It is usually pretty easy when I come across problems while inspecting homes, to simply recommend what needs to be done to remedy the problem–and by whom. Even if the problem requires “further evaluation” by some other professional–at least there is some kind of answer/resolution/repair that can be performed to resolve the issue.
For the most part a house is an assemblage of concrete, wood, drywall, doors, windows, electrical components, heating components, plumbing components, insulation, interior finishes and roofing materials etc. All of these components are assembled in a logical, coherent, and systematic way.
When they are not–well that is why home inspectors have jobs.
It is less common for these systems to “act out” and attack a neighboring house.
But this “acting out” is not without precedent. Trees can fall from the property wiping out the neighbors house or car–or fence. Oil tanks can leak from one yard to another–the oil can even find its way into drainage systems and city sewers creating all kinds of havoc. Carpenter ants in a stump in your yard might have satellite nests in several of your neighbor’s homes.
I have no idea as to the liability around any of these issues. Some are likely considered acts of God–while others are less God-like. We would probably like to blame God for lots of things that are our own creation–but I will grant him full title to lightening, hurricanes and tornadoes. There is however, some evidence that man has a hand even in the weather. We were, after all, created in his image supposedly–although some would argue that it is the other way around.
The other day I inspected the south unit of a duplex–three other identical duplexes lined the street to the south of the duplex that I was inspecting. During the year, the sun hits the windows on the south side of the unit I inspected, and the windows cast their focused light on the side of the building to the south–just 12 feet away. This intense reflected light/heat melted the vinyl siding on the building. This occurred on all the other duplexes down the row as well.
So who is responsible for this damage? The owner of the affected building? The owners of all the south units? The siding manufacturer? The window manufacturer? Forrest Gump? God?
I think this is a sure message that in some instances vinyl siding might be the wrong choice–so perhaps liability goes back to whoever specified the vinyl siding–and around and around we go–where the liability stops–nobody knows.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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