Home inspector takes questionable position

Posted12/13/2013 1:00 AM

Q. My home is in escrow, and the deal is about to fall apart because of the buyers' home inspector. The dispute involves four issues in the furnace closet. According to the home inspector, the platform needs replacement because of water damage, the filter needs to be more easily accessible, the closet needs to have a ceiling, and the door to the closet needs to be a fire door. We had the closet inspected by a heating contractor and by the city building inspector. Both say that repairs are not needed. The city inspector says the home inspector should specify which codes he believes are being violated. Instead, the inspector says he can be hired to make the repairs. He has put fear in the buyers, and they are about to cancel the deal. What do you think I should do?

A. If the buyers are insisting on the repairs and you want to sell the house, you may have to satisfy them, even if the home inspector is wrong. That's what happens when issues become emotional. On the other hand, if the building department will write a letter stating that the furnace meets code and the closet does not need repair, you may be able to override the opinions of the home inspector.

However, here are some pertinent points regarding the home inspector's findings:

• If the platform damage is merely cosmetic and does not affect the stability of the furnace, then replacement is not necessary. In any event, the code does not address such issues.

• The air filter should be accessible, but there is no code requirement specifying degrees of accessibility.

• The furnace closet is not required to have a ceiling. The fact that a combustion air opening in the ceiling is permitted should make this fact obvious to any qualified inspector.

• A fire door is only required if the closet is located in the garage. However, if the distance from the closet door to the front of the furnace is less than specified by the furnace manufacturer, a fire-resistant material should be added to the interior surface of the door. If that is what the home inspector had in mind, it would be a simple repair, not worthy of argument.

Finally, it is a violation of professional standards for a home inspector to contract repair work on a home that he has inspected. To do so is contrary to the codes of ethics for all national and state home inspector associations. If the home inspector is a member of any of these associations, you should report him for ethics violations.

Q. We have a ventless gas fireplace that is getting a white residue on the gas logs. It is still safe to use?

A. When a gas fixture is not venting properly, moisture condensation can form in the flue. This moisture is slightly acidic and can be corrosive to metal surfaces. The corrosion often appears as a white powdery residue. For these reasons, you should have the unit inspected by someone with expertise in ventless gas fireplaces.

• 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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