A question that comes up frequently at the Law and Disorder seminar is whether or not it is a good idea for home inspectors to take photos during the inspection. When I first started getting this question, I could not imagine any reason why anyone would ask that question. It turned out that a lot of home inspectors were afraid to take photos because they might later “prove” that the inspector missed something during the inspection, a decidedly counter-intuitive measure apparently based on a “your-word-against-mine” defense strategy.

I always advise home inspectors, though, to take lots of photos during their inspections because they will invariably prove conclusively that they did not miss something. About 50% of all claims against home inspectors are for conditions that were concealed at the time of the inspection. By carpeting, furniture, wall hangings, finished ceilings or other finished work. So having a lot of photos of the home is more likely to “prove” that a subsequently discovered defect was concealed at the time of the inspection.

Some years ago, I got a call from a home inspector in upstate Pennsylvania who wanted some advice on how to respond to a claim that his client was making. The client, a home builder, was contending that the inspector had missed a large crack in the foundation in the basement of the home and he wanted the inspector to pay for the repair.

When the inspector went to look at the crack, it was so prominent that he knew that there was no way in the world that he could have missed it.

I asked the inspector if he had actually been in the basement and he said that he had. I then asked him if he had called anything out in the basement. And he said that he had reported some small inactive moisture stains over by the staircase. Then I asked the key question: “Did you take a picture of the stains?” When he answered “Yes”, I high-fived the air, gave a fist pump and silently mouthed “Yes!!!!”

While the inspector did not have a photo of the area in dispute, he did have a photo that a. proved that he had been in the basement and b. strongly supported the proposition that it was highly unlikely that he would call out some rather minor issue in one area of the basement and yet miss a glaringly obvious major defect across the way.

Of course, it would have been much better had he had a photo of the site of the defect that conclusively demonstrated that there was no defect visible at the time of the inspection.

So make sure that you take a multitude of photographs throughout the house even though the vast majority of them are not going to be put into your report.

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