provide a disclosure statement because he was in investor and never lived in the home. The buyer signed a statement that waived the disclosure statement.

The seller / flipper probably new there was no heat and it shouldn’t be a surprise when they get the phone call. Try to get a hold of the listing to see what heat type is listed. At the end of the day you may have missed it, but it sounds like a latent issue to me.

I have said it before… Flips are nothing but liability. At any rate, can you fix the issue? Be human about things and it will work out. Paying out may happen, but see what you can do to help in the meantime. Meet the HVAC guy out there? Bring her some temporary heating units? Goes a long way…

John, the MLS listing states that it is ELECTRIC heat. The investor may not have known about it, I met with him after the inspection at the home because he had questions about the report. He didnt know anything about the property, he bought it site unseen. He had a “crew” doing the repairs, all unlicensed. Thanks for the input, I will surely look a lot harder at these older units.

I really want to do the right thing, I really agree with you on these older “flipped” homes, they are a headache. So many issues are covered up or painted over.

Unfortunately Mary Ann every mls listing I have seen includes a disclaimer statement to the effect that listing information is not guaranteed accurate but supplied by the owner and buyer is responsible for confirming all information.

Which, puts the onus to document any thing you state as an inspector on you. If you stated it has a heating system despite the plate being painted this could bite you. Clearly in that case the client expects to have the system though it was not tested and therefore might need some service. If you disclaimed the heating system as not inspected due to painted data plate and temperature and or accessibility that puts it in a different light as far as total responsibility goes.

It looks to me like this will be a learning experience How you handle the client relationship should be looked at as part of building a successful and reputable business.
Best of luck.

Hi Mary Ann,

I agree with you that you seem to be partially responsible, with some caveats such as the data plate being painted over etc.

The tricky part comes next, you want to do the right thing of course but not be overly punished for the miss. I agree with contacting Joe Ferry for advice.

We all make mistakes of course since we are indeed human beings who seem to make those on a regular basis every hour of every day all around the world!:wink:

Just a learning experience hopefully with a good ending for all.


There is a line in the InterNACHI agreement (last line of the first paragraph) that is relevant to this issue. It reads:

Learning experience that is going to cost you some money. Plain and simple in mild climates always run the heat and air.
You missed it and you are responsible. Like it was said earlier pony up for a new heat pump and move on