how do I pursue this home inspector?

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  #1  
Old 04-30-12, 09:50 AM
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how do I pursue this home inspector?

I bought a three story single family home last year, and hired a home inspector to go through before I bought it. The home inspector gave me a report that said the exterior was acceptable and in no need of any action. I bought the house, took out home insurance, and the home insurance's own inspector came and saw withing minutes of being there that the brick needed repointing and around almost the entire unattached portion of the house. They also sent me a letter saying that they would no insure me unless I get it fixed, and that's going to put me at least $6000 in the hole. I spoke with a lawyer who does not handle a claim this small, and he recommended that I hire an expert witness/home inspector who can go through and find out what below the professional standard and would be considered negligent/malpractice. That could cost another $1000 (at least the person he recommended) and the home inspector may find even worse things that were missed the first time. I want to get at least the money back for the repairs and the original home inspection, plus for the second home inspection if I can. how do I handle this? It sounds like its too small to hire an attorney, but I thought small claims court (in Massachusetts) was only for claims $2000 or less? Should I contact them directly to try to settle it? I filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney Generals office, but the lawyer I spoke to seemed to believe that it wouldn't get me anywhere. Any advice on how to move forward would be great.
 
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  #2  
Old 04-30-12, 10:10 AM
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Don't know what the limits are in MA but this sounds like a district court action instead of small claims if you're going for the $6000 the repointing is going to cost.

If just the inspection fees, it seems like this would be small claims.

There's nothing too small to hire an attorney if you wish, there are just some issues so small some attorneys won't touch them.
 
  #3  
Old 04-30-12, 10:11 AM
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I'm not sure what you mean by this? "brick needed repointing and around almost the entire unattached portion of the house." Are these outbuildings of some sort? If so, then you should be able to get insurance for the main house and just exclude the outbuildings until they are re-pointed.

I highly, extremely, completely doubt you will ever get more than the price you paid for the inspection...if that. If you check the report or contract you have from the inspector...I'll lay odds it states that his liability is limited to a refund of the fee.

Might be different in your state but that's my opinion.
 
  #4  
Old 04-30-12, 10:22 AM
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What does the contract with the home inspector say regarding liability?

Was the home inspector certified by the state of MA and do they have liability limits? Many states have a limitation on liability equal to the cost of the inspection. Most states and reputable organizations will not even allow an inspector to do work on a house (could be a low rate way of promoting work) and are often required to provide 2 or 3 specialists for each area (structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, roofing, etc.) since a home inspector does not get involved in code interpretation and provides a visual inspection as a guest in the home of the seller. There are even limitation on what an inspector can do when it comes down to shutting down or testing systems, since the effects can be far more than the minimal inspection fee.

You probably paid only $400 or less for a visual inspection and report that took a couple of hours plus commuting and preparation time, so there is no way the inspector can have decent insurance (if even available) for all possible contingencies.

Did you Realtor suggest the inspector? They have a tradition of recommending the cheapest inspectors that will pass on everything. The good inspectors charge more and are usually hired by the property owner that is selling (not buying) since they are tough and know what the rookies or cheap guys look for, but miss other things since it is cheaper for a property owner to correct all problems and not get stuck with a last minute price negotiation at closing.

Dick
 
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Old 04-30-12, 11:16 AM
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How about trying a different insurance company?
 
  #6  
Old 04-30-12, 11:55 AM
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I should be a little more clear about the condition of the house. It's a rowhouse and is attached on one side. The the open side and the back are in such bad need of repointing that the mortar is missing, bulging out, and bricks are missing and falling out. I know nothing about masonry or what exactly consititutes as acceptable brick condition so when I was told it was acceptable, I took it at that. But upon consulting a mason, he showed me what was wrong, why it was wrong, and why it was so bad. The insurance company's inspector caught it withing minutes of being there because it's so apparent. I'll have to check about liability, but I think that this is willing misrepresentation and/or malpractice. This was a realtor's inspector, and I think this was swept under the rug. So he can call out the peeling paint on a bit of window trim, but totally miss a near-crumbling brick exterior?
 
  #7  
Old 04-30-12, 12:26 PM
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wzolla86 -

You apparently followed the direction given by the Realtor that stood to make a big commission if the sale went through without a snag. You said it was the realtor's inspector, so they should be liable if you chose to close. - Good luck having a commissioned realtor to stand any guarantee or representation unless he/she hired the inspector.

Insurance is between you and the insurance company and there is no law saying they must cover you. My mother had a fully code complying wood burning stove installed and the insurance company refused coverage because they did not want any more exposure in that county. She went to the agent (her nephew) and he just found another company for a minor increase in rates, which was not unexpected.

Was the inspector licensed or certified? - you never answered that question. When you throw around words like "malpractice" and "misrepresentation" you must have an opinion from someone credible and not just a "mason" that is usually not registered or certified unless he has the experience and credibility to charge for a professional opinion.

Cracked or missing mortar is not a major catastrophe unless the contractor is looking for more work. It can decrease the value of the home being purchased through the realtor.

Dick
 
  #8  
Old 04-30-12, 12:33 PM
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This was a realtor's inspector
Ah, that explains a lot.

I hope you've learned the lesson never to use someone attached to the realtor again.
 
  #9  
Old 04-30-12, 02:07 PM
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Good luck - I hate to be such a pessimist, but I think the very best you can do is get your fee back from the inspector. Home inspectors are one of the biggest cons to hit the housing industry ever. Guys who may or may not have any experience (what was your guy's masonry expertise?) make decisions that cost the homeowner or seller money and they can just walk away from it. Some inspectors are tied to the real estate agent and it's in their best interest to find little or nothing that might impede the sale.

Look at your contract and see what his liability is. I'll bet it isn't much.
 
  #10  
Old 04-30-12, 03:31 PM
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If you are certified home inspector in a civilized sate, you would need over 200 inspctions and examples of inspection reports after you have passed the test.

In some states you just have to say you are contractor.
 
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