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Home Inspector Scope of Duties

Type Matter:  Home Inspector Scope of Duties
Issue:  Does a home Inspector have a duty to undertake more than a reasonable visual inspection?
Answer:  No

Facts:  Buyer purchased a single family residence.  During escrow, Seller disclosed that the property had a prior crack in the slab in the area of kitchen, but that the crack had been repaired. Buyer utilized the services of a home Inspector to provide a complete inspection of the property. Inspector was not provided with Seller’s disclosures nor was he informed by any party of the prior crack in the slab. At the time of the inspection, the kitchen slab was covered by flooring material. Inspector’s report did not note any problems in the kitchen floor area. Months after the close of escrow, Buyers began to remodel the property and began to remove the kitchen flooring. At that time, Buyers discovered that the repairs to the kitchen slab had been inadequate and that the prior crack had worsened. Buyer sued both real estate Agents, Seller and home Inspector.

Results:  Buyer resolved claim with Inspector for less than the cost of defense. Although Buyer argued that other exterior cracks noted by Inspector should have placed Inspector on notice of additional problems, Inspector had performed a reasonable visual inspection and noted all relevant issues. Inspector is not privy to disclosures made by Sellers and could not, through reasonable inspection, have observed cracks in property foundation through floor covering. The Buyers’ reluctantly acknowledged this and agreed to the lesser settlement amount. It is noteworthy that there were inadequate disclaimers regarding the scope of the inspection, and the Selling Broker did not take any steps to assure the Buyer had the issue inspected beyond the surface level analysis. This led to an agreement to pay the modest settlement amount.

Lesson:  Home Inspectors must perform a reasonably diligent visual inspection. They are not required to remove existing floor coverings to examine property foundation. In addition, the Selling Broker should take steps to assure the Buyers are aware of the limitations of the inspection and have been given an opportunity to have a more detailed inspection when there is an existing or prior defect issue.

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