Termite inspector angered by home inspector

Posted4/12/2020 6:00 AM

Q: I recently purchased a mobile home from a seller who happened to be a professional termite inspector. Rather than hiring another company to perform the termite inspection, he provided his own report on the property. His report listed no defects of any kind.

Then I hired a home inspector who was unaware of all this, and his report contained several instances of rotted wood trim. He recommended further investigation by a licensed termite inspector. When these new findings were presented to the seller, he became irate and reported the home inspector to the state licensing agency for making disclosures outside his area of expertise. Now the home inspector must defend himself against censure by a government agency, and all because he was protecting my interests as his client.


My question is this: If home inspectors cannot legally disclose problems involving infestation, then what's the point of having a home inspection?

A: Your question involves a major distinction between home inspectors and termite inspectors (technically known as licensed pest control operators). Pest inspection is a highly regulated profession, and home inspectors walk a thin line when disclosing conditions reserved by law for the expertise of a pest inspector. Accordingly, anyone not duly licensed as a pest control operator cannot legally disclose the presence of wood-destroying organisms such as termites, fungus, carpenter bees, wood boring beetles, etc.

So what should your home inspector do when observing this type of damage? Should he say nothing to you or his other clients and simply hope the problem is revealed in the termite report? And if by chance the termite inspector does not report the problem, who will protect the home inspector from resultant lawsuits?

This dilemma poses a threat to all home inspectors, challenging them to provide disclosure without breaking the law. Fortunately, there is a simple solution, and it's all a matter of verbiage. When termite problems are evident in a building, a home inspector may not legally use the word "termite." Instead, it is legal to say "possible insect damage," with a recommendation for further evaluation by a licensed pest inspector. If fungus or dry rot problems are observed, it is permissible to say "apparent moisture damage," followed by the same recommendation.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

If such language was used by your home inspector, without specifying any wood-destroying organism by name, then the seller in your case acted improperly when reporting the matter to the state authorities. On the other hand, if your home inspector named any specific type of wood-destroying organism, he was crossing a legal boundary, albeit to your benefit.

In either case, if moisture damage was evident, this should have been disclosed in the seller's own termite report. Had such disclosure taken place, there would have been no need for disagreement with your home inspector or for raising the hackles of the state bureaucracy.

Aside from this, the seller had a conflict of interest when writing a clean pest report on his own property. The ethical path would have been to hire another pest control company.

• 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.

© 2020, Action Coast Publishing

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.