Problems not reported by home inspector
Q: When we bought our home, we thought we had a good home inspector. He found some problems, which the sellers agreed to fix, but he missed two important items.
First, there is no roof flashing around the chimney, and we now have rain leakage. Second, there are cracks in the sidewalks around the house and in the brick mortar on the outside walls. These cracks appear to be caused by tree roots near the building, but the home inspector merely advised us to keep an eye out in case they get worse. In the past year, they've gotten noticeably worse.
Shouldn't our inspector have been more diligent?
A: The conditions you've described appear to be examples of inadequate disclosure. The primary duties of a qualified home inspector are to report visible defects and to recommend further evaluation and repair by qualified experts.
The absence of chimney flashing is a significant defect, likely to promote roof leakage. Inspection of chimney flashing is a routine procedure for home inspectors, and the lack of flashing warrants attention by a licensed roofing contractor. In some cases, where multiple roof layers are installed, or where mastic has been heavily applied, it may not be possible to verify the presence of flashing. In those instances, an inspector should recommend further evaluation by a qualified roofer. When assessing roof conditions near a chimney, home inspectors should also look for and report any water stains on ceilings and in attics as indications of past leakage.
Cracks in pavement or in walls are not always significant and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Where tree roots near a building appear to be exerting pressure, home inspectors should recommend further evaluation by a qualified specialist such as a structural engineer. Simply advising a homebuyer to watch for worsening of the cracks is an invitation to liability. If the cracks become worse, the inspector's failure to recommend a structural evaluation and possible tree removal can lead to costly consequences.
Home inspectors can be liable, to varying degrees, for these kinds of errors and oversights, depending upon standards of practice, state laws, contractual agreements and recentness of the inspection. In such cases, it is essential the inspector be notified as soon as discrepancies are discovered.
Q: The buyers' home inspector is scheduled for next week, and our agent advised us to leave our house while the inspection takes place. This seems unreasonable to us. Why shouldn't sellers be home during an inspection?
A: Your concern is understandable. It's your home, and you have the right to be present if you so choose. However, from the buyers' perspective, they have hired the inspector as a confidential consultant, hoping to discuss the condition of your home without having to guard their words. As the buyer of your next home, you may want the same degree of privacy with your home inspector.
After your home has been inspected, you should receive a copy of the inspector's report and can then discuss or debate the merits of those findings.
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