I agree with Joe.
Thermal imaging IS NOT a magic bullet or a “see all” solution. It’s just one more tool (albeit a very expensive tool) in a home inspector’s bag.
Just like one has to learn to use a SureTest and a mositure meter, one also has to learn how to properly use a thermal camera.
But, as always happens, ther will be some who just want the tool and relay on it too much and, ultimately, will shoot themselves in the foot.
In this area, many inspectors have cameras, but very few actually have any formal training. I, constantly, see inspectors calling out “water intrusion” and screaming bloody murder when the wall / ceiling intersection just has some slipped insullation and some unsealed rim joists and cold air is making the surface cold. I have done much “forensic” work (for litigation) and I always ask if the reporting HI had backed up the image with deep scanning moisture meter readings. Almost always, they state that they don’t even own a mositure meter.
Go figure :mrgreen:
Nick elaborated on Joe’s comments to make them, combined, the most astute observations regarding marketing, customer expectations and litigation.
As in the case that Nick pointed out, in a conflict between the inspection agreement and the inspector’s advertising, the court will rely upon what the inspector said in order to get hired, first.
Having ICC Certification can make one a better inspector, but to advertise this certification…and then to miss a code violation during your inspection…the disclaimers regarding the fact that you are not conducting a code inspection do not matter.
Thus, should the hyperbole of the inspector’s website or brochure go beyond the SOP when describing the use of his IR camera…he cannot fall back on the SOP for protection should he miss/misinterpret something.
What both of these guys pointed out, which is very true and very important…what we advertise is more important to the judge than what we disclaim.
Agreed, Jim (Oh well. Just another cold day in Hell :mrgreen: )
Advertise what you can do, what you are expected to do (as in SOP) and anything above that, advertise only if you can actually do it.
There is a vast difference between marketing and sales. Learn the difference and never stray from it.
Hope this helps;
Same with being a P.E. My good friend Ron Huffman uses CMI on his card, but dares not advertise his P.E. status. He has a separate card for his P.E. services that he dare not comingle with his home inspection business.
Another advantage of CMI is that it doesn’t imply that you are providing a service outside SOP (such as checking code compliance or providing engineering services) and so your pre-inspection agreement isn’t trumped by your own marketing.
This is what is loacted in the InterNACHI site for Infrared Certified Inspectors.
I see no legal issue in this… So we do not have to be afraid of telling people
what an infrared scan can do… as long as we communicate proper expectations
in the process.
And below is from the InterNACHI Thermal Imaging Agreement that should be signed in advance…
I also include this…
What Joe is saying in the video, I believe, is that the industry will see an increase in lawsuits when an inspector misses the “unknown plumbing leak” or the “electrical fault that could cause a fire” which he advertises, that he is presently immune from in a non-invasive inspection conducted in accordance with the SOP.
As Nick points out, the court will not allow you to disclaim what you advertise.
Always wondered how the HI is going to check the electrical for faults when the house does not have all the future potential heaviest loads on all circuits during the inspection. Some house circuits will/may be loaded differently when the new owners (our clients) move in!!!
As pointed out correctly in this video, my website/brochure/flyer cannot be disclaimed in my pre-inspection agreement.
When a client gets angry because a defect was not found, then sometimes they sue.
Even if it outside the SoP, and the inspector wins, he still looses money and time
If the inspector has E&O that paid a little money (like most do) to make the
clients suit go away… the inspector pays for this from their deductible (even
though they are innocent).
The inspectors insurance rates may go up after one claim and if they suffer
three claims (even when they are innocent) the E&O provider may drop
them and the other providers may not insure the inspector either. If
that inspector is in a state with that requires E&O, he is now out of
business because he cannot get coverage (it can happen).
If on the other hand you approach home inspections with the idea
that you are going to find more defects and greatly reduce the possibility
of ever making the client angry, then you reduce the possibility that you
will be sued in the first place.
If you set the proper expectations, do the inspection with the client
present, and included the needed disclaimers and find more of the
hidden defects, then you reducing the chances of being sued in the
Joe’s video was about arbitration services and naturally they talked the
need to protect yourself.
I came behind an inspector who was well known to be very good
and had over 25 years experience in construction and inspecting
combined. After he inspected a house, I came in and found 4 areas
of moisture penetrations.
I could see the moisture with my IR camera, but he could not see it.
If he got sued, the lawyer may ask the following:
1- Why didn’t you find the roof flashing and roof jack defects?
2- Why didn’t you find the defects in the window trim.?
The lawyer cannot hold the inspector responsible for the moisture that
could not be seen, but will go after him for the “cause” of the problem
that can many times can be prosecuted by the SoP. Hind sight is always
So is it better to miss the defects and hope the SoP saves you, or is
it better to find more defects and avoid the law suite altogether.?
I sleep better at night by finding more detects. Others may sleep
better by never using ANY tools that are outside the SoP and hoping
that all their clients and their lawyers are fair minded people and
justice always prevails in the back room discussions about your
lousy hide and wallet… not.
As quoted on post #6… InterNACHI (Nick) promotes the idea
of finding more defects with thermal imaging. He also promotes
setting proper expectations and a thermal imaging agreement.
My web page says this…
****** (NOTE: Even with thermal imaging and our advanced methods, ******
it is not possible to find every possible defect, just to be honest)
I hope this helps to set the proper expectations. Thermal imaging
is coming and the wave is getting bigger IMHO.
