Something that I emphasize quite heavily in my home inspector training with the Law and Disorder seminar is the importance of adhering to whatever Standard of Practice you happen to be following when you are conducting your inspection. In fact, it is one of the six key strategies that I teach for diminishing a home inspector’s chances of being sued successfully.

I do not know how often inspectors have occasion to read their SOPs but I read them quite often in order to respond to the demand letters that my home inspector clients have received from their clients or their clients’ lawyers. And one thing that you cannot help noticing when you read those SOPs as often as I do is this: there are an awful lot of sentences in the SOPs that begin thus: “The home inspector is not required to:” followed by a whole host of matters for which the home inspector is not responsible.

Anyone who has ever attended the seminar will remember my saying, “Stay within the lines. The lines are your friends.” It is a line from an old Toyota automobile commercial from the early ‘90s that no one ever seems to recall. I only remember it, I suppose, because I once had a tennis partner who always seemed to be saying that to me, generally when one of my errant 100 mph returns went sailing over the opponents’ base line.

The reason I advise inspectors to “stay within the lines” – the SOP – is because in order to establish that the inspector had been negligent in conducting his inspection, a claimant has to show that the inspector did not act “reasonably”, that is, he did not perform his inspection in the manner that a “reasonable” inspector would have. In other words, he would have to demonstrate that the inspector failed to follow his own SOP.

A frequently asked question at the home inspector training is what effect does exceeding the SOP in one area or another potentially have on an inspector’s liability. The answer is: it increases it. Exceeding the SOP can and often does make you responsible for something that you otherwise would not have been.

So always follow your SOP. Your SOP is your friend to avoid home inspection claims.

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