Real estate law- home Inspectors

Posted by: Aug 11, 2015By Brian Stutheit

Hiring a property inspector before buying a home is important but risky.

A typical property inspector’s contract limits total damages available from the inspector for missing some defect to a refund of the amount paid for the inspection.  It says that a client who makes a claim for a shoddy inspection must prove the claim, or pay all the inspector’s attorney fees.  Virtually all inspection reports contain language that the inspector is not responsible to detect building code violations, structural or engineering issues, mold or other problems.  Over and over, we see inspection reports which advise the buyer to consult an engineer.  The buyer does not consult an expert, because of cost, or because the inspector reassures the buyer (but not in writing) that there is nothing to worry about.

In some ways, having the inspection done protects the seller as much as the buyers, because the seller can say, “You buyers had your own chance to discover problems. If you missed something, it is your property inspector’s fault.”  However, failure to have any inspection at all is foolish assumption of unknown risks.

What can a buyer do?  Ask both the buying and selling realtors if there have been other property inspections, and request copies of those reports.  Ask your realtor what permits have been pulled for work on the property.  If you are buying a fix and flip, ask for a written statement from the seller what work was performed on the house to get it ready to sell.  Sellers don’t have to ge a permit to put drywall over a basement crack.  Do not hire the first inspector your realtor recommends, without checking references.  Will your inspector amend the worst parts of his standard contract?  Why not?   Ask the inspector you choose to have his contract allow attorney fees to whichever side prevails if there is a later dispute.  Ask the inspector to revise his limit on damages.   Ask your realtor about the neighborhood.  Have there been flooding issues, soil problems, environmental issues, major repairs to nearby homes?  If you have even the slightest unease, hire a real engineer or an experienced general contractor to check the property.  If you are buying next to open space or a field, know its zoning status.  Will it be redeveloped?