This statement is what will get you into trouble. In my mind, as an inspector and arbitrator, you have helped perpetuate the claim that this technology is like having x-ray specs and a crystal ball. You are almost guaranteeing that you will, in the clients mind, find everything. Your camera sets you apart. We both know that it is only a tool, which is designed to augment training and experience you already possess.
No, John. The attorney would likely only prevail in court if he sued you, unfortunately. You were the inspector with the infrared camera and training. Infrared thermography is not a part of the defacto standard used in the home inspection industry. The first inspector would testify that he had 25 years of experience, did a thorough inspection, and that the defect was obviously hidden. You, on the other hand, are the inspector who advertises infrared thermographics are used in your inspection. If YOU missed it, you would be on the hook, not him. Therein lies the difference. Your own state SOP protects the inspector. Because you have exceeded it with the use of this magic technology, you have opened yourself to liability.
The purpose of any SOP is to brovide a benchmark by which the inspector can be gauged. Infrared thermography is a tool. It is not a magic bullet. Also, our own SOP deals with MATERIAL defects.
My inderstanding is that infrared will NOT always detect a leaking pipe. There is no guarantee that it will find many of the same defects discovered during the course of any thorough inspection. It relies on thermal signatures, which are open to interpretation.
The problem will manifest itself with misconception. Misconception will come from statement like the one which started this post. Are the “defects” identified really defects, as determined by the general definition of “material defect”? Are they open to interpretation? Can it be something other than what was described?
Now, the question will be why did you decide to scan one particular area over another? Do you scan the same areas in every house inspected? If so, then why?
I believe that infrared has a definite place. I also believe it should be used prudently and where justified.
Not everywhere, and not necessarily every time.
BTW… Lawyers will beat you to death with clever twist that are outside
the SoP. In the real world… the SoP can be a very fragile wall to stand behind
when the tanks move in. This is the truth.
I trust my ability to find defects more than I trust a lawyer who will twist
the SoP while sucking my blood dry. Sorry. I will never find every defect,
but I feel like I am very close. If you saw all the defects I see with an
IR camera… it would shake you to your core…IMHO.
Are you a lawyer Joe? Just so I will know.
BTW… Joe Ferry said he needs to take my IR class, after we got through
talking together. I will offer you the same deal that I offered him.
You can take my IR class free of charge (on-site or teleconference).
Joe seems like a good man and a fine lawyer.
You and Mr Ferry help everyone with legal advise and think this
would be a benefit to everyone.
If I have the camera and do not use it, in every inspection, I am opening myself to liability.
Lawyer: Why didn’t you find that toilet seal leak?
Me: I didn’t use my thermal imaging camera.
Lawyer: Why not?
Me: The client didn’t want to pay for the extra service.
I will use every tool I can get to find every defect I can possibly find to give my client the best inspection I can possibly provide.
I will also take as many education classes as I can to learn everything I can to be able to best use my tired old Mark I brain to properly “interpret” what my tools are telling me.
To do anything less is simply not professional.
Not a slam on people who don’t use a camera (or a SureTest, or an expensive moisture meter).
This is just my business model.
And I have never been sued or had a missed defect come back to haunt me yet. I probably will, eventually, but I do everything I can to avoid this.
I use these tools to better cover by butt.
When I cover my butt, I am also covering my client’s butt.
If the other guy missed the defect, his defense will be that the defect is concealed, he is experienced, he is properly trained, and that he followed the SOP.
If you missed it using your camera, you would have no defense, as you are promoting the technology as giving you the ability so detect things that other inspectors cannot.
You lose. He does not.
It is not his responsibility to purchase the camera, nor is it yours. Of the two, you made the decision to purchase it, and market your use of it.
The only way he loses is if he failed to discover the defect using industry-standard protocols and techniques, and he failed to follow the industry standard, or state-mandated, SOP.
In your state, the SOP is the law. One cannot be culpable for failing to find something using the protocol that the State has determned to be required, and more importantly in the hypothetical you cited, what is NOT required.
Do you guys also use a Carbon Monoxide detector in every home that has gas appliances? or Radon detectors? I think what many are concerned about is the line or lines are being blurred by the claims of some within the community that can and often do “mislead” customers, whether intentional or not, that the inspector will find every discrepancy. Ive have personally seen HI websites claiming to be able to “see inside the walls” and others comments at the very least alluding to that. Magic is a good word to use here because many of the tools we use appear to be magic to the average customer. I can remember the first time I used a digital IR thermometer. You would have thought I had just turned lead into gold from the customers comments afterwords. Or the phones calls we used to get years ago like “Aren’t you the guys that do the digital photos?” I think what everyone is saying is that the inspector who uses this new tool needs to be very prudent in its use and closely controlling the customers expectations and understanding of its limitations. Apparently some are doing just the opposite and using the tool to eliminate their competition by offering the findings as part of a standard Home inspection, ignoring the SoP caveats.
But… I like a good discussion.
In theory, trusting in the SoP sounds nice.
In the real world, finding more defects works better… IMHO.
A lawyer told me if I tell my clients up front that I do not claim to
find every defect, then I am not promoting a magic bullet or
setting false expectations.
InterNACHI promotes a lot of things that go beyond the SoP.
You teach courses that are beyond the SoP. Nothing wrong
with that. Doing more is a good thing… IMHO.
The camera reduces liability by finding defects without expanding the scope of services delineated in the SOP like code certifification implies.
It is better to explain how you found a defect than to have to explain why you didn’t.
A ladder, like an IR camera, also allows you to see better and more easily find defects within the SOP too.
It’s just another tool to help you do your job… not another service outside of SOP such as engineering or code compliance.