Dear Joe – I am a Home Inspector of 5, very busy and successful years, here in [New England], despite the down housing economy.

I have just learned of you and have visited your website. I am very interested in learning more of your ClaimIntercept[™] Program.  Also I would like to know if your seminar titled “ Law & Disorder Seminar” is available as a DVD that I could purchase. I reside quite far away from the areas where you do any public speaking on a regular basis. I am a member of InterNACHI, and watch on their website for any further info about your Seminars maybe coming to [this] area.

Can you send me to any further information about ClaimIntercept?

My other reason for writing is that I am, for the first time, going to have a lawsuit filed against me for a “claimed omission” on a job, which is a false claim by a seller.  I do not feel I am responsible for the situation and that I did nothing wrong; it is the seller’s word against my word, basically. And that the seller is using this situation for his own gain, at my expense – to the tune of $15,000.

I have liability insurance with [name redacted]  but, I don’t feel that my Insurance Co. should have to pay for something I do not feel is a truthful claim. And, ethically, why should I have to admit guilt, or lower my integrity, for a situation I did not cause or create, but am being blamed for???

How often must you hear these kinds of stories from other Home Inspectors?   Well, I am uncertain how best to handle this situation, and don’t really know where to turn for appropriate legal guidance.

If you can offer any guidance, or would offer to speak with me on a short phone call, I would be grateful.  And, I think your monthly ClaimIntercept might something I could use for future unfortunate situations. Like you said –“…not if, but when…” I guess I have been fortunate not to have had problems thus far, even with all the great training and experience I have gained at this point.

I can be contacted by email: [address redacted]  or phone: [numbers redacted] (cell), (office),  (home).

Thank you for your time, any guidance or information you might provide, and I would very much like to hear you speak in-person sometime!

As this inspector correctly assumed, I hear stories like this every day. When I eventually caught up with him by phone, I could see immediately what was happening.

He had conducted the inspection in November on a vacant house. Sometime in January, he got a call from his client’s real estate agent essentially blaming him for having turned the heat off in the house which ultimately resulted in pipes bursting and some $15,000 in damage.

The thing is, he never does this. Ever. In close to 1000 inspections.

Nevertheless, he notified his general liability insurance company and it is willing to pay the claim. All he has to do is say that he was responsible. He doesn’t want to. For the very compelling reason that he was not responsible.

When I got to the bottom of the story, it turned out that he had never heard from the home owner. Only his client’s real estate agent. The client still wanted to buy the house but wanted the damage fixed. And who could blame her?

I told him that this is a homeowner’s insurance claim. If you own a home and go away for a month and come back to this level of damage caused by burst pipes, that’s the sort of problem to which homeowner’s insurance responds. Stuff happens. It doesn’t matter who was at fault.

And that’s what happened here. The homeowner’s insurance company paid the claim. But now it wants to get its money back from the inspector through a subrogation claim.

I am seeing more and more of these subrogation claims. An insurance company pays a first-party homeowner’s insurance claim and looks around for someone to hang with the liability. It figures that the home inspector is easy pickings. After all, he was the last person in this vacant house. Never mind that it has no proof whatsoever for this allegation.

This is what is known as the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. The event occurred after the inspector was in the house, therefore it must have occurred because the inspector was in the house.

I advised him to tell his insurance company not to pay. “But what happens, if the homeowner’s insurance company sues me”, the inspector wanted to know.

“If that happens, which it won’t, your liability insurance company will defend you and, very likely, compromise the claim in some fashion.”

The inspector was surprised to learn this. He figured that, if he told the insurer not to pay it, he would be on his own if the homeowner’s insurance company came after him. Not so. His liability insurer would still be on the hook for defense and, if necessary, indemnification.

As so many of my telephone conversations with home inspectors end, this one did, as well. “Wow, Joe. I feel a whole lot better after speaking with you.”

The irony, of course, is that the inspector was a whole lot more solicitous of his insurance company’s welfare, than it would have been of him, if the tables were reversed.

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