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AndrewF 02-01-2009 11:35 PM

Home Inspectors / Non Disclosed Issues PreSale
 
6 Attachment(s)
I am sure the answer varies from state to state, but I figure I would start by asking here.

We bought this house in August of 2008. We had a whole house inspection done and nothing major was reported.

We have had several major issues with the house in the past 5 months.

Issue #1. Shingles kept falling off the side roofs.
Issue #2. Water leaked around a dormer on the second floor down to the ceiling of the 1st floor...ceiling is now discolored.
Issue #3. I was in the basement tonight and noticed water coming out of the floor above...I did some investigation and found that in the roof above the garage, the sheeting is rotted and has been "siliconed" to seal the "leaks". This leads me to believe that the sellers KNEW there was a problem and chose not to disclose it because of their "Silicone" fix.

Do I have any recourse or is it too late now?

The biggest issue I am worried about is issue #3 as it effects the corner integrity of the house. In the basement, it is obvious they knew of the problem as the corner floor sheeting has been replaced.

In the bathroom on the same wall, the corner bead is all wet and coming off.

Should I call the realtor up and demand some money back to get the repairs made or am I SOL?

Rehabber 02-02-2009 04:34 AM

You should contact the home inspector, the previous owner and the realtor in writing outlining these problems. Send the letters registered mail. The home inspector should have 'errors and omissions' insurance that will cover the repairs. If He does not respond quickly and to your satisfaction, the next step would be to contact a real estate attorney in your area.

mark942 02-02-2009 07:39 AM

Judging from the Silicon quick fix I would say this was a known problem,as with every thing else in your posting. This all should have been in your disclosure statement. You have a few options. Myself, I would just go to my Attorney to get better advice.

Good Luck To You!

Termite 02-02-2009 10:00 AM

Many/most pre-purchase home inspectors have bulletproof contracts that will keep you from holding them liable for things they miss. My opinion is that you should never use the inspector that your real estate agent recommends. In my experience, the inspector often has a business relationship with the agent, and it is in the inspector's best interest to preserve that relationship. If the inspector scares the buyer away from every house the agent shows them, the inspector is unlikely to get recommended by that agent. So, many of them find enough little things to make it look like they really did a thorough inspection.

Finding and hiring your own inspector ensures that your best interests are looked out for.

AndrewF 02-02-2009 10:27 AM

I picked the inspector myself.

AndrewF 02-03-2009 09:14 PM

The inspector is coming out tomorrow morning so we can discuss what he missed.

He missed a bare wire in the attic not in a box.
He missed the attic ligght hanging by two wires and not mounted in a box.
He missed the dryer vent venting directly into the attic.
He missed the roof leaking problem.

Termite 02-03-2009 11:40 PM

Wow, I'm shocked that you got him to come back out. I'm curious to hear what he has to say about his performance.

AndrewF 02-04-2009 11:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by thekctermite (Post 224775)
Wow, I'm shocked that you got him to come back out. I'm curious to hear what he has to say about his performance.

Those arent major defects...nor fire hazards.

As for the roof, it wasnt leaking when he inspected it and he had no way to know if it would leak. He sees roofs with poor sheating all the time, but it is ok because its just to help the shingles not cave in....

jporter5333 02-04-2009 02:43 PM

Andrew,

I just completed a home inspector training program and am now shopping for insurance so I can apply for a license. So even though I am not a "professional home inspector" yet, but here is my opinion on your situation. These are all somewhat safety issues and/or possible defects that probably should have been reported.

1. The bare wire and the hanging light may not be fire hazards but they are still unsafe. While he is not required to tell you how to fix it, he could've suggested hiring an electrician to evaluate them and recommend the proper course of action.

2. The dryer vent venting directly to the attic. Again, it is not correct and in my opinion should've at least been in the report.

3. The roof leak. Now, a home inspection is based on the condition of the home at the time of the inspection. This means that if it 70 and sunny at the time of the inspection the roof was probably not leaking at the time of the inspection. And he could not say for sure that there was a leak. But, he should've noted that there was a stain that was a possibly a water stain and that there was some rotten decking and that it was impossible to tell at the time of the inspection whether there was a current leak or if this was damage from a previous problem that had been resolved. Then he could've recommended that you monitor this issue to see.

Now as I said earlier, I am not yet licensed and this all just my opinion. These are the actions that I would've taken. Proving any wrong doing will be hard. Like KC said, his contract is probably bullet proof. I'm not saying he did anything wrong but it would've been best to at least let you know of these potential problems.

