I just received my first certified letter threatening a lawsuit. I performed a thorough inspection and stated that the access for the attic wasn’t found and not inspected. The report recommended if the attic access was found, or access gained to have it fully inspected by a qualified person. They purchased the home only to find the enclosed plywood access point up above a area that was not accessible at the time of inspection due to stored equipment jeep, wheeler etc. only to discover rodent and waste infestation and low insulation they want me to pay to have it remedied. My gut feeling is they don’t have a case just thought i would ask if any one else has experienced this.
You did your job, we aren’t supposed to be moving personal property to gain access to anything.
As long as you stated in your report that access wasn’t found and to have that area inspected when feasible, I don’t think they have a leg to stand on, so to speak.
Thanks sure takes the enjoyment out of being a home inspector. The liability versus the inspection fee are not inline.
It was in the garage, was it not found, or just not accessible due to obstructions?
Not found I looked hard in every closet and area that i could i don’t like leaving any part of the report uninspected. Later discovered up over the garage connection to the home by a contractor.
It was hidden by the plywood sheathing?
This should be an easy one if you noted it in your report, especially if it was prominently displayed therein. For me, I make it a deficiency when an attic access was not found so that it shows up in the summary. That way they have less to stand on if claiming they didn’t see that in my report.
I would turn it over to your E&O insurance at this point. They should be able to squash it pretty quick.
Maybe while inspecting the roof it could have been found?
I do pretty much the same as Ryan concerning the summary, one of the sub-sections in my report summary is “Recommendation for further evaluation”, this would go in that section, but it also is in the report as well.
This from a report last week.
This from the summary.
You have so many days to reply and reinspect the ceiling looking for a hatch and noting limitations.
Welcome to the club. I have been threatened litigation (3) times for attic access. All fell within “limitations.”
The case I am currently involved with, there was no attic. Flat roof. Roof space. I refused to enter. Safety concerns.
If you reported no visible attic hatch and recommended further review, you should be good to go, but there might be a hitch.
Keep us posted.
Do you have any pictures of this area? If asked, you may have to prove there was no access, not saying you will, but there’s always the possibility.
Not accessible and not found are two different things all together. Can you explain how you were not able to find it? Was it hidden behind something, or was it only visible from a certain location? Pictures??
This is what I was thinking as well.
“No attic access found” sounds like it wasn’t present/completely hidden, etc. However, a visible attic access not accessible, due to stored items below is another thing. Buyers may be thinking it was overlooked, due to the way it was worded in the report.
Interesting. Even if the attic access was plainly visible and accessible, and you disclosed that you did not go in but recommend they get someone to look at it, you have done your job. In your case, they have a high hurdle to get over to successfully sue you.
I would (and do) start with calling them up and discussing it. That discussion involves reminding them of the limitations explained in the inspection agreement and how I satisfied the requirements of my SoP. 99% of the time, I get it settled during our conversation, and without paying a dime.
Many times, these letters are fishing excursions to see if they can get anything out of you. A friend or attorney told them to give it a shot. Maybe they can intimidate you out of some money for the cost of a letter. Many years ago, I learned (after the fact) that my client’s attorney told them they didn’t have a winnable case, but he could write a letter and see if they could spook me out of some money. They needed to keep the demand low enough that I wouldn’t go to my insurance. It kind of worked, as I refunded the inspection fee, but they didn’t get the amount they wanted. I learned a lesson. Today, it is considerably more difficult to pull money out of my pocket.
As my father used say, “People in hell want ice water too”. If they have a complaint, the buyer should take it up with the seller for not providing clear access.
In my experience (unless it is a manufactured home) the lack of attic access is pretty rare. In hindsight, it would have been OK to call the listing agent so the seller can help out.
At this point, you must turn this over to your insurance company and let them handle it. Once you get a notification like that you do not have much of a choice. If you do not notify your insurance, you will be on your own without the coverage you have been paying for.
I’m with Scott. And tell the client it has been turned over to your “legal team” and all communication will be through them moving forward (if you have insurance that offers pre-claims assistance anyway).
To each their own, but I wouldn’t jump the gun on this. I’m surprised of all those who do…
I feel like a certified letter that specifically mentions a lawsuit is an appropriate time to get your insurance involved. If not then, when?
If you have E&O coverage, you really do not have the choice to not notify your insurance company. If you don’t they then can deny coverage. Now, if you do not get a formal notification like this then you can do as you want until it is put in writing. Let the professional handle it, often they can make it go away.