Writing the Report the Past Tense

Should inspectors write their report observations in the past tense?
I say, “Yes.” It may help reduce your liability.

Isn’t the report a document stating the condition of the property at the time of the inspection? Yes. Then why use the present tense?

At the time you are writing your inspection report, you have already completed your inspection, so you should use past tense in your report to record what you did, what you saw, and what you recommend based upon the inspection performed in the past.

When explaining what you did in your inspection, use past tense. Whatever you did, opened, turned on, checked, saw, observed, found, discovered, though, deduced, guessed, recommended - ALL happened at some specific, definite time in the past and is not still being done.

I walked upon the slow-sloped roof and saw a large standing puddle. It was more than 48 since the last rain storm.
There were no indications of moisture intrusion as I performed my visual observation of the 2nd floor bedroom ceiling.

Your inspection results were relevant only in the past or to a particular time and should not be accepted as a present observation, present condition, or present truth.

PRESENT TENSE: The heating system is turning on, is functional and is responding to normal operating controls.
PAST TENSE: The heating system turned on, appeared functional, and responded to normal operating controls at the time of the inspection.

Are there times when an inspector use the present tense?

You should write your report in the present tense when you want to express something that will continue to be true.

**PRESENT TENSE: **InterNACHI is the world’s largest trade association of residential and commercial building inspectors.

Use present tense to express general truths or facts or conclusions supported by your inspection results that are unlikely to change – in other words, something that is believed to be always true.

PRESENT TENSE: The garage door is one of the largest moving objects in a home. Improperly installed “safety eyes” of the garage door is a main cause of property damage or bodily injury. Testing and monitoring the garage door operating is an important task related home maintenance.

You might use PRESENT TENSE to report your final conclusions. You might use present tense to discuss your observations and their implications.

The roof covering material was in poor, deteriorated condition at the time of the inspection. Roof covering in poor condition will likely present a water intrusion problem in the future. Water intrusion and hidden moisture damage is a major concern when the roof system is in poor condition. The roof system requires further evaluation and major repair by a professional.

Consider writing your reports observations in the PAST tense.
It may help reduce your liability.

Good advice. Thanks.

I use past tense.

Same here.

Correction: “I used past tense.”:wink:

It’s important to use past tense because by the time the client gets the report, the inspection is in the past and the home is not in the same condition it was in during the inspection.

The changes may be so minor that they don’t matter, the house may have burned to the ground, or it’ condition may be somewhere in between, but inspectors shouldn’t use present tense because that report will be inherently inaccurate. An attorney would rip it to shreds in court.

I write my reports as I am looking at the system, not later on in the office. Therefore, I write my reports as if I am speaking to the client while performing the inspection.

Present tense.

I use present tense, since I do reports, and print, on site. Signatures are done that day, and on the reports themselves, for that day.

I am typing this post as I sit here waiting for my morning appointment. It is 59 degrees outside and the sun is rising from the South/East - shining directly through my windshield. By the time you read my post, it will still be an accurate record of a specific point in time.

I see where this is going ,but doubt it has much bearing.
The report has a date on the cover.

Would a Judge read the report and get confused that you are on site as he reads it.? :slight_smile:

I agree with Ben (to use past tense), although I can see where the present-tense users are coming from. As long as the disclaimer is in the Agreement (stating that all observations in the report are true at the date/time of the inspection, and that conditions may change afterward, etc.), I would think that liability would be covered.

I’d add that one should choose a verb tense and stick to it throughout the report, rather than slip from one tense to another. :look-up:

People and their lawyers look for implied warranties they can squeeze out of present tense wording. Past tense is better protection from liability IMHO.

The AC system is working as intended.
The AC system was working as intended at the time of the inspection.

Even better

No defects where observed in the AC system at the time of the inspection.
(isolates a negative, instead of a broad overall endorsement).

It shouldn’t get to that point of being in front of a Judge if the report is written clearly. I review many home inspection reports every week. I’ve learned that what gets inspectors into trouble is the answer to this following question -

** “What does the report say?”**

Most times, the report says things like, “The roof is in good shape.” “The AC unit works.” “There are no water leaks.” “The sink drains.” “There are no foundation cracks.”

In court, there’s a huge advantage of having a plaintiff’s attorney stuck in quoting PAST TENSE from your report. He/she can only quote what you wrote, which was written in past tense. Which helps your case.

I understand that the disclaimer and agreement can say that the report “documents the condition of the property on the day of the inspection”, but I believe it’s a stronger position to be in when someone reads your report that is written in the past tense.

All that being said ,i often throw in the phrase at time of Inspection, but do not wish to feel I must add that same robotic phrase over , and over and over and over and over after every observation.

The floor was wood and appeared to be oak (at time of the Inspection)

Same with (Functional)

My reports lean towards narrative,and I try to show respect for my client not being a moron.

Guess I left that one open.:slight_smile:

“The following definitions of comment descriptions represent this inspection report and condition of property at time of inspection”

Also on my intro page:

The comments made in this report were based on the condition of the home at time of inspection.

I don’t believe you can support this claim.

Years ago my attorneys advised me that it doesn’t really matter which tense you use, just that the tense be consistent throughout the report.

If Your Inspector Is Not Writing Your Report In Past Tense, Then He Is not Using Correct Writting Skills.:margarit:

I agree; plus, one should use active voice and avoid the passive voice that inspectors think makes them sound more professional but actually makes it sound like they are trying to skirt an issue or avoid taking a firm stance on it.

Write like you speak almost always works best in my opinion.


Mike O’Handley, LHI
Your Inspector LLC.
Kenmore, Washington
Wa. Lic. Home Inspector #202