Termite 02-04-2009 04:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AndrewF (Post 224991)
Those arent major defects...nor fire hazards.

As for the roof, it wasnt leaking when he inspected it and he had no way to know if it would leak. He sees roofs with poor sheating all the time, but it is ok because its just to help the shingles not cave in....

Nice. I'd file a complaint with the state licensing board, if any. I'd also file a complaint with any real estate professionals associations in your state. Neither will do you any good, but he's obviously useless at the service he charges for. Muddying his name would certainly make me feel better if I were in your shoes.

Michael Thomas 02-04-2009 04:29 PM

As a home inspector, when I read an account of a homeowner disappointed with an inspection, there are always two questions I ask myself:

1) Would I likely have caught this defect?

2) If not, how could I change my inspection protocol to improve my chances of catching it?

Of course, I wasn't there when the house was inspected, so it's often very difficult to know what constraints inspector would have been operating under, but if I had performed such an inspection under typical conditions, here's what would be running through my head when I received a call from a homeowner.

A. You missed the dryer vent venting directly into the attic.

How the heck could I have missed it? Generally I try hard to identify the exhaust point for each mechanical ventilation system, for example if I suspect any may be running into the attic I have them running before I go up there to make it easier to identify any exhausts into the attic. If I can't identify the exhaust, I recommend the client have someone else do so. Unless there were extenuating circumstances (for example the dryer was venting right under HVAC duct work that made it very difficult to observe) I'd really be kicking myself on that one.

B. You missed a bare wire in the attic not in a box.

Hard to know if I should have spotted it until I went back and took a look.

I have only a limited time to inspect attics, basements and crawl spaces, and I'm very candid with clients before I start my inspection that I can virtually guarantee I will miss something that's "wrong" with the house - my job is to make sure I allocate my time looking for the more serious possible problems and that I make a reasonable attempt to do everything I can to spot the rest, but that I will miss some.

So I ask myself: was the wire readily visible, or was it mostly covered by insulation and located an eave in an area with very low headroom.?Was this a connection between two pieces of BX high up on the rafters without a box, or was it a splice tightly covered in white tape between two pieces of NM cable in a rat's nest of others?

Legally I'm responsible for spotting both defect, but real world it's going to be hit and miss whether I do so in the latter case, there just is not time to go over every square foot of that attic in detail.

C. You missed the attic light hanging by two wires and not mounted in a box.

Ought to have caught that one unless there was some extenuating circumstance, for example quite often my view or even access to parts of an attic basement or crawl space is obstructed by personal possessions, if that light was mounted for example on a knee-wall and boxes of personal possessions stacked against it it might not be visible. On the other hand if it's right there above the attic access, there is no excuse for overlooking it.

D. Roof leak.

This is the big one - potentially a big dollar repair, potential for moisture and mold damage, the kind of thing home inspectors actually get sued over... and often a very tough call as to whether it could/should have been discovered.

Based on experience, what I tell every client at the start of inspection about roof leaks is this:

"I have a lot of sophisticated tools, moisture meters, an infrared camera and the like, that can be helpful in establishing the presence of a roof leak.

"But there is one tool that I haven't got - and believe me, when it turns up in the home inspector catalogs I'll be the first person to buy it - a crystal ball - it's very important that you understand that this is an inspection of this property as of this afternoon - that while I will do my very best to determine if there have been water problems in the past and my very best to identify situations that I know are likely to create water problems in the future, that anything I can say about the past and future of this property is at best an informed guess.

"All I can usually tell from looking and exterior of the roof is its general condition, and that may not be a good predictor of leaks - I have seen roofs that appear to be carefully installed with high-quality materials and that leak because of the single over-driven nail, and I have seen apparently badly deteriorated and incorrectly installed roofs that are watertight.

"Sometimes I can spot types of defects that I suspect are very likely to cause leaks either now or later. But the only way I can definitely determine the roof is leaking is if I can find an active leak or secondary evidence in of a leak the form of elevated moisture levels at the time of inspection. When I see old staining or discoloration, or evidence of previous leaking or patching, but the area is dry today, I cannot know when that leak last occurred, or how likely or often it is to recur again.

"You also need to understand that it's quite common for leaks to occur only under particular weather conditions, for example a strong driving rain from a particular direction.

"As a result it's just not possible on the basis of visual inspection to guarantee that this roof will or will not be watertight tomorrow based on my inspection today unless I can find evidence of an active leak during the inspection."

