Q. The people who are buying our home just had a home inspection. After the inspection, I heard the inspector tell the buyer's agent that he would change the report to what the buyer wanted. Since the report will be used to negotiate the terms of the sale, we are very concerned about what appears to be some sort of collusion. The inspector seems to be "playing ball" with the agent and the buyer, rather than simply reporting what he sees. Isn't he supposed to be impartial in his findings?
A. The conversation you overheard between the inspector and the buyer's agent has a suspicious ring, but it may or may not be as bad as it seems, depending on the details. For example, if the buyer wanted the inspector to inflate the severity of defects in his report, or if the inspector was being persuaded to report nonexistent defects, that would definitely involve unethical and fraudulent practices, calling for some form of legal recourse. On the other hand, buyers sometimes notice defects that are missed by their inspector, such as water stains in a closet or a cracked window. In such cases, it would be reasonable for a buyer to want those defects added to the inspector's report.
Other examples might be a safety violation where the inspector noted the defect but did not specify that safety was involved. In those cases, a buyer might request that the inspector use the word "safety" in the inspection report. Then it would be reasonable to "change the report to what the buyer wanted."
Home inspectors should definitely be impartial in their findings. They should disclose what is true and observable. In your case, it would be reasonable to express your concerns to the agents and brokers in the transaction, as well as to the inspector, and to insist on an explanation of the conversation that you overheard.
Q. We purchased a home seven years ago and spent three years in litigation against the seller because of false disclosure. The seller's disclosure statement said the house had a rubber membrane roof. In fact, it has an old tar and gravel roof that leaked the first winter after we moved in. The seller's defense was that the property was being sold as-is. The cost of the litigation became so high that we finally dropped it. Do you think we have any further recourse?
A. This should have been an open-and-shut case of false disclosure. Whether or not the property was being sold as-is was not the main issue. An as-is sale does not give sellers the right to falsely represent the condition of a property. The entire focus of this case should have been the fact that the sellers misrepresented the type of roof that was on the building. Focusing on the as-is clause was an unfortunate complication that needlessly clouded the main issue.
Whether you have any further recourse is a question for an attorney. Unfortunately, the cost of litigation is too high to sue over a faulty roof. Small claims court would probably have been a better bet. Winning a portion of your claim would have been better than risking thousands in legal fees.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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