This smells like a Liability claim!

A client calls me up telling me his general contractor is renovating his house and is doing a very sloppy job. The client is fighting with the contractor because he believes the electrical is not up to code, The plumbing is not up to code, the craftsmanship is not up to par and he want to hire me to inspect the work so he can take it to his lawyer and file for complaint.

The moment he said that, a red flag went up telling me not to take this job. I have not called him back yet. I fear because I would be the last guy in, my liability would be at a higher risk and perhaps open the door to be sued.

I am thinking he should just call up a licensed electrician to certify the job for him. The rest of the work he should just take some pictures and document it for his lawyer.

What are your comments and recommendations.


If the hair on the back of your neck says do not do it then listen close .
I expect this is how you feel .
I agree say, Gee I think this could be complicated I feel you could be better of to get an electrician and if needed A plumber so you can be sure you are properly protected if some one is trying to scam you.
You have told the person they need to get an expert .
All the best Please keep us all posted as this is how we learn .
… Cookie

I’d have no problem performing the inspection. I’d show up and simply note what I see. I’d also inform the client that the inspection will not be a code inspection. It’s simply an inspection of issues observed in readily accessible areas of the home.

It’s not that hard to pick up on shoddy workmanship and report it.

If he uses my report for court purposes, so be it. I’d have no problem standing in front of the judge and stating the facts.

Good point Cookie & David. We are not code people. That is better left up to the people we typically recommend.

Hi. Steve;

I was in a litigation case a few years ago, doing an inspection for the Building Contractors Lawyer. Ironically, the Homeowner was suing the Builder for non-performance and sub-standard work.

The homeowner had hired his own Electrician and foundation Contractor and when I got done the inspection, the problem was not with the builder, but with the sub-contractors that were hired directly by the owner.

It went to court, I did not have to defend my report, but did nullify the report from the homeowners inspectors and the homeowner lost.

Of course the contractor lost also, because his defense was $12,000 and I got paid $1,200 for my research and inspection time.

I would agree with David here and I would also inspect, observe and note what you see, that is usually hard for someone to argue what you saw.

Marcel :slight_smile:

Just do your normal report, your liability is no different, There are plenty of clients that are planing on going down this path, they just don’t tell you up front.

I agree with Cookie. If that little voice inside your head is telling you something, you should listen. Everyone is different, with different levels of experience. Not all have the confidence to take on variations from standard reporting. Just because someone like Cookie might choose to take this on - it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.

Good luck whatever you decide.

With this much of a renovation, there should be a permit issued! Where are the code inspectors to take care of these things???

Code inspectors rarely show up on renovations to an existing home. The contractors should have pulled the permit (with proof of plans) and then they are good to go.

I agree, if this job has had permits pulled then they need to call the building department of their city to arrange for the inspectors to come in and check each stage before proceeding, the inspectors will rarely show up on their own. My belief is that their are no permits for this job and that could be another can of worms altogether. WE ARE NOT CODE INSPECTORS.

Go with your gut.

In Ontario, (especially Mississauga) a permit is required for any major renovation if you are adding any square footage to a house. If you are just changing items in an existing area, rarely do you need a permit. Unless it is major structurall changes.

Find out if he or his contractor has a permit.

If he is having an electrician changing electrical items, this does need a permit and inspections by ESA. Where is that permit? Has it been inspected? ( I looked at a new house Friday, the owner told everyone he has the final Inspection from ESA. I found one GFI receptacle that runs through another. Two dead GFI receptacles, one receptacle wired wrong, three wires resting on heat ducts, and finally only half the panel labelled. Code requires all of these to be addressed. He is calling ESA Monday. I even gave him the code reference to label the panel and told him as the inspectors are in the house a few minutes they may miss items. )
Plumbing is something a little different, there are certain codes that need to be met but some are hard to argue. Do pipes have the right amount of flow? Are they supported correctly? Just because there is glue all over the place, or pipes are not straight, may not mean it is “not up to code”. Does it look professional? is an opinion many times.

