Home Inspection Lawsuits

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 What Is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is conducted by a professional home inspector. The inspector evaluates a home’s physical condition. The inspector then prepares an inspection report that presents their findings. The report notes home improvements and items that may need repair or renovation.

Home inspections are usually performed when a person puts a property up for sale, and a buyer submits an offer. A buyer’s offer to buy a home may depend on their receiving an acceptable home inspection report indicating no serious problems with the property.

What Does a Home Inspector Do?

Home inspectors look for issues with various home components. Issues may include the following:

  • Whether there is toxic mold in the home.
  • Whether the HVAC system is in good working order, what its age is, and when it might need a replacement.
  • Whether the home has any kind of infestation issue, e.g., rodents or termites.
  • The age and condition of the roof.
  • Whether the home has functioning detectors for carbon monoxide and smoke.
  • Whether the home has a radon problem.
  • The condition of the plumbing system to the extent it can be known.
  • The condition of the electrical system.

Inspectors look at various systems that are critical to a safe and comfortable home and would be expensive to repair or replace, e.g., the HVAC system. They also inspect areas, including the walls, ceilings, fences, foundation, staircases, attics, basements, and chimneys, to ensure that they are in good order, do not need an immediate replacement, and do not present structural weaknesses.

The inspector then prepares an inspection report and delivers the result to the person who hired them. Of course, during the inspection, the inspector notes any issues they identify, which might be the buyer or the seller. The report may contain recommendations for how to remediate any issues that are discovered.

For example, an inspector may recommend replacing HVAC system filters or restoring detectors to functionality. An inspector may also note whether there have been additions or improvements to a home. They may also note whether structural changes were made with the necessary building permits. In a property that is in a homeowners’ association (HOA) or condominium association, an inspector might note if something has been done to the home that puts it in violation of the HOA covenants and bylaws.

An inspector’s report does not estimate the home’s value. Rather, an appraiser is a professional who gives an informed estimate of a home’s worth. The appraiser determines home values by looking at a home’s condition, age, square footage, layout, local crime rates, school quality, and values of similar homes in the area that have recently sold, i.e., “comparables.”

What Does a Home Inspection Report Not Cover?

It is important to keep in mind that inspections do not cover certain items. Generally, inspections do not include the following:

  • Termite Damage: If a person involved in a real estate transaction suspects termite infestation, they would want to get a separate inspection by the pest control specialist.
  • Defects in Materials: An inspector does not inspect to determine whether low-cost choices were made in flooring material or appliances and the like.
  • In-depth Study: Home inspectors do not engage in digging underground, inserting cameras into spaces that are inaccessible, or cutting open flooring. Again, if a person were to think that such measures are necessary, they would have to arrange for a specialized inspection.
  • Structural Testing: Testing the structural soundness of features such as retaining walls or assessing geological factors. They might comment on whether the property is in a flood zone or if a yard should be re-graded.
  • Septic Tanks and Wells: A general inspection would not involve inspecting septic tanks or wells.

Again, a person can always arrange to get any home inspection they need. However, they would need to make special arrangements to do the kinds of inspections mentioned above. A standard home inspection would not include these measures.

Does a Home Inspector Have to Be Licensed?

Because not all home inspectors must be licensed or certified, some have more expertise than others. Some states require home inspectors to be licensed, and there are licensing requirements, e.g., educational requirements. Other states do not have any licensing requirements.

There is a Society of American Home Inspectors (ASHI). This non-profit organization recommends that a person always hire an ASHI member when they need a competent home inspector, especially in states that do not require a home inspector to have a license.

Requiring a license is one way to ensure an inspector is qualified to do their job. ASHI members subscribe to the ASHI Standard of Practice and Code of Ethics, which gives a person some measure of confidence that an inspection has a level of quality and recognizes a code of ethics.

If a person wants a specialized inspection for some particular issue, they could hire a licensed professional with the necessary expertise. For example, if a person thinks there might be structural issues in a home or a feature on a property, e.g., a retaining wall, they would hire a structural engineer to make an inspection.

The purchase of a home is one of the major purchases in a person’s life, and it pays to proceed cautiously and take steps to ensure a professional inspection of a prospective home.

How Extensive Is a Home Inspection?

