Is inspector responsible for every little defect?

Buyers seek recourse after discovering issues with window, fridge

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 14, 2010

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Buyers seek recourse after discovering issues with window, fridge

Barry Stone
Inman News

DEAR BARRY: Our home inspector did a pretty good job when we were buying our house, but after moving in, we found two problems that he missed. One of the window frames is cracked, and the ice dispenser in our refrigerator does not work. These things are obvious and should have been caught by our inspector. Can we ask him for compensation? --Tiffany

DEAR TIFFANY: If the window damage was clearly visible on the day of the inspection, you can ask your inspector to take a second look. But try to see this defect in perspective.

Your home inspector spent hours evaluating countless aspects of the property, from electrical to plumbing, roof to foundation, ground drainage to heating system, fireplace and chimney to attic framing and insulation.

If he did a "pretty good job," he probably even checked the doors and windows. But no home inspector, not even the best one, can discover every single detail of a house in just a few hours.

As a gesture of good will, he may agree to repair your window, but try not to see that as his obligation. His job is not to guaranty a flawless home. It is to report all significant property defects -- conditions that affect the safety and value of your home. If he fulfilled that purpose, be grateful. He is not the builder of a new home who must warrant its perfection.

The refrigerator is an entirely different matter. Appliances that are not built-ins are outside the scope of a home inspection. That includes washers, dryers and refrigerators.

Home inspectors test and evaluate built-in appliances only, such as ranges, vent hoods, dishwashers and garbage disposals. Freestanding appliances such as refrigerators are regarded as personal property, not fixtures of the home.

DEAR BARRY: A roofing company installed a new flat roof on our home and gave us a five-year warranty. After a year, the roofing had bubbled up at dozens of spots. The contractor patched these and has continued to patch more bubbled spots each year. He has admitted that an insufficient amount of tar was used when the roofing was installed, causing the materials to separate.

Until now, he has stood behind his work, but here's the problem: The warranty is due to expire soon, so the annual patching will become our responsibility. Since the roof was not properly installed, it doesn't seem fair that he should patch it for five years and then walk away. Aren't we entitled to a new roof? --Phil

DEAR PHIL: The roof installation was clearly defective, as acknowledge by the contractor himself and as evidenced by ongoing deterioration. Until now, this has required repeated repairs. In the future, it will lead to leakage, premature failure and costly roof replacement.

Instead of providing annual patching during the five-year warranty period, the contractor should have replaced the roof long ago, when the faulty installation became apparent. You hired his company to provide a quality roof, not a five-year maintenance contract. Before the warranty expires, you should politely, but firmly, insist that your roof be replaced under the warranty.

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