Barry Stone: Home inspection is limited to what is visible

Originally published at NewsOK.com

by Barry Stone

DEAR BARRY: We bought our house five years ago and hired a home inspector to find all the defects. After all these years, we learned that an important defect was omitted from the inspection report. During the last rainstorm, ground water drained into the added bedroom.

A general contractor removed some of the soil around the building and found that the addition was built on a concrete slab, but without a foundation. This problem was actually overlooked by our home inspector.

We contacted him to demand that he pay for a foundation, but he refused, stating that the problem was outside the scope of his inspection. How can a foundation problem be outside the scope of a home inspection? That's what we hired him for. Aren't home inspectors required to take responsibility for negligent work?

— Marjorie

DEAR MARJORIE: An undisclosed problem of this kind can be as frustrating as it is costly. Avoiding situations such as this is the primary reason most people hire a home inspector, but your inspector's failure to discover the lack of a foundation under a concrete slab may not involve negligent performance.

The standards of practice for the home inspection industry are set forth by professional associations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors and comparable state associations. Most home inspectors are members of one or more of these associations and are bound to inspect according to applicable Standards of Practice and Codes of Ethics.

Membership in a professional association does not guarantee proficiency on the part of every inspector, but the Standards of Practice define the general scope of a home inspection. These guidelines are acknowledged as the criteria by which qualified home inspectors should perform their services.

According to these standards, a home inspection is limited to conditions that are visually accessible. Specifically excluded from an inspection are conditions that are concealed from view, such as items contained within walls, ceilings and floors, or buried beneath the ground.

According to standards, inspectors are not required to dismantle construction nor excavate ground surfaces to discover conditions that are not normally visible.

The fact that the foundation problem at your home remained undiscovered for five years and was only revealed when a contractor excavated around the building indicates that the defect was not visually detectable when you hired the home inspector.

For clarification of the standards by which your inspector performed his services, you should review the inspection report. Most inspectors are careful to define the scope and limitations of their inspections. These parameters are generally outlined in the contract, the report, or both.

Nearly all home inspection contracts clearly specify that concealed items are outside the scope of the inspection. Additionally, most inspection reports specifically identify the association whose standards are the basis for the inspection. If these guidelines were specified in a clear and understandable manner, it would not be reasonable to hold the inspector liable for a defect that was located beneath the ground where it could not have been observed.

Distributed by Action Coast Publishing. To write to Barry Stone, go to www.housedetective.com.

Date : 11/11/2017