Real estate and property laws encompass a wide variety of topics, which include doing the following with residential or commercial property:

  • Buying;
  • Selling;
  • Using; and
  • Leasing.

There are numerous common real estate and property law disputes which arise, including:

What is a Home Inspection?

Home inspections allow the parties to a home sales transaction to identify the repairs which must be made prior to closing the sale and whether there are any defects with the home. Local municipal boards commonly require home inspections to ensure that the home meets the proper safety and zoning standards.

Home inspections can also affect the price of a home. There are also other reasons why individuals request home inspections, including when they are constructing an addition on their home, such as decks or additional wings to the home.

In these situations, the home inspection may be necessary to determine whether or not the new addition is permitted according to local housing laws. Additionally, a home inspection may determine whether the structure meets the requisite safety standards.

Home inspections are completed because it would be a waste of resources, time, and money to build a structure which would have to be torn down because it violated local housing laws.

What is an Inspection Contingency?

Inspection contingencies can be included in contracts for the sale of homes or residential properties. A contingency is a condition which must be met in order for the real estate closing to occur.

If there is an inspection contingency, the real estate closing cannot occur until the home has been subjected to a detailed inspection by a professional home inspector. In the majority of cases, the buyer is the party who requests the home inspection contingency.

In other words, buyers typically seek to ensure that they have a right to have the property inspected at least once, or several times, prior to signing the closing papers. In other situations, other parties may be seeking the inspection contingency, including:

  • The seller;
  • The mortgage company; or
  • The insurance company.

What Might the Inspection Cover?

The type of inspection that is specified in the contingency will vary depending upon the needs of the parties involved. In the majority of cases, the aim of an inspection is to discover any potential issues or defects which may lower the home’s value or require repair to make the home safe.

Although the details of an inspection may vary, home inspections typically cover:

  • Dangerous conditions on or near the property;
  • Mold;
  • Toxic substances, for example, lead in paint;
  • Rodent infestations or damage;
  • Environmental dangers, which may include a risk of landslides or mudslides, earthquake conditions, or hurricanes;
  • Structural defects or property structures in disrepair;
  • Issues with neighboring properties and boundaries; and
  • Zoning and land use violations.

If a home is being built, inspections are also often done during the different construction phases, in order to monitor the progress of the building. The details and requirements for home inspections will depend upon the details which are specified in the contract.

A more detailed breakdown of home inspection details may include:

  • Yard:
    • Do the sidewalks and driveway have cracks, potholes, or other defects?
    • Are the bushes, trees, and other plants in good condition?
    • Are the decks, patios, porches, stairs, and steps, in good repair without any security issues?
    • Does the yard have any water drainage issues?
    • Is the pool free of cracks, algae, or other issues?
  • Exterior:
    • Are there cracks or holes on the exterior walls of the home?
    • Do the doors, windows, roof, steps, or porches appear to sag?
    • Is the exterior paint in good condition?
    • Are any windows cracked or missing screens?
    • Is the trim around the windows and doors cracked, decayed or showing any signs of leaks?
    • Are there any shingles missing or cracked on the roof?
  • Kitchen:
    • Are all the appliances in good working order?
    • Does the kitchen sink not drain properly or leak?
    • Do the electrical outlets work?
    • Are the kitchen cabinets properly level and do they show signs of excessive wear and tear?
  • Bedrooms and Living Room:
    • Is the interior paint in good condition?
    • Are there any issues with the floor, ceiling, or walls, such as holes, cracks, or stains?
    • Do windows and doors open and shut properly?
    • Do electrical outlets and light switches work?
  • Bathrooms:
    • Is there any evidence of mold?
    • Do the sink, toilet, bathtub, or shower leak?
    • Does the fan work properly?
    • Are there any issues with cracked tiles?
  • HVAC:
    • Does the heating and cooling system work properly?
    • Does it appear to have been serviced recently?
  • Attic and Basement:
    • Is there any evidence of a leak or flooding?
    • Is there any evidence of an insect or animal infestation?
  • Garage:
  • Does the garage door function properly?

What if a Real Estate Inspection Contingency has been Violated?

If a party fails to obtain or allow a home inspection to occur according to a contingency, it may result in the sale being delayed, canceled, or voided. In these instances, the breaching party may be subject to a lawsuit in which they would be required to pay damages to the other party for the losses which were caused by the breach.

There are also other issues which may arise related to home inspections, such as home inspection fraud, which may lead to lawsuits or legal penalties. For example, if a seller knowingly collaborates with an inspector who misrepresents information during an inspection, it may lead to legal damages.

What are Some Common Disputes Over Home Inspections?

Disputes may arise for many reasons related to home inspections or appraisals. In the majority of cases, home inspections are performed as part of the steps which are associated with the sale of a home.

Both of the parties to a home sales transaction must be in agreement regarding the price and the value of the home. Because of this, home inspections may provide some common ground for the parties to use as the foundation for their agreement.

Buyers and sellers, however, may still have disputes regarding inspections issues, including:

  • The methods used when calculating the value of the home, such as the fair market value versus individual inspector determinations;
  • What is considered during the appraisal, such as, defects, improvements, additions, etc.;
  • Legal factors, such as zoning and land use; and
  • Which party will be responsible for the cost of the home inspection.

Therefore, it is important to have the home inspection or appraisal be conducted in a manner in which both the buyer and seller can agree upon. This must occur so that the parties can move forward with the rest of the steps that are required for the home sales transaction.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with a Real Estate Inspection Contingency?

It is to your advantage to have the assistance of a real estate lawyer for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have regarding a real estate inspection contingency. A real estate inspection may influence the selling price of a home.

Your lawyer can assist in negotiations regarding the terms of a contingency as well as ensure that your interests are protected. If you have to file a lawsuit for damages, your lawyer will assist you with your claim and represent you in court.