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posted: 3/23/2012 5:33 AM

Home inspector: Home inspector ignored plumbing leak

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Q. We hired a home inspector before buying our home, but he dismissed a defect that has now become a problem. In the room below the master bathroom, there were water stains on the wall around a drain cleanout. We asked the inspector about it, and he said it wasn't a problem. At the time, the stains were dry because the house had been vacant for months. But he didn't even run water in the shower or sink and didn't even mention the stains in his report. After we moved in and began taking showers, the wall surface became wet. The inspector now says that it was not his responsibility to figure out if the leaking would continue in the future. Besides this, the seller says that she never had a leak while she lived in the home. This seems unreasonable and unfair. What can we do?

A. If the seller denies having known about the leak, she may or may not be telling the truth. There is probably no way to prove or disprove her position, so that issue may be a stalemate. The problem with the home inspector, however, is another story and involves three main issues:

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• It is understandable that an inspector might fail to notice a leak or evidence of a past leak, but to dismiss an issue that is specifically pointed out by a buyer is inexcusable. If your inspector didn't want to test for leaks, he should have recommended in his report "further evaluation by a licensed plumber."

• Testing showers, tubs and sinks with running water is normal operating procedure for a home inspector. The idea that a home inspection would not include a routine test of the plumbing fixtures is outrageous. An inspector who won't turn on faucets or test for leaks should find another line of work.

• Now that the leak has been affirmed, the inspector needs to be accountable for his failure to provide disclosure. All inspectors miss some defects, regardless of their levels of competency. But an inspector who will dismiss this kind of situation, without assuming some degree of responsibility, is not a true professional.

Hopefully, the repair is not an expensive one. Have it evaluated by a licensed plumber. It is possible that this is a minor defect that will not require legal action against the home inspector.

It would also be wise to hire another home inspector for a second evaluation of the property. Additional defects will most likely be discovered.

Q. During heavy rains, the gutters and downspouts from my roof work just fine, but puddles form on the ground and gradually dissipate in about an hour. Do you think I should be concerned about this?

A. The soil on your property absorbs water more slowly than the rate of roof drainage. If the puddles dissipate in a short time, and if there is no water intrusion or water damage in the building, this is probably not a significant issue. However, it would be advisable to extend the downspouts away from the building.

• 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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