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posted: 12/14/2012 5:36 AM

Is home inspector liable after one year?

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Q. When we bought our house, the home inspector found nothing wrong with the heating system. One month after moving in, we turned on the furnace but got no heat on the second floor. We immediately complained to the inspector. He came back to the house and said that nothing was wrong. A year has gone by, the problem has not been solved, so we hired another home inspector. He found many defects that were overlooked by the first inspector, including a disconnected heat duct to the second floor. The first inspection was under warranty for one year only. Now that the year has passed, what can we do?

A. You complained to your home inspector one month after buying the property. That was well within the one-year limit. The fact that the inspector did not acknowledge the problem at that time is irrelevant. Your claim was made within the first year, so the inspector is not relieved of liability.

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If the inspector is unwilling to admit his mistake, you can file a complaint in small claims court. When the judge sees the second home inspector's report, your position will be strong. But before taking that step, get some advice from an attorney regarding the best way to approach this. A letter from the attorney to the inspector may be sufficient to resolve the entire matter. You should also find out if the home inspector has insurance for errors and omissions.

Q. Our home inspector reported a leaking seal at the base of the toilet. After moving in, we hired a plumber to fix the leak. When he lifted the toilet, the wood beneath it was wet and rotted. Shouldn't our inspector have disclosed this damage, as well as the leak? And is he liable for the cost of the additional repairs?

A. If a home inspector discovers a leaking toilet seal, the repair should be done before you close escrow. That way, moisture damage under the toilet can be discovered before you take possession of the property. Waiting to do the repair at a later date was not a good idea.

If your home inspector was on the ball, he would have recommended that the repair be done prior to close of escrow. However, he cannot be held liable for a defect that was in a concealed location.

Q. Do double-pane windows have to be inspected for broken seals when you sell a home?

A. Sellers should disclose all defects of which they are aware, including evidence of leaking dual-pane windows. However, sellers are not obligated to perform an inspection for this type of defect.

Home inspectors, if they are good at what they do, typically check for fogging or dry stains between dual-pane windows. In many cases, this evidence is very faint and difficult to see. It takes a well-trained eye to spot the telltale traces of leaking dual-pane windows.

• Email questions to Barry Stone through his website, housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

Action Coast Publishing

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