Q. Our home inspector failed to disclose that our roof is in deplorable condition. The inspection report says, "Due to the steepness of the roof, we were unable to walk on the roof and inspect the flashing, stacks and vent covers. We recommend having a qualified contractor evaluate further if desired." This week, I walked on the roof with a roofing contractor and was astounded at the bad condition of the shingles. The roofer said the inspection report was worthless.
Does the wording in the report absolve the inspector of liability?
A. Most roofs can be reasonably inspected without walking on the surface. If it is a one-story roof, the inspector can go around the building with a ladder, placing it against the eaves in various locations, to view as much of the roof as possible. In most cases, this enables the inspector to see visible defects. If the roof is on a two-story building, it is often possible to see defects by using high-powered binoculars. If neither of these options was exercised, then your home inspector was not sufficiently motivated to find defects and was not doing a professional quality job. In this case, however, alternative viewing methods were not necessary since you and your contractor were able to walk on the roof.
Unfortunately, the fact that you waited until you had purchased the property before calling a roofing contractor weakens your claim against the inspector. If you had followed the advice in the inspection report and had called a roofing contractor before closing the deal, you could have known the condition of the roof in a timely manner. On the other hand, the inspectors recommendation for further evaluation was not unequivocal. The report says, "… if desired," rather than making a firm advisement.
The bottom line is the roof defects could have been discovered by your home inspector if he had walked on the roof or had inspected it from a ladder.
Q. In a recent article, you advised a homebuyer to call real estate brokers and ask for a home inspector with a reputation as a "deal killer." You suggested this as a means of obtaining the name of a competent inspector. As a real estate professional I want an inspector who will give a fair and accurate assessment of the property. But these so-called "deal killers" are often more interested in killing the deal than providing objective disclosure. Killing a deal is not the buyer's objective. It is to know the true condition of the property before completing the transaction.
A. The comment about "deal killers" in that article had nothing to do with home inspectors who actually kill deals. It was about home inspectors who are unfairly labeled as deal killers simply because they do very thorough inspections. Obviously, there are many agents who would not label a qualified home inspector in this demeaning way. But there are many agents, as well, who commonly use this questionable label. Ask any group of experienced home inspectors, and all will tell you they have been labeled in this way by some agents. Fortunately, you are not one of those misguided professionals.
• Email questions to Barry Stone through his website, housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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