So when I get a client's call about a leaky roof (and every home inspector gets them) and I'm wondering if I screwed up, when I pull up the report I'm asking myself the following questions:

1) Did I investigate areas of possible leaking with reasonable thoroughness, and if I was unable to observe such an area did I report why, and recommend appropriate further investigation?

2) Did I find evidence of active leak? If so did I clearly clearly report the observation, it's likely implications, and did I make appropriate recommendations for further investigation or repair?

3) If there was evidence of the previous leak, but I did not find it to be active at the time, what was my basis for that finding? Did I clearly report the evidence? Did I make appropriate recommendations for further investigation?

4) Did I find any predisposing conditions that might create a future leak under different conditions than those present at the date of inspection (for example, incorrect flashing at a chimney)? If so did I clearly report them, and make appropriate recommendations for correction?

5) Did I observe conditions that prevented satisfactory inspection (for example siding on a wall above a roof that had no hold back and prevented inspection of the flashings)? If so, did I report the limitation, and make appropriate recommendations for additional inspection?

If I've done those things correctly I can say to my client with a clear conscience that I've done all I reasonably could, and that it would not have been possible for me to further analyze the buildings past history or predict whether it will leak in the future.

Whether I've done my job properly of course depends a good deal on what I could have done differently, for example I could spend an hour exhaustively examining every note and cranny in the attic for evidence of a present or future leak.

However, time spent in exhaustive investigation of the attic is time not spent investigating of electrical system, or the plumbing system, or the foundation, or other systems in the house.

And what I hope is that if I've done my job as best I can, explained the practical limitations under which I work, have made a reasonable set of choices about how to allocate my time, explained to my client what I've done, what I found, and what I suggest they do about it, and most important let them see me make the effort, that an inevitable case that I overlook something they understand that I've done something close to the very best job I could have done under the circumstances.

That's not the legal definition of my job - which frankly, holds me to an impossible standard which no inspector can actually reach - a comprehensive inspection of the house and its systems in the space of three or four hours - but it's the standard to which I hold myself to be able to believe that I'm doing the most competent job I can under the circumstances, and it's this standard - not some ideal inspecting not actuality possible - to which I hope my clients will hold me.

So the question I'd ask myself if I was a homeowner and inspector missed something is: was it reasonable to expect that it would have been found given the real-world constraints present at the time of inspection.

Sometimes the inspector does screw up: there are incompetent inspectors, there are burned-out inspectors, and there are inspectors who are just having terrible luck that day - the dryer exhaust was going out the roof, but there was a break in the flexible ductwork that would've been visible if the inspector had followed their usual protocol and crawled the attic in both directions from the access hatch, but got distracted avoiding a hornets nest.

Other times - hopefully the vast majority of times for good inspector - the choices they made were reasonable, but the luck of the draw was such that a reasonable choice wasn't the one that allocated the time to find a particular defect.

Scuba_Dave 02-04-2009 04:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AndrewF (Post 224991)
Those arent major defects...nor fire hazards.

As for the roof, it wasnt leaking when he inspected it and he had no way to know if it would leak. He sees roofs with poor sheating all the time, but it is ok because its just to help the shingles not cave in....


That was his reply?
How long was he there for the Inspection?

Paying $2-300 I don't think a 4 hour inspection time would be unreasonable
Again, this depends upon the size of the house

I think when we had this house inspected it was maybe 4 hours
He pointed out items that were only cosmetic in nature

3 flaws I found - disconnected 240v wires coiled at the bottom the stairs were live & not properly capped (no mention in report)

2nd was sill plate rot - but it was hidden
another are of the sill plate abutting the front patio he indicated no evidence of water intrusion. But when I ran my hand along the cement wall I brushed dirt & gravel off that was coming from the front patio

3rd was both the front patio & back patio (both cement) were poured incorrectly. Wood shingles were left against the house in both cases. Both were rotting out, in the back partial rim joist effected

I enclosed both areas - front with 3 season, back with a sunroom

Along the front wall they poured the foundation. Then the wall is almost 5" back from the edge of the foundation. He noted this - but again no rot in evidence. I agree with that, but I am building a 1/2 wall, & adding more insulation, to cover the concrete & prevent any water from sitting there & rotting out the sill long term

AndrewF 02-05-2009 12:06 PM

4 Attachment(s)
Thanks for your posts.

He was there for approximately 90 minutes.

He said he had some screws in his truck and he could screw the light fixture up, but it wasnt a safety issue...and he doesnt report code violations.

