As home inspectors we hear over and over that if we go outside the standards of practice we open ourselves up to more liability.
Let’s put liability aside for a moment (or at least come at it from a different angle) and discuss another good reason for going beyond the standards of practice. To the degree that we provide a level of detail beyond the sop’s we can have a pool of information to better support what we did or did not do during the inspection.
This can be accomplished not only by providing more detailed information in the report itself but also by having a large number of pictures that support both the written report and also provide a resource that one can go back to if questions arise. With excessive pictures (350 to 450 for the “average” home) the inspector can essentially repeat the inspection from their computer.
We all hate those calls that begin with: “A couple of months ago you inspected my home……..”
Ninety-nine percent of the time the rest of the sentence goes something like, “…..and now we would like you to inspect another one for us.”
We keep our fingers crossed about the sentence not continuing with, “…..and you missed XY & Z and we want to know what you are going to do about it.”
I can argue that the number of calls like this goes way down as the level of detail in the report goes up.
I witness this in the discussions I have with other inspectors that strictly adhere to the sop’s and who routinely surrender the cost of the inspection back to their clients, or pay even larger amounts in claims for things actually missed or that they had no way of “proving” that they did not miss.
I have even known inspectors that just consider some amount of reverse flow of money a “normal” cost of doing business. I think it is important to keep this reverse flow of money to a minimum. I have always been able to support either in the written report or in photos what the “truth” of the matter was. Given that in 13+ years I have only had two such incidents, I jump to the conclusion that I am doing something right. In the first of these incidents there were four items that were claimed to have been missed and all were sufficiently covered in the report–and in redundant fashion–and were even in the summary. Sometimes it is helpful to read the report.
In this case, the client simply did not sufficiently read the report, but instead relied too heavily on what was discussed during the inspection. While tons of stuff will be discussed during the inspection, it is fairly typical for issues that are not deal breakers to either not be fully discussed or possibly not be discussed at all during the inspection and only fully revealed in the context of the completed report.
In this one instance I should have perhaps made it clearer that the report was paramount to the most complete understanding of the house’s condition. In any court of law, it is the written report that will largely be relied upon to either support or refute either party’s claims. I for one would rather know in my heart that in fact the consumer was actually taken care of, even if at first they were not aware of it, than to fall back on a SOP that allowed me to not say anything about something, or did not specify a higher level of detail. With this detailed approach, all parties of the process, agents, buyers and inspectors, are best protected.
In the second incident, the glare of the sun prevented me, or allowed me, to miss the gutter was hanging off the fascia at one end, and I had the washed out picture to show for it. Unfortunately, the cover picture of the report itself showed the hanging gutter quite clearly. That cost me $75.00 for client to hire a handyman to reattach the gutter, but was not enough to clean the egg off my face.
While some Home Inspectors will choose to use the SOP as an “out,” I would much rather rely on my report–and of course the minimum Standards of Practice are easily covered by the report anyway.
Just like the Building Codes are the worst house we are allowed to build, so to the Standards of Practice define the worst inspection we are allowed to do.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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