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Article posted: 4/26/2013 3:05 AM

Inspector should support findings with photos of defect

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By Barry Stone

Q. We're selling our house after spending $150,000 on a complete remodel. The place is in excellent shape, but the buyers' home inspection report was hideous! The inspector said the toilets are loose and need new seals, but they were installed less than a year ago, and we can't budge them. He also said the framing is rotted under the house, but we've had all of that repaired. When we asked why there were no foundation photos in the report, he said he "didn't want to get his camera dirty."

We think the inspector wrote a bad report to help the buyers negotiate a lower price. Another related problem is that we wanted to be home during this inspection, but the buyers' agent said it was illegal for us to be in the house when the inspection was being done. This is such a mess, but we don't know what to do. What do you recommend?

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A. If the home inspector's findings are questionable, you should state this in writing to the buyers and request that the inspector verify his findings with photos. If he doesn't want to get his camera dirty, he can shield it with a plastic bag while he is under the house, or perhaps he could borrow your camera. In any event, he should have to show exactly what he saw regarding the alleged wood rot.

You might also hire your own home inspector to provide a second opinion of the property's condition. If the reports agree, you can have the defects repaired. It they differ, each inspector should provide evidence of his disclosures. If the buyers back out of the deal, the second inspection report can serve as disclosure to future buyers.

The Realtor's assertion that it is illegal for you to be in your own home during a home inspection is entirely preposterous. It is your home. You own it. You have the right to be there any time you want, regardless of home inspections or other circumstances. The agent can request that you not be home during the inspection, but no one can legally compel you to leave your home.

Q. I recently purchased a 5-year-old condominium. After moving in, I found the refrigerator had a leak and had damaged the laminate flooring. Is the home inspector or the seller liable for not disclosing the leak or the damage? Or is my Realtor liable for recommending the home inspector?

A. Free-standing appliances, such as refrigerators, are outside the scope of a home inspection. However, if the floor damage was visible without moving the refrigerator, the inspector should have reported this as a visible defect.

The sellers and the agent are only liable for defects of which they were aware. If the floor damage was concealed beneath the refrigerator, the agent was probably unaware of it. The sellers may have known, but that could be difficult to prove. Unless this is a clear case of nondisclosure, you may simply have to accept these repairs as part of the cost of the property.

• 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.

Action Coast Publishing

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