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Question DetailsAsked on 8/26/2013

can i sue a home inspector?

During inspection, the inspector was asked about a mark on the kitchen ceiling. He said it was OLD water damage and that there were no problems in the bathroom. Less than 3 months later, we have a hole/leak in the ceiling and found that caulking was used to cover up a leak. The recurring leak issue is not covered by insurance so we have to pay. Can I get that money back from the inspector? He was not thorough.

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3 Answers

1
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The short of it is sure. You can sue anyone without any basis. Of course then you could be countersued for false lawsuit. Typically the only one who wins in a lawsuit are the lawyers. As far as your situation, before I would go as far as a lawsuit I would cover a few bases first.

1. Reread your report. Is there any verbiage addressing this " mark ". It is difficult to tell if it is old new or current unless a water mark is wet. A lot of people don't' read their report thoroughly or they just read the summary and gloss over a warning by the inspector.

2. If you find in your report that he said nothing and the mark was apparent and it sounds like it was then I would make a call to him and have a discussion.

3. At the same time I would look at my disclosure you were given from the owner. Was this leak disclosed. If it was " covered up " with caulk then that is a clear violation of disclosure laws and the seller should also be included in the conversation and any subsequent law suit. You can't cover stuff up. That's the purpose for a disclosure.

JW Ramsey & Son Home Inspections

Answered 6 years ago by ramdino1

0
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As the first answer said, it would be very tough to prove this was a pre-existing leak rather than a new one, though if at the exact same spot for the wet spot, would not be hopeless.

However, your primary difficulty is that unless gross negligence or willful neglignece is evident (and this would likely be simple negligence, at worst, assuming he put something about the spot in his report), then you would be held to the limit of liability stated in your contract with him - read it, the "standard" home inspection contract these days is that the limit of liability for home inspectors is what you paid for the inspection and report, so at most you might recover about $300-400, ASSUMING that you and not the seller paid for the inspection. Also, there is probably a time limit for discovery of flaws not noted in the report, and that might be less than 3 months or so. Certainly not worth suing over if that limit is in place, except MAYBE in small claims court, assuming you have a lot of time to kill going that route.

Talk to the inspector, and it would help if the plumber/contrctor who repaired it gave an opinion of whether it was a new or long-term leak, and he might refund some or all the inspection fee.

You don't say where the caulk was, and why you think it was to conceal the leak rather than to fix it, so can't comment on that issue, but proving it was intended to conceal rather than to repair damage from a leak that had been stopped woulod be VERY difficult.

Personally, if I were going to be called in to evaluate this, 3 months without visible leakage or the spot growing would lead me to believe the leak was not on-going for the 3 months since you moved in, and while it may have been due to a pre-existing condition like a bad caulk or grout job or a wobble toilet causing an intermittent seal leak, the previous owner may honestly have thought it was fixed.

Of course, by saying there was a pre-existing leak there when you put the claim in to the insurance comapny (or talked to them about it) you blew yourself out of the water - with no leakage for 3 months, you could legitimately have argued this was a new leak, and hence covered under homeowners warranty, so you did yourself no favor there.

That's my opinion, plus you have at least one more - there are a few general contractors and at leadt one more home inspector who sometimes weigh in here - maybe one of them will give another viewpoint, but I think your case is weak, at best, though I do understand your frustration.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

1
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Leaks are one of the most common defects found during a home inspection. One of the most common ways for an inspector to analyze a potential leak is using a moisture meter. All homes have some moisture in them, and it can vary room-to-room. The inspector will use the moisture meter to establish a baseline moisture reading for the home. Here in Florida, most homes average 5% to 12% based on our experience. Any area with an active leak will register higher on the moisture meter, even up to 99% if the area is totally saturated from a severe leak.


Did your inspector use a moisture meter during the inspection? Did they document anything about the "spot" in the report? If the leak had been previously repaired and was not active, the moisture meter would have registered approximately the same as the rest of the home, or significantly higher if the leak was active.


The biggest problem with leaks is that they can come from a variety of sources and can be there for a long time before they are noticed. In my personal home, I was unaware that a raccoon had gotten into my attic and chewed the condensation line for my air conditioner. I found out about the leak when I went to replace the bulbs in the enclosed flourescent light fixture below the leak and discovered wet drywall inside the cover and a small hole in my ceiling. After examining the leak, it was evident that it was a small leak that had occured over a period of time. I had no idea!


I agree with the other posters that you should consult with the home inspector about their findings prior to filing a lawsuit. In general, any good home inspector should be willing to discuss and analyze their findings with their client - that's why you hired us!


Jenni Boucher @ Manatee Home Inspection Services

Answered 6 years ago by ManateeHomeInspector




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