The same with general craftmanship. Your opinion is different from someone elses.
If you inspect a house, you are looking for defects, not poor workmanship. Such as a loose handrail, or incorrect sizes of openings, on a set of stairs. However these would also be inspected and addressed by the cities building department. You would mention that, but the fact it is just half sanded and looks cheap would not be your report item.

A poor drywall taping job is not a report item, unless it involves areas such as a garage where it needs to be sealed.

Your report would mention that doors do not open and close properly and should be adjusted to work as expected, but you would not state things as, “the trim looks like a kindergarten kid did the work”.

It could come down to, Are you prepared to back your statements up in court? Are you prepared to spend that time in court?

If you do the inspection, remember to point out that these are your recommendations only.

I would agree to do a home inspection and point out the problems I see with the workmanship and quality. I would also inform the client that HIs inspect to a higher standard that local code inspectors.

If he just wants a code inspection, I would ask him to call the local building dept. and have them do it. They should do it for free (paid for by taxes).

This type of inspection can be done, however you need to know you local building codes, you should have a good general knowledge of standard building practice for remodeling. you will need to interview the contractors, you are only getting one side of the story, I do 3-4 of this type per year last one I charged $4,200.00. went to job site daily to check on work and advise contractors of any issues.
Can be good money just cross your T’s and dot the I’s

John Onofrey hit the nail on the head. It does not matter what I would do,
but what you feel you are competent with. Are you ready to engage a
contractor in debate and possible debate with his lawyers in court. If your not
sure, that is no shame. We all had to learn. Walk the other way.

As the others have said, just report what you see, if you decide to go with it.

I would add this about various items that have gone through repairs or are
not visible. This means everything you can think of. The following is just
an example.

Note everything you cannot see such as flashing covered on roof by
the siding touching shingles, inside the chimney it self, under insulation
in the attic, inside walls, unseen electrical, unseen plumbing, underground,
foundation covered with carpet, etc…

Also note that you were not present for repairs of sheetrock. If
sheetrock has had previous moisture damage this may be conducive
to mold, decay and wood destroying insects that is not always

Note any comments that the client makes in the report about items
they saw before things were covered up. Tell the client that they should
ask for all historical documentation of the work being done, such as
previous inspection, blue prints, permits, approved specs…etc… and that they
should seek Professional advise in order to understand these documents.

Note poor workmanship that looks very obvious. You need to be
nit picky in order to protect yourself.

For every section that needs repairs, be sure to state that you
recommend further evaluation and repairs, as needed by a qualified
Professional (fill in the blank).

A good moisture meter helps a lot. A thermal imaging camera
helps even more. But, do what you can, with what you got.

If you go to court, then look up the price for your average expert
witness-tradesman in your area ($100-$200 per hour) and charge
a few hundred dollars minimum. They will pay.

Document everything with photos and try to make very good
friend with your client. People don’t enjoy suing someone that the
have a personal relationship with (most of the time :slight_smile: ).

Good luck…

Sometimes being honest and up-front with clients is worth more than the fee we charge. After a few conversation with this poor sole, I simply stated thus, having me perform an inspection based on what you have described to me would be robbery, I don’t want to give you something that your not looking for.

He had already had a licensed electrician perform an inspection and corrected all the deficiencies.

Mainly, he wanted me to inspect the quality of work this contractor did. Quality and craftsmanship would not be part of my report.

The point here is sometime we get clients with problems, and we need to help them as much as possible because good customer service now will sit well with people down the road when they need to buy a home. He really appreciated my honesty and professionalism, I gave him some info and suggestions so he could move forward.

The last thing I wanted to do is brush this guy off.

Steve Blayney

Good points.

I get clients who want inspections, not as part of an RE transaction. They are all agitated and want a FULL INSPECTION. Most times it turns out to be a small problem, which I explain to them. I only charge them hourly.

But, it has generated trust and gets me referrals.

Good move, on your part.

The red flag feeling is not to be ignored. I would recommend the guy call the state contracting board for advice. The owner should have had a building permit for this work.

Put this in your agreement and if called to court, charge a fee consistent with a lawyer’s hourly rate.

“CLIENT agrees that WE will only be named as an expert witness in litigation issues and CLIENT agrees to execute our litigation agreement prior to naming US an expert witness.”