A few months ago, I got a call from a home inspector in California about a claim some prior client had lodged against the inspection firm for whom he had previously worked and had conducted the inspection in question. This particular firm is exceedingly risk-averse and settled very quickly with the dissatisfied client rather than turn the claim into its E and O for home inspectors insurance, a posture toward claims that, according to the inspector, this firm enthusiastically embraces. And one, I might add, that I thoroughly discourage.

The firm was now seeking reimbursement of its $4,000 payment to the client from its former employee through Small Claims Court. It does not seek reimbursement from current employees for claims that it pays resulting from inspections that they perform. So there was an element of retribution contained in its action against the former employee.

I coached the inspector on the law and the appropriate deportment that he should exhibit in Small Claims Court, gave him dispositive state court case authority and he walked away a winner after advising the judge of the Voluntary Payment Doctrine that I discussed here last week.

The truly baffling issue to me, however, was why the inspection company would even contemplate paying the claim in the first place. It was that absurd. The long and short of it was that some six months after the inspection, the homeowners had begun to smell odors in the kitchen which were ultimately determined to be coming from underground sewage leaks that a rising water table had brought to the surface. Subsequently, the homeowners brought in contractors who removed the kitchen floor – the area was inaccessible from the crawl space – and “discovered” several areas of leakage.

“So, how come you didn’t remove the kitchen floor during your inspection?” I asked, tongue planted firmly in cheek.

“Exactly!” he responded.

I might just as well have asked, “Why didn’t you excavate the sewage line?”

A question someone should ask this inspector’s former employer before it goes bankrupt from knuckling under to such ridiculous claims is this: “What is it that you do not understand about the term ‘limited, non-invasive, visual inspection?’”

The vast majority of claims against home inspectors are for issues that were concealed at the time of the inspection. No inspector can report what he cannot see. And no one can hold him responsible for not doing so.

At least . . . not while I’m alive. I discuss these issues in-depth during my home inspector training sessions.

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