Inspectors typically look for issues that are more significant and not trivial. So, they may not include in their report every possible flaw in the appearance or functioning of a home, e.g., chipped paint or squeaking doors. Rather, they look for problems that a reasonable, average homebuyer might find significant when deciding whether to purchase the home. They might also look for issues the average homebuyer or seller might not recognize.

For example, an inspector may look for problems that might violate local building codes. The remedy might be simple, such as installing batteries in fire alarms. However, they are often looking for signs of problems that would affect the property’s value or be costly to repair.

Generally, the more in-depth the inspection is, the more it costs. The cost of the inspection may also depend on the age of the property and its size.

What Is the Importance of a Home Inspection?

Home inspections allow buyers and sellers to complete transactions with the information they need to have about a property’s condition. Of course, the condition of a property affects the price. Buyers want to review inspection reports before completing a purchase of a home.

If an inspection report shows an issue with a property, a buyer can demand that it be fixed before purchasing the home. Or they can pass on a purchase that seems unwise, given the condition of the property. The goal of a buyer is to avoid the need to make costly repairs or renovations of problems they never knew about when they bought the property.

Buyers, therefore, often include a provision in the contract for the sale of the home that makes receiving an acceptable inspection report a condition of the sale. This provision can require that if the property needs repairs, the seller must make and pay for them before the sale can be completed. The provision may also give the buyer the right not to proceed with the sale if the seller does not make the repairs.

A seller may want to have a home inspection done before they put a property on the market. Then they can make any needed repairs or renovations before trying to sell so they do not confront any unpleasant surprises when a buyer wants to make an offer.

What Is a Home Inspection Lawsuit?

Home inspectors are required to perform their work in a competent manner and exercise due care in their professional activities. They are also required to fulfill the terms of any contract they have with the buyer or seller of a property. If the contract contains any warranties, the home inspector is legally required to honor them.

A buyer may complain that they relied on a report in making a home purchase, and the inspector failed to find or disclose a major issue that would be costly to fix and or that reduces the value of the home. A seller may complain that they lost a lucrative sale because a home inspector negligently or intentionally reported problems that did not exist.

If a buyer or seller suffers economic losses because a home inspector was negligent, breached their contract, or intentionally misrepresented the condition of a property, the buyer or seller may seek damages in a civil lawsuit.

If a home inspector prepares a report that is inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading, the person who relies on the report, whether buyer or seller, may file a lawsuit against the inspector. Home inspectors may be sued in a civil lawsuit for negligence, breach of contract, misrepresentation, or breach of warranty. The following facts may serve as the basis for any one of these theories of liability:

  • Failing to Accurately Report the Condition of a Property: An inspector may fail to account for home improvements or make a thorough inspection that would have revealed defects or the need for repairs. Failure to thoroughly evaluate a property may cause a buyer to rely on an inaccurate report when choosing to purchase the property.
  • Deliberately Misrepresenting the Condition of a Home: Although buyers and sellers may both hire inspectors, an inspector always has a duty to prepare a report that is not misleading and does not contain misrepresentations, meaning the inspector may not deliberately or negligently misrepresent the condition of the home.

If an individual can prove in court that their reliance on an inspection report caused them to suffer economic losses, they can seek relief through a civil lawsuit in a court of law. If the suit is successful, the inspector may have to compensate the person for their economic and non-economic losses.

What Are the Alternatives to a Home Inspection Lawsuit?

Instead of suing a home inspector, a person who receives an inspection report containing material, i.e., significant errors or omissions, may choose to hire a different inspector to obtain a “second opinion.”

A person can always privately negotiate the resolution of a problem. A person can also choose to mediate a dispute before a neutral mediator. Binding arbitration is another way of pursuing a remedy from a home inspector.

A person should read the contract they have with a home inspector. The inspector may require that any dispute be subject to binding arbitration, and a person may not want a provision requiring arbitration in the event of a dispute. A person may want to have the right to turn to the courts if they have a dispute with a home inspector. As with all business contracts, it pays to read the fine print before signing the contract.

Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer for a Home Inspection Issue?

If you believe you have suffered economic loss from an inspector’s faulty home inspection report, you should contact a real estate lawyer. An experienced real estate lawyer near you can evaluate the facts of your case and can advise you on whether your losses are significant enough to warrant legal action.


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