Home inspector failed to inspect furnace

Q: When we bought our home last year, our home inspector said the forced air furnace was in good working order. Then winter came, the furnace wouldn't start, so we called the gas company. They said the furnace was a recalled Consolidated unit and needed replacement because it was a fire hazard. The gas man also found the thermostat had been disconnected. Therefore, the furnace could not have been tested during the home inspection. Shouldn't the home inspector have reported the recall status of the furnace and at least have told us the system did not work?

A: Recall notifications are excluded from the standards of practice of the home inspection profession. However, hazardous conditions affecting Consolidated furnaces are common knowledge among experienced home inspectors, having been widely publicized during the late 1990s. Most Consolidated furnaces have been replaced since that time.

Aside from the inherent problems with your furnace, it is surprising your inspector reported the system as being "in good working order" without having turned it on. If a disconnected thermostat prevented the system from operating, the lack of performance should have been listed in the report as a defect. The only excuse for not disclosing this would have been that the pilot was not lit, in which case the inspector should have recommended a full review of the heating system prior to close of escrow.

If a recommendation for further review had been made, the inspector would have averted further liability. If his report does not recommend repair or further evaluation prior to close, then his inspection would appear to have been negligent, in which case he should assume financial liability for replacement of the forced air system.

Q: We just purchased a 1988 home. Our home inspector tested the garage door opener, and his report states that the child safety feature is operative. However, our 4-year-old ran through the garage doorway while the door was coming down, and to our surprise, the closer didn't stop. That's when we discovered there are no safety sensors on the door jambs. Isn't this safety feature required by code, and shouldn't it's absence have been reported by our home inspector?

A: Your garage door is required to be self-reversing for child safety, but your home predates the requirement for safety sensors on the garage door jambs. In most municipalities, the requirement for safety sensors was enacted around 1993. If your inspector disclosed the reverse function as operative, then the door probably reverses when there is resistance to downward motion. This was how older garage door openers were equipped for child safety. You can test this yourself by manually resisting the downward motion of your garage door to see if it reverses.

If the door does not reverse when tested, notify your home inspector and request an explanation. It may also be possible to have a garage door company retrofit your current opener with sensors for added safety.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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