Spoiled Food, my fault?

Need a little advice. Seller says I must have turned off something and fridge was off for almost 2days, house stinks from food spoiling in fridge.

Some background info first- owner moved out of house and moved in with girlfriend. He is letting his kids stay in the house. They are druggies and destroying the house, now it’s for sale and it’s a dump. There was an open bag of trash in one of the bedrooms that already stunk and was surrounded by flies. His original bedroom is even deadbolted to keep the kids out. Nice! I use a “leave behind letter” at every inspection, says I treat their home with care, I try to leave it as I find it, bla, bla, bla and you should check your thermostats, coffee maker, etc in case something was turned off/on during the inspection. I don’t turn off any breakers! I test and reset any GFI outlets and breakers- and they didn’t have any GFI breakers.

When the guy called me, I was polite and professional. In the end, I said to send me an e-mail with what you think you are entitled to and I would submit to my insurance. Needless to say, he sent me a pretty big list of items that were spoiled, I sure feel like he’s just trying to screw me. I’m pretty sure the fridge never went off, and I’m pretty sure his druggie kids didn’t have that much stuff their fridge- hell, we don’t have that much in ours. Almost 2 days before they noticed? Are you kidding me? Ya know, if it was a reasonable list, I’d just cut the guy a check and be done with it, but I don’t like being taken advantage off.

I’ve only been doing inspections part time for 3yrs. I’ve never been sued, never had trouble getting paid, never had a complaint. I’m a little pissed now. How do you suggest I handle? Thanks!

If you didn’t turn the fridge off then say so and tell him you’re not paying a penny.

Sorry I did not turn off the Fridge it was left exactly as I found it .

Politely tell him to jump in the lake.

I have been in this industry for 41 years. I have seen this happen to other inspectors a few times. Usually the complaint is that the freezer was crammed full of “top-of-the-line” filet mignon’s and/or top sirloin steaks.

  • One complaint even stated that they had “extremely expensive” caviar that was spoiled and due to the fact that the home inspector unplugged the appliance.

The inspector stated that he never even touched the freezer {which was located in the basement}! He said he looked into the refrigerator and that there were a few hot dogs and hamburgers but nothing of value.

The bottom line is…. Send them a nice {but Stern} letter letting them know that you did not move the refrigerator and that the electrical plug is “behind” the refrigerator so it is impossible for you to have unplugged it.
You can also let them know that you did not turn off the electricity and/or any of the circuit breakers so you are not responsible for them “losing electricity” for two days. The only way this could have happened is if that circuit was on a GFCI and you tripped it. If you did “then the kids” would have had to reset it! As you stated this was a rare situation because the kitchen did not have any GFCI’s!
Also…… If, and I mean if, they “lost electricity” for two days they would have noticed that fact each and every time that they open the refrigerator door! Why? Because “without electricity” the light would not have come on.
Since you already sent them a letter asking them to that submit a claim and that you would forward it to your insurance company I think you might be screwed!

Send them another letter. Tell them that you have reviewed your notes and photographs and have come to conclusion that you have done absolutely nothing wrong.
Be nice but firm! If “push comes to shove” …contact Mr. Joe Ferry who can send them a “drop dead letter”. He has come to the rescue of several of our InterNachi inspectors.
Depending on the “dollar amount” it might be cheaper and a whole lot safer to contact Joe Ferry right away.

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You should have came here for advice before you told him this.

I would would have told him that I will see him in 30 minutes at the house to discuss the matter & to evaluate the situation.

You may bu in it a bit because you said you’d submit it to insurance.

On a side note: I carry an extension cord, in my truck because i tested a GFI that didn’t reset, (failed under normal test). I’m not liable for the GFI, but the fridge was on the circuit. I went out to a loal store bought an inexpensive cord and plugged the fridge into an alternate outlet, and left a note stating what happened.

The seller hired me for their home purchase, and returned the cord.

Thats why I use pics, Worked when I was there

…and to inventory the spoiled food for replacement value!

BTW… My policy is to take a (interior) photo of all reefer’s and freezer’s that contain food, showing the light ‘on’ and the general contents, as well as a pic of the outlet (if no interior light) with my ‘non-contact’ voltage tester showing it is energized. A few months ago, I inspected a home that had three upright freezers in the garage, the owner an obvious Hunter. A quick “photo session” with my client in front of the open freezers (as a witness) went into my files. NO WAY was I going to take a chance on wild game meat!

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I would say the other protection you have, besides what was already said, is your letter. You told him to check that out when you left. This should help you out as well. It sounds like this guy is looking for a free lunch. I would be polite but firm in dealing with him and asking him if there was any other way the fridge might have been turned off after you left.

I had a owner tell me that the A/C was off after an inspection but I had a picture showing the A/C running just before I left the house which I sent to the Realtor. Nothing more was ever said. I love my camera!!

Steven, let’s go to extremes. You said there were people in the house. Whether or not they are “druggies” may be a matter of opinion. They probably blew a breaker or unplugged the fridge.

What if they broke a window? Are you responsible? What if they burned a hole in the carpet, tracked mud, or burned the house down?

I say your responsibility ends when you leave the house the way you found it. But I’m not a lawyer, and am not sue happy…

Wished I lived in a state where I could tell them to go jump in a lake. In NC you are guilty until proven innocent thanks to our board. I would pay for the food and move on.