The Standards of Practice that home inspectors operate under are a “minimum” standard. It is important to understand that most home inspectors in order to provide better service to their client will go beyond these minimum standards.
Some home inspectors would have the world believe that the inspector opens themselves up to a Pandora ’s Box of liability if they mention anything that is not included in the Standards of Practice.
I come from the position that there are worse things than opening oneself up to perceived increase in liability. To walk around the home and property with blinders on may more likely “increase” the inspector’s liability.
At a recent inspection, on a fairly large property, there were a couple of detached structures including a well house that serviced four or five other homes in the area. As I walked around this structure I noted several covers and tubes in the ground. One was about 16” in diameter with no cover. Another one had a cover but it was not attached to anything.
Typically detached structures are not included in a Standard Home Inspection, and the inspector will usually negotiate whether they are excluded, included or partially included. The cost of the inspection will be set accordingly. On site, this usually involves a lot of pointing and shouting at these structures–with no written report. In the case of a well house that is community property, any defects seen might be deferred to the homeowner’s association for further evaluation and repairs. This would all typically be beyond the scope of the inspection and likely outside any Standards of Practice–except of course that these standards typically pretty much allow us to exclude whatever the parties agree to.
In the case of the above picture, one can see the open, water filled, tube at the top left and the underground storage tanks with unsecured cover next to it. These are a safety concern for any children that might be playing in the area. The large black covered tube at the upper left corner of the picture is the access cover to an underground storage tank for irrigation and as you can see the cover when removed in the picture below revealed that the tank was full of water.
Not only is the tank full of water and the opening big enough for a kid or pet to fall into, but the electrical connections to the pump in the tank are submerged in the water.
Does it increase an inspector’s liability to report on this or to not report on this–even though it is outside the Standards of Practice or what was agreed upon by the parties?
I for one am willing to increase my “liability” in pursuit of information that will protect my client–and possibly even protect those that are not my client. For me, being “right” is of little comfort if someone dies.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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