Q. I recently purchased a home that has turned into a nightmare of undisclosed problems. The home inspector, who was chosen by the Realtor, is totally dishonest, as I'll explain. The home inspection included environmental tests for radon, mold and water analysis. No problems were reported. Recently, I contacted the laboratories whose names were on the inspection report. All of these companies sent letters stating they have no records of performing tests for my address. When I emailed the home inspector and asked for an explanation, he responded that he used test kits provided by those companies but that the tests were actually performed by local companies. When I asked for the names of those companies, he said he had a "handshake" relationship with those labs and was not permitted to disclose their names. Clearly, this inspector is operating fraudulently. I sent all of this information to the Realtor and her broker, but they have not responded. So I called the district attorney's office and they said I needed to file a police report first. But I am afraid to do so, as the inspector could serve jail time, and he knows where I live. What can I do?
A. Your situation takes first place for the most egregious home inspector performance that has come to my attention. If this inspector has done all that you describe, it's time to get out the tar and feathers.
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All kidding aside, this is fraud that needs to be reported to the authorities. Letting the matter slide for fear of retribution merely assures that other homebuyers will be damaged as you have been. If this were a common criminal, such as a drug dealer, your fear of reprisal would be understandable. But people who commit business fraud are far less likely to be dangerous. This concern, however, is something you should discuss with the police before filing a complaint.
The fact that the Realtors chose the home inspector and is now ignoring your communications does not speak well for their integrity or intentions. Unless the agent and broker address the matter forthrightly, you should file a complaint with the state agency that issues real estate licenses.
Finally, you need to get full disclosure of the condition of your home. The fact that the environmental tests were fraudulent indicates that the entire home inspection report was a whitewash. Try to find a home inspector in your area who has many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness. Much is likely to be revealed by a home inspection from a competent professional.
Q. We had our home re-piped by a licensed plumber. The building inspector signed off on the work, but now we have leaks. Who is responsible, the plumber or the inspector?
A. It is the responsibility of the plumber to repair the leaks. Building inspectors make sure plumbing is installed in accordance with code requirements. But it is possible for fittings to meet code without being tightly fitted, and loose fittings are not obvious until they actually leak. If the water source was turned off during the inspection, leaky fittings would not have been discovered. You should contact your plumber and insist proper repairs be made immediately.
• 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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