Release and Hold Harmless Agreement (for turning on utilities).

So would you recommend this document be completed by property buyer, owner, or Realtor?

Would it be possible to incorporate this into the NACHI electronic agreement system?

Thanks Nick. I haven’t completely read over the entire doc but I’m dealing with this issue yet again for tomorrow’s inspection. I’ll print a copy and take with me if needed. Thanks again!

It can be completed by either owner or their rep (attorney, agent).

I’d probably only use it when being pressured to inspect a home that has the utilities turned off.

Nice verbiage, but I believe it is self-serving and probably wont protect you.

I say this because one would have to reasonably believe the person asking them to turn on the utilities had the proper authority to do so. We all know how the game is played, and absent of an actual letter of authority from the property owner, you’d be skating on thin ice.

Cant hide your head in the sand and say, “Well you signed the document, so I thought it to be true”

The question would go directly to whether you reasonably believed, based on your knowledge of (say) foreclosed property, real estate, past practices, and inspections, that this person was duly authorized by the bank or seller to have you blindly turn on the utilities. Maybe an attorney…

Beyond that, you take on tremendous risk, as you do not know what circumstances they were turned offunder. Further, there is no way to tell what may have been disassembled after the utilities were deactivated.

Like I said… nicely written but self-serving in my view and probably unenforceable.

All real estate contracts here say in no uncertain terms that ALL UTILITIES ARE ON at the property and it is ready for an inspection.

Something is leaking when I get there or during the inspection, then my best guess is the liability will fall back on whomever prepared the sales contract GUARANTEEING all the utilities were on.

Utilities should be on **and **operational.


This came out of a situation where:
Bank owned.
Bank would not turn on utilities, period.
Buyers were out of town.
Buyers agent arranged to have utilities turned on, but no one to turn them on inside.
I refused.
Someone else agreed to, and got the inspection.

In my experience if someone signs a document on someones behalf, then it is enforceable. If not on the owner, then on the person who accepted that responsibility to sign.

I think Mark C would agree that this will successfully shift the liability to the “Releasor”. If no one will sign then it speaks pretty clearly to everyone involved that its not a good thing to do. If the agent who is making 3 or 4 large on the sale won’t take the liability, why should the inspector who is making 3 or 4 hundred?

It has multiple purposes. 1) communication to agents that utilities need to be on. 2) permission to turn them on if they are off. 3) transfer of liability if done so. 4) communication to everyone that you aren’t being lazy if no one will sign it.


A REALTOR representing a client has authority to represent that client in all matters regarding the real estate transaction (including granting permission to turn on utilities), even if the agent wasn’t given this permission explicitly from the owner.

An owner having a problem with that fact later (let’s say because the owner told the agent not to turn them on and the agent did anyway), would have a claim against his/her agent… not the inspector. An agent can bind his/her client.

With regard to matters pertaining to the real estate transaction, there is no difference between an agent and the owner he/she represents.

Oh yes you can! That’s exactly what you can say. You need not review contracts to confirm that there exists an agent/principal relationship between the licensed agent and his/her principal.

One note of caution: A buyer’s agent cannot give permission to turn on utilities on behalf of an owner (and normally won’t anyway). The buyer’s agent doesn’t represent the owner.

This is still skating on thin ice especially with bank owned properties. When these banks sell properties, they send along a whole set of addendums to the purchase and sales agreement. Standard procedure for them. There is the “lead paint” addendum, the asbestos addendum, the mold addendum, the environmental addendum, and addendums to cover them from just about any possible lawsuit.

Written every so small in the finest of print is that the responsibility to make sure the utilities are on for any inspections is with the buyer’s agent. Yep, the buyer’s agent. It is usually overlooked by the agent that is in a hurry to get the buyer through the vast amount of paperwork the bank sends back as a counter offer.

Of course that brings up another problem. The utilities are sometimes not just turned off, they are locked out. Gas meters, water meters, electric boxes with special padlocks installed. Why? Because not only did the original owner default on their home loan, they defaulted on the utility bills. And with many power, water and gas companies being run by the different municipalities, they will not turn on any utilities until the liens are paid off. And of course the banks don’t want to pay anything off unless it is through closing.

