Tough truths of the home inspection industry
Every industry has what I call "tough truths." These are things that, while true, no one wants to talk about them. The home inspection industry is no different.
There are things about home inspections and home inspectors that we either just plain don't like or don't seem fair. So let's roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty talking about the down side of the industry and how to handle it if you find yourself at odds with your inspector.
Scope, limitations and exclusions
No one wants to purchase a home, pay for a home inspection, then have something expensive (and not mentioned in the inspection report) go wrong.
In our experience, the defective item was something that was not included in the inspection, such as a sewer or gas line, something that was obstructed from the inspector's view, like an item covered by insulation, or was not listed as "deficient" in the report because there was no visible evidence of a problem at the time of the inspection.
The best way to make sure that this doesn't happen to you is to investigate what items are not included in the inspection and what the inspector is not responsible for. These things are commonly called "scope, limitations and exclusions."
Here in Texas there is a two-page explanation of these items and conditions on the front of the inspection report. Never skip this section when reading your report. In addition, if you are asked to sign a contract with the inspector before the inspection, make sure you take the time to read it first.
Knowledge is your friend and it can only help to know up front which items the inspector will not be taking responsibility for before you go any further. If there is something listed there that you absolutely do want inspected, talk to your inspector. They might be willing to look at it for an additional fee, or he or she may be able to refer you to a third party or specialist to get you the information you want.
What if my inspector missed something?
Inspectors are human, and while we do our best, we make mistakes sometimes. If you have reason to believe the inspector made a mistake, the majority of inspectors prefer to hear from you first.
It is best if you speak to the inspector directly. Going through your realtor or any other third party can increase the likelihood that something can get communicated incorrectly or misinterpreted. Most inspectors want to be able to handle a problem quickly and will likely be willing to come out and take a look at the item in question.
If there is no doubt that a mistake was made, most inspectors will refund you the cost of your inspection. In fact, some contracts used by home inspectors specify this as the maximum financial compensation a client will receive in the event of a problem.
If that will not satisfy, or you can't come to an agreement, you have options. The agency that licenses home inspectors in your area can tell you how to proceed. If your state does not license home inspectors, you can also often get help from your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce.
Additionally, you can see if your inspector is a member of any national professional organizations, such as InterNachi or ASHI. There are codes of conduct a member of these organizations must adhere to during conflict resolutions.