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Question DetailsAsked on 2/15/2018

How can I sue an inspector that was recommended by my realtor? electrical and plumbing so BAD. Notable danger!

Outlets not grounded, plumbing way beneath code, termite damage. That is to mention the most concerning. Other things should have been NOTED as well. Back door would not open. None of the rooms doors would stay closed. Some did not even have hardware on them to close. Insulation below requirements. No ventilating fan in either bathroom. Would appreciate any help you are able to give us

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Because you talk termite damage, I am assuming this was a used house you were buying - not new construction. If new construction, then answers would be very different because new construction has to be up to code as of the time it is built (or in some areas, as of start of construction or permit issuance date) - though VERY hard to force a builder to do corrections if you have already "accepted" the house by closing on it without any contractual requirement for repairs (like an agreed-to punchlist of items needing correction, though even that should be completed before closing if at all possible).

I am assuming in the following discussion that you are in already in possession of the house and that the sale has closed. If you received the inspector's report and are still in the period between initial offer and closing, you may or may not have an out in cancelling the deal, though it may cost you part or all of your deposit. Certainly if still in the inspection period, where you could say those sort of issues (though they would have to be documented, maybe with a second home inspector's report) would normally be justification to either counter-offer to the Seller (like stipulting he repair all or some of the deficiencies at his cost before closing) or if he will not agree to that, then walk away from the deal under the inspection and contingency terms of the contract.

If you are thinking legal action against him (or against your Realtor for recommending an apparently incompetent one) you need to be talking to an attorney who is experienced in home inspection and liability cases - and don't count on finding one who will take this on percentage contingency, because the $ amount is probably pretty small and also because suing home inspectors is almost always a losing proposition.

First - read your contract with the inspector - though if the failure to perform is real bad you may be able to go after his liability insurance, generally contracts these days say any claim you may have against him for negligence or failing to note certain items is limited to what you paid him - a few hundred $, so at most a small claims court case. Commonly if you complain in a case like this, they will just refund the inspection fee and say that is that under their contract terms.

Even if you can prove liability, most home inspectors are one-man outfits with little (or if incorporated or an LLC or such as they should be if they are smart) near zero assets in their company, so unless they have company liability insurance (which generally does not cover this sort of claim) or Errors and Omission insurance (which does cover this sort of thing), there are no deep pockets to tap for your claim - but talk to attorney about that.

You talk about things not being to code - you may have a major misunderstanding of building code requirements. Bear in mind, except for items your local area may have specificically required be brought up to date before a sale (usually only minimal smoke/CO alarms and stair handrails and deck rails and maybe bedroom emergency egresses, at most, in most areas), when a house is sold it does NOT have to be brought up to current code. It is allowed to stay at original code compliance as of time of construction at most (and not even guaranteed to meet that).

So - houses are currently very commonly sold with 2x2 studs, poor or no insulation, no roof tiedown anchors, knob-and-tube wiring, asbestos and lead paint (some areas mandate that be tested and/or remediated before sale), electrical systems without individual outlet grounding, etc - all generally perfectly legal. In fact, under many codes until recently, outlets generally can be two-wire without a ground, thanks to the Underwriter Labs buckling under to manufacturers maybe 30 years ago to allow eliminating 3-wire appliances and power tools and going with the silly (and in my experience very dangerous) 2-wire cords and outlets. If originally built under 2-wire outlet and ligth fixture code, they can stay that way and replacement outlets can also be 2-wire.

Generally, upgrading to current code is not required till remodeling is replacing/redoing at least half of a system (like plumbing, electrical, etc) - though any new work has to be to current code unless just repairing/replacing exactly as per original, but upgrading to current code is generally not required, and certainly not for personal residences (as opposed to commercial rental apartment/condo buildings) unless doing a major general remodel. (Some areas require all of a system be brought up to code if more than half of it is being repalced/upgraded, some if a remodel totals more than half the value of the house, some either way). Course, how you measure "half" and being able to do several upgrades back to back, each less than half, is a common way around those requirements.

Even if the house was not to code at the time it was built, generally you are buying a house in an as-is condition unless specifically stated otherwise in the contract, so the home inspection and your walk-through is your protection against conditions which you find unacceptable. You generally cannot go "back in time" and require that a property be brought up to the original code at the time it was built if there are problems. (Rules vary by area for commercial buildings - but either way would normally, except for a very few life safety issues like alarms and emergency egress, would have to be caught during the contingency period).

Termite damage, unless they were freely crawling around and highly visible or beams were failing because of it, is usually SPECIFICALLY excluded from a home inspector's inspection - you need to get a separate Pest Control inspection for that. Also - if the termite damage is not structurally critical, the damage itself does not generally have to be repaired if the termites are killed in a treatment - so pre-existing damage like surficial beam trackways or such would not of itself be a disqualifying factor (though you could rule it as unacceptable during the contingency period based on an inspection).

Doors not opening/closing/latching or missing hardware is the sort of thing you should/ could have noticed in your own walkthrough, so normally if uyou did not notice it during your initial walkthrough, the inspector would not normally be considered responsible for it - though a high quality inspector does "exercise" all faucets and doors and such for acceptable function. Ditto to any other defects which your walk-through visual inspection should have made evident to you.

Many realtor contracts specifically say they have no liability for inspectors or contractors or such which they may refaer you to.

Certainly, check on licensing (if required in your area) and insurance held by the inspector - if operating with required license or insurance that might strengthen your odds of some recovery. And of course, if there are evident structural or major violations which the prervious owner would have had to have known about and failed to disclose in appropriate parts of his property disclosure statement then that might strengthen your case.

To pursue any case, would probably require a re-inspection, and probably by a licensed Architect or Engineer rather than just a home inspector, to develop photos and a report of deficiencies as evidence of the poor inspection.

And of course talk to the realtor about the bad referral.

And after all is said and done, sounds like appropriate Reviews would be in order for the inspector and maybe the realtor.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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