What happens when something breaks during the inspection?

On a recent inspection while inspecting the bath tub, the spout shot from the wall when the diverter was pulled. We were employed by the buyer. Now the home owner wants us to pay for the repairs.

Are we obligated to pay for repairs that happen under normal conditions?

Broke while testing.

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Yes. Put the tub on. Pulled diverted, shower started, spout shot out of the wall to the back of the tub.

Tell him to go pound sand, it is obvious that it was installed wrong, or repaired before you tested it. Tub spouts just don’t pop out, they are usually screw in on one end and soldered on the other. And some models have a set screw.

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If the spout broke during normal operation you did the buyer a favor. You have no obligation to repair a defect discovered during your inspection. I’m sure the seller knew it was broken before you stepped foot in the residence.

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Read this: Nachi’s official stance on breaking things during an inspection. This has helped me out numerous times:

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Asome! Thanks for sharing that buddy.

“It was already broke and will be on the report” would be my position.

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Great article & a big “thanks”!

Welcome to the home inspection job. It’s amazing how often things break when we are operating them. Many times, we are the first to operate something in a very long time. Other times, we are just the “lucky” ones to have something break when we operate it. I am not talking about things that were already broke. For instance, early in my career, I operated a garage door opener by doing nothing but pressing the operator button. One the down cycle, the door crashed to the floor. Just minutes earlier, the seller had left through the same garage with no problem. Any HI who has done this for a while will have similar stories.
So, for HIs, two rules protect us. One, operate devices as designed and intended and two, any tests must be conducted according to the manufacturer’s instructions or recognized industry standards (like kicking your foot through the garage opener electric-eyes). Adhering to those two rules have defused the complaints that I’ve gotten over the years.

I tell folks that everything works until it doesn’t. And since, home inspectors check everything, the odds of us finding that thing that is broke or ready to break, is higher. I did my job and found a defective item. That’s why I get paid the medium size bucks.

Of course, if you knock the grandma’s prized antique lamp on the end table over, you will be writing a check.

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Lon,

Thank you for your guidance and comments!

Well said and I will keep that in mind!

This happened to us just last week. Testing the safety reverse on the OHD opener and the gear broke. It was a 26 year old opener. The seller was absolutely livid. A total over reaction. Now here’s the twist; The contract specifies that only health and safety items will be addressed and only those items over $1500.00. So the seller can probably just ignore the opener problem and strand the buyer with it.
I pulled the buyers agent aside and told him if the seller did that I’d share half the cost with the agent and we’ll make sure these first time buyers have a working opener.
Doing the right thing is sometimes different than the contractually correct thing.

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You have an agent that agrees to that? If so…good deal.

I had similar thing happen with the garage door opener. We pressed the button, the door opened. Pressed the button to test safety reverse, but the door wouldn’t close. I pressed the button, the buyer pressed it, the agent pressed it…no go. Agent called the seller’s agent, who contacted seller who said he knows nothing about why it isn’t working. As we finished the inspection, the seller’s wife comes home and pulls into the open garage, and as she gets out of her car the door closes. We asked how she did that, and she replied that button usually doesn’t work, we just use the remote in the car to open and close the door. So the seller was trying to hide the fact that the button was defective…which was written up in report and buyers asked seller to replace wiring and button. Wonder if his wife confessed that she told us it was broke!

We discussed this at one of our monthly InterNACHI meetings, and some old timers provided some good advice gleaned from some bad experiences. They said make sure to put it in the report that it is broken and how it broke (during normal use), so the buyer can then tell seller to fix it. Otherwise seller inherits the broken item. They also said if in doubt, or if there is major pushback from the seller, offer to fix it or pay some or all the cost. Especially if it’s a cheap or easy fix. Why? Because the seller otherwise goes to your feedback page and provides all kinds of negative feedback. Even though he’s not your client, they can still provide feedback. So is the negative feedback worth it? 2 different inspectors said non-client seller feedback was their only negative feedback for a couple hundred inspections.

I had a similar thing happen.

I went into the garage followed buy my buyer, his agent the wife homeowner and the seller’s agent. I went to inspect the O.H. door to make sure I should open it and asked the seller’s wife if she would please push the opener button so I could further teat the door.

Well, the door went up and I started to walk under it when the whole right side of the door fell followed by the left side of the door and smashed to the floor…it was an older door.

The male seller, who was in the house came running out to the garage and said “Well honey, I guess we get a new garage door compliments of the home inspector.” And she said “But, I pushed the button.”

While they were arguing, I inspected the door further and discovered construction adhesive on each screw holding the hinges on. And I said “It looks like someone tried to fix it before.”

Long story short, the male owner and his agent and wife went into the house and when the agent came back into the garage, he said not to worry about it and that they would take care of it.

Apparently the male seller tried to fix the door’s hinges several weeks before and it chose then to fall due to shoddy workmanship.

After the inspection, the I was reviewing the report with my buyers, we had a great laugh and they were thankful that it fallen then…seller try all sorts of things to hide defects.

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That’s what the Inspector is there for is to find those things that are broken or about to break. If you had not been the lucky one then the next pull would have won the jackpot and they still would have tried to blame you for it. The Inspector is not liable for the faulty fixtures in the home the owners are. I’d tell them to get the best attorney money can buy and wish them luck. It was an existing condition.

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I know everyone likes to say you aren’t responsible…but in the end…you are…at least in Florida.

From the FarBar contract:
If this Contract does not close, Buyer shall repair all damage to Property resulting from Buyer’s inspections, return Property to its pre-inspection condition and provide Seller with paid receipts for all work done on Property upon its completion.

This is why there is a deposit.

I was testing a window in a house, and the glass broke. The springs were defective. The Realtor was on the phone with the attorney for the Seller, and then she went off about how it needed to be fixed. The seller shows up, and he and the Realtor were going on and on about who was going to fix the window.

I placed a piece of cardboard over the damaged window, sealed it so nothing could get in, and said I would deal with it after the inspection.

At the end of the inspection, the Realtor started in with the “you broke it, you have to fix it, it is in the contract” line. I replied to the homeowner, I cut myself on the glass. I am sure I have to go to the ER. Do you have homeowners insurance to cover my medical bills?

That ended the conversation.

The end of the story is, that as I stated at the inspection, it would be about $100 to replace the glass, which it was. I ended up giving my client a free wind mitigation inspection, and it all worked out.

They want free work done on broken things they tried to hide. Scummy.

Nice! Thanks for sharing

Clearly an improper installation of the spout. Properly installed plumbing fixtures do not fly off when tested. Not your responsibility.