Yes, I'll probably report him to the state boards as I believe he failed what I would consider routine items that SHOULD have been in his report as a note.

--------
xxxx inspectors are ASHI certified members and use state-of-the-art technology to give you the best information about your home. Our inspection "Office-on-Wheels" is satellite dispatched and our inspectors create your customized and tailor-made home inspection report on-site with our laptop computers and incorporate digital photographs of your home to provide the foremost professional documentation available.

-----

I went through the pictures HE took, and found a few more things that should have been noted.

There was no disposal, and the wire wasnt in a box. No note on report.
There is a structural sagging issue on the roof, no mention in report.
There is a bare burnt wire (hard to see is smaller photo) coming out of breaker panel, no mention in report.

No mention of the broken seal on the rear patio door.

Michael Thomas 02-05-2009 11:14 PM

"xxxx inspectors are ASHI certified members and use state-of-the-art technology to give you the best information about your home. Our inspection "Office-on-Wheels" is satellite dispatched and our inspectors create your customized and tailor-made home inspection report on-site with our laptop computers and incorporate digital photographs of your home to provide the foremost professional documentation available."

Without reference to this specific inspector or inspection, I will say this: I am highly skeptical of this approach - to take just one aspect, consider the process of producing inspection reports on site.

A useful scheduling rule of thumb for me is that it's going to take at least half as long to write the inspection report as to perform the inspection, and over time both my inspections and report writing times are getting longer rather than shorter as I'm able to recognize additional types of of defects and feel the need to produce increasingly comprehensive reports.

Before I became a frequent participant in home inspection Internet forums I thought this must be the result of some failure on my part to improve my inspection and report writing skills - I kept reading about other inspectors who could do three inspections a day - including knocking out the reports on site in half an hour or so - while when I do two inspections a day of the kind of older homes I'm typically inspecting I know I may have an all-nighter (sometimes more) ahead of me just to get the reports out in a timely manner.

After a while though, I discovered that most other other inspectors I respected were spending approximately the same amount of time that I was - and eventually I reached the conclusion that the nature of the job has greatly changed over the last decade: that home inspectors who are were really trying to master the profession know a lot more than we did back then, but that meanwhile for many inspectors the goal has remained to achieve the same inspection and reporting times as back in the day when they spent 90 minutes to walk through the house and handed the client a four-page hand-scrawled checklist.

IMO, printing reports on site reflects the reality that increasingly sophisticated customers demand increasingly sophisticated results, but often the time just isn't there to produce an acceptable level of content (as opposed to superficial presentation) on such a schedule.

And the question I ask inspectors who work in this manner is this:

What happens when you are scheduled for two or three inspections today, and plan to kick out that report on site in 30 minutes, and you hit the one house in 10 or 20 were you really need to be there for five hours, after which you have 40 or 50 significant defects to document and report?

Do you pick up the phone, and cancel the next inspection - pissing off everyone else involved in the transaction - to take the time to do the job right?

Or do you try to catch the high-liability defects, print out a slap-and-dash work product, and go on to the next inspection and caveat emptor, Buddy?

IMO - especially if you're working for a high-overhead inspection firm, there is a sometimes lot of pressure to do the latter.

And while I'm not saying it is impossible to perform satisfactory inspections on this basis, given the properties I typically inspect I sure can't do it, or even come close; and after beating my head against this wall my approach eventually changed to charging a bit more and trying never to do more than one inspection a day if that inspection is going to be a older single-family home, or one with substantial modification, or 5 bathrooms - in such situations I tell my clients that for my fee ($525), they get day of my life, and get it without the distractions of such concerns as as how I'm going to get the next inspection on time.

However IMO that model doesn't work very well in the knock-out-the job franchise model - their eye is on two or three $350 inspections per day.

Leah Frances 02-06-2009 11:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Michael Thomas (Post 225902)
I tell my clients that for my fee ($525), they get day of my life, and get it without the distractions of such concerns as as how I'm going to get the next inspection on time.

The inspector we used when we bought our house (circa 1805) used this method. Also, he would only produce a written report for an additional fee. He, however, required me to be present for the entire inspection and welcomed me to record (or video) it.

Our real estate agent gave us the prior 'franchise style' inspection - it was a check off sheet with things like 'no smoke detectors' and 'no window locks'. Too bad he missed many things, like a hole rotting in the kitchen floor from a leaky dishwasher (must not have been a box for that one).

It's like everything else, Caveat Emptor.


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