A timely article from Barry Stone:
Real Estate Articles from Inman News
Electrical outlets should be disclosed by inspector
Outdated design legal, but problematic
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
By Barry Stone
We recently purchased a 50-year-old home, and no one mentioned the 2-prong, ungrounded outlets. The sellers didn’t disclose them, and our home inspector didn’t list them in his report. Shouldn’t the sellers have upgraded these outlets to current code requirements before they sold the property? Shouldn’t our home inspector have reported this defect? Won’t this be a problem when we eventually sell the home? --Bob
Sellers are not required to upgrade old electrical systems when a property is sold. They are merely required to disclose any defects of which they are aware. Since most sellers do not regard the normal characteristics of an older home as defects, it is common for 2-prong electrical outlets to be omitted from a seller’s disclosure statement.
For home inspectors, disclosure expectations are much different than for sellers. Making no comment about ungrounded outlets in an old home is an example of professional negligence. An inspector’s job is not merely to report conditions that require repair, but to disclose all observable conditions that could be of concern to a buyer, especially where safety is involved. Even though these outlets are “legal non-conforming” – having been installed according to code at the time of construction – buyers still need to know that such outlets are substandard. You should have been advised that future upgrade would be beneficial. An important disadvantage of ungrounded outlets is that most surge protection devices on computers are ineffective without grounding.
As a future seller of the property, you will not have to list 2-prong outlets as faulty or defective. However, now that you are more informed about these outlets, it would be prudent to disclose that they are legal but substandard due to the age of the building.