Originally Posted By: dbowers
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The 1st 10 years I did Home Inspections, I never heard the word “lawsuit”
in relation to HI’s. We used a 1 paragraph disclaimer about what we did or did not do. In 1985 I saw my 1st “Pre-Inspection Agreement” at a seminar in Boston. I couldn’t believe anyone would sign it - it was almost 3 paragraphs long. Well as we all know thats old history. Today my Inspection Agreement has grown to 1 1/2 pages and I wouldn’t inspect my best friends house without one being signed - “BEFOREHAND”.
I've never had a lawsuit, but I've done expert witness either for or against other Inspectors over 23 times. A couple of lawsuits I've been part of in the past 3 years alone include:
(1) The roof was snow covered. The buyer was present. The inspector said and wrote that the roof was not inspected due to 6" of snow on it and recommended inspection prior to closing.
They didn't do that. They had problems. The seller had moved out of state. Their attorneys position was they were just naive 1st time buyers, they didn't know how costly repairs could be or that there could be costly defects under the snow coverage - heck it was only 9 years old.
(2) They got the house inspected in January (23 degrees outside). In May when they turned the A/C on it didn't work (compressor was grounded). The HI's report said it was too cold to test the A/C. The service company told the buyer any competent HI could/should have tested it for a short.
(3) The HI's report, inspection agreement and standards said he didn't inspect pools. The buyers moved in and the pool shell leaks ($37,000 to fix). The seller had moved to Germany. Their attorneys position was the inspector inspected the patio around the pool, the electrical outlets around the pool, the lights on the patio, etc - so being naive buyers of a $625,000 house they assumed the pool was also inspected.
(4) The HI's report reported there were signs of water leakage in the basement and the grade was poor and recommended correcting the grade and drainage as needed and monitoring the area in the future. They corrected the drainage issues and the 1st time it rained hard the basement leaked again. The cause - Stopped up foundation drain tile and a high water table.etc, etc.
Bottom Line is you can't afford to be nice. In probably 65% - 70% of the lawsuits I see, the Inspector discovered a problem and reported it to the buyers. In most of these suits - looking backward in time he/she may have been able to word the report differently to provide himself better protection, but the bottom line was there is a problem and the buyers are trying to get someone/anyone to pay for it as long as its not themselves.
In the remaining 30% - 35% of the case I get involved in its about equally divided between the "Inspector Blew It" & "Gray Area's" (maybe he could or could not have discovered it - but its not 100% black & white).
Dan Bowers (Kansas City)