Would you say about things you suspect are happening?

I know everyone says don’t say or comment about something unless you are positive about it, as it might open yourself up to potential lawsuit, etc. But I’m conflicted and need advice on when and how to say some things. Here is an example, but I need advice on a bigger picture basis, not just this example.

What do you do when you see something that could be significant, but you don’t know for sure…and there’s not really any way to know for sure. For example, I found the bottom or floor of a 2008 furnace totally rusted. As was the bottom of the 20 year old water heater 6’ away. Seller disclosed that “basement leaks in heavy rains”. 4" of rain fell in last 3 days and all basement foundation walls (vacant house with unfinished basement, all walls visible) are very wet to the touch, but there is no water visible on floor during inspection. I suspect basement floods occasionally about a couple inches at a time (above floor of furnace), and water gets into the furnace somehow but can’t drain out. That water sits trapped and causes rust. But I have no proof of that other than rusty furnace floor. Should I say to client I suspect the flooding is a couple inches deep sometimes? No way to prove it other than ask seller, who has owned the home for 20 years. I feel strongly that if I do nothing I have not fully represented my client and provided all information about the house…including suspicions that I can’t prove. I know I can’t put it in the report, but can I say something like that in an email? Or tell them only verbally and leave no written trace of my suspicion? Or do I say and write nothing because it is not based on fact? The agent (a very good friend) insisted I say nothing that I am not absolutely certain about, but he’s obviously worried it will kill the deal.

What would you do or suggest that someone do: should they say something that they can’t proof but feel strongly about? When do they say it? And how should it be done? Your insight, as always, would be appreciated.

That’s a serious conflict of interest and unethical of the agent! Be careful which team you play for :slight_smile: Reports never kill deals, crappy houses do.

When a basement floods, unless it’s a brand new construction, you will see a lot of evidence of such event and not just in form of a rusted WH or furnace. So, in your specific example, I would say something like:

The evidence… of… suggests the basement floods or used to flood during heavy rains. This can damage systems and components such as… a furnace installed at basement’s floor level, etc… and be detrimental to the house and its environment as a whole. As a long-term solution, the basement needs proper waterproofing and possibly other corrections of issues that may be uncovered during the excavation and or closer examination by a specialist. This type of correction is considered extensive in nature and usually comes at a significant cost. It is highly recommended that quotes be obtained to correct this before the closing. Consult with your attorney as to seller’s responsibility.

The rusted furnace and water heater need to be repaired and or replaced.

You kind of need to know what you are doing… :slight_smile: a very wet and thus humid basement, without water on the floor, can contribute or cause metal to rust and mold to grow. Wet walls and a leaky basement is never a good thing. I would not say it floods by 2 inches or 4, you cannot know this or should be predicting the extent of a potential flood.

The buyer better understand loud and clear that basement leaks, gets wet, and likely floods based on… and that it costs $$$ to correct it. After that, let them decide to buy it or what.


Seller disclosed to the buyer that the basement leaks when it rains. You only need to report what you observe. I would report the rust and any water damage/moisture that was observed and show pictures. I would not speculate on depth of flooding. If there is a definitive waterline mark take a picture with a tape measure. No need to guess how much it floods.

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The example you gave is evidence of standing water in the basement. It also indicates imminent failure of the water heater and possibly the furnace. Just state what you see and let them draw conclusions. “While there was no standing water in the basement during the inspection the basement walls were damp (efflorescence?) and rust on the bases of the water heater and furnace indicate past standing water.”

Never take a Realtor’s advice about what to write, especially if he is counselling about his own sale.

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Note what you see, not what you suspect. Flooding will leave a high water mark. If you don’t see a high water mark, then don’t note it. What happens if you call out suspected flooding and the damage really came from a water softener (may no longer be there) dumping water onto the floor during its regeneration cycle?

They could have done remedial work between the rusting and the time you inspected. IE sump, water heater, condensate pump failure.
Flooding of the basement can be dependent on the soil conditions and high water table of the area. If the water table is high when it rains it may flood. If the table is low it may not. Snow melt can be a factor also.
As was stated the seller says it leaks. I’d note the damage. If the buyer wants to back out for any reason it’s up them and better to have proof.

I would write…Evidence of previous and ongoing moisture/water intrusion was noted. Client is advised to have evaluated and repaired by a qualified contractor.

With pics showing the evidence in this case damp walls and rusted equipment.


What Bill said^^^^^^^^^^^^^

As a side note: Realize that You The Inspector are really the only one that has a fiduciary obligation to act in the best interest of Your Client. There really is no such thing as a “Buyer’s Agent”. Their Fiduciary Responsibility is to the Seller because that is where their 3% commission is coming from. In Most all cases the “Agents” only get paid if the house sells. And that is Their Motivation!

Sometimes we also have to Protect Our Client’s from Their Agent. (And never be afraid to do just that)

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What do you SAY when you OBSERVE something that could be significant but can not Measure, Test or clearly define…
(SUSPECT) 'have an idea or impression of/for the existence, presence, or truth of (something) without certain proof.
SUSPECT: Insulation: Vermiculite.
SUSPECT: Plumbing: Polybutylene. KITECT. Prior leaks.
SUSPECT: Attic Venting.
SUSPECT: Active K&T wires/cables.

RECOMMEND: Further analyses by a certified Certified Indoor Air Consultants.
RECOMMEND: Further review by a licensed plumbing installation and service contractor.
RECOMMEND: Further review by a licensed venting installation and service contractor.
RECOMMEND: Further review by a licensed electrical installation and service contractor.

LIMITATIONS: Inspected at the hatch.
LIMITATIONS: Wall, Ceiling and Flooring assemblies.
LIMITATIONS: Wall, Ceiling and Flooring assemblies. Inspected from the ground. Could not identify terminations.
LIMITATIONS: Wall, Ceiling and Flooring assemblies.

Thanks guys, good advice. But I was looking for more generic advice, not just specific to that example.

Overall, if you see something and suspect something serious is going on, but don’t know for sure, what do you do? Yeah, you can say have it inspected further by an expert, but now the seller wants to know why you feel there’s something wrong and who is paying for the expert to come evaluate? Or what if there is no expert in that area? I realize you are not obligated to say something cause you don’t know for sure, but don’t you feel you are not fully and properly representing your client and providing the full picture if you remain silent? I just feel the need to say something, somehow, to let them know of the “potential” and “suspected” issue. Convince me to get over it and keep my mouth shut.

All recommendations should be based on hard evidence. The buyer, normally, would pay for further evaluation. It’s not possible to learn everything for certain from a visual home inspection. Some things require invasive inspection to figure out what’s going on and the extent of the damage, if any. If I felt, based on evidence, something is wrong but I wasn’t sure what… I would recommend further evaluation.


Yes, I would, too. :face_with_monocle:

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if you suspect a problem you must have a reason for the suspicion so state your reason for the suspicion. i.e. fixture/material installation is one i’ve never seen before and based on my experience may be inadequate. client is advised to consult installing contractor/material supplier or have installation evaluated and repaired if needed by a qualified contractor.

Very good points. Your Jurisdictions SOP may limit what can be said also. You may want to review the SOP for guidance.

There is a lot of good advice on this thread. Take PICTURES, take some more, and then some more! Change up the lighting in some if you have to. Report what you see. What POSSIBLY caused it (if you know), obviously rusty steel sitting on concrete is a no brainer. lol. And what it may lead to. The language you use can be critical should it get down to legal matters. If you want to speculate about what is going on, don’t implicate yourself in the process. Use the visible evidence available at the time and the pictures.