I just went through this with a duplex. 4 visits to complete the inspection. And yes, I was paid for each visit. The buyer’s agent paid my extra fees and has filed a small claims suit against the listing broker to recoup his losses. I will be happy to testify… for a fee of course.

It won’t work in every circumstance as far as actually getting the utilities on. What it will do is tell everyone involved why you can’t turn them on…you don’t have permission… Sorry. :mrgreen:

Got to today’s inspection and someone had turned the utilities on and water was leaking everywhere (kitchen, water heater in basement, etc:p). Agent said nothing could hurt this house which turned out to be code for a POS:D

Much to do about nothing, IMO.

If the seller’s agent has the authority to sign a document allowing me to turn the utilities on (which may or may not stand up in court)…then the seller’s agent has the authority to turn them on, himself/herself.

I have no need or desire to deviate from the SOP in this regard.

When the utilities are not on when I arrive, I charge the full price for the inspection and do what I can. If the agent does not want to arrange for me to return at a later date, for an additional fee, the agent will turn on the water and the gas.

Agreed, if I feel I need a hold harmless that tells me not to do it. PERIOD.


Last fall I got to an older house (70-80 yrs old). We started doing the inspection and discovered the electrical utilities were off to the 2nd floor.

We found a sub-panel in a closet labeled for 2nd floor (fuses). The fuses were unscrewed AND there was another full box of newer looking 15 & 20 amp fuses present. The agent told me to screw the fuses in and get on with the inspection. I politely told him and client why I could not do that.

AND suggested they have seller or his/her agent get that done and have me come back at a later date (charging a 2nd fee AND having seller or his agent pay for this). The Buyers Agent said too much trouble and called the Sellers Agent. The Sellers Agent said the owner was a tight wad and probably just took them out so people didn’t leave the lights on (house was vacant). The Sellers Agent said THE INSPECTOR had her permission to put fuses in AND get on with the Inspection.

The older, wiser Inspector graciously declined. The Buyers Agent said the wise Inspector was a wimp and muttered words of abuse to the nice, loveable Home Inspector and went to do it himself.

About 20 minutes later while everyone was in the basement the 2nd floor smoke detector went off VERY LOUDLY. The knowledgeable older Home Inspector bounded up 3 flights of stairs to find smoke coming out of 2 wall outlets and 1 switch. The well mannered Home Inspector screamed downstairs to the realestator and said something along the lines of

“You idiot dung heap, call the fire department while I’m trying to put out the fire you started and then get the buyers kids outside cause its starting to burn”.

I understand the seller may have gone after everyone in the transaction EXCEPT for the likeable and wiser older Home Inspector.

I wonder if I’d had a “Release to Turn On Utilities” if I’d been sued too??

I have several stories like this about me or other local guys. If its OFF, I don’t know why / I don’t care why / AND - I DON’T turn it on / It stays OFF till some other idiot turns it on.

The morale of story - In 32 years I’ve never been sued. Part of it is luck; part of it is being good; part is knowing when to be sweet AND when to play Marine Corps Negotiating and get in the Others face and be Nasty (when in doubt - Fix Bayonets and Charge OR If it moves kill it); part of it is using a good Inspection Agreement; part of it is politely but firmly saying NO …

Although the form says “utilities,” I think we’re mostly talking about water. If the electricity is off it is usually because the electric company pulled the meter, and so we can’t get the electricity on anyway.

With the number of bank-owned vacant properties for sale in certain areas of the country, I don’t see how we’re going to avoid at least turning on the water which is often only turned off from the house only (not the street). Hence:

Just got my first one back signed by the listing agent of a bank owned property. I was told the utilities are on for Friday’s inspection. The sellers agent (who set up the inspection for his out of state client) sounded like it was a great idea.

Once again…if the realtor has the authority that is implied by his/her signature on a waiver…they have the authority to turn the valve.

What happens if they don’t? I charge an additional fee to return and finish my inspection when someone of authority turns the valve.

What is the benefit of doing this any other way? I’m not seeing it.

See post 8…

What post 8 illustrates…to me…is that the seller’s agent did not want the liability and, as we all know…there was some desperate schmuck willing to agree to anything to get an inspection. This agent knew his phone number. As many of us know (except for the schmucks), not every agent referral is a compliment.

Chances are good that, given the choice of signing your waiver or calling the schmuck, your agent would have still called the schmuck and avoided the implied acceptance of liability.