Myths That Home Inspectors Should Stop Believing

Myth # 1: Only Incompetent Inspectors Ever Have Claims

In these next series of posts, I am going to be debunking several myths that home inspectors should stop believing about their profession and the law. One such belief is that only incompetent inspectors ever have professional liability claims. So if you’re a good inspector you have little to worry about.

Now that I am nearly five years into my total immersion in the trials and tribulations of home inspectors, I can state with complete confidence that the overwhelming majority of home inspectors never ever expect to have a claim made against them for a home inspection that they conducted. I know this because when they contact me after they have received some ugly correspondence from a client or a client’s lawyer, they invariably tell me “Joe, I’ve inspected over X thousand houses and this is the first time I’ve ever had an issue with any inspection.”

And the thing of it is the guys are very competent inspectors but they mistakenly thought that being competent is the key to a claim-free existence. If only that were true. It should be true. But it isn’t.


Report Writing: First Person or Third Person

A home inspector in Connecticut recently asked me this question: Which report writing style is more defensible: writing in the first person or the third person? “I observed the roof to be in poor condition” or “The roof is in poor condition.”

I personally cannot recall ever reading a report that called out defects in the first person but that certainly does not mean that there have not been any. I think that most reports are written in a style that flows from first to third and back in a logical non-jarring way. “The roof appears to be in serviceable condition. No signs of water infiltration were observed, I recommend that you inquire of the sellers whether they have ever had any problems with the roof.”

But I do not believe that the choice of person – first or third – has any bearing on the defensibility of the report. The reports that I have the easiest time defending are ones that note the defect/concern in clear language, show a photograph of it with a red arrow pointing to it and repeat the observation in the Report Summary.


The Big Strong Man

My dad was born on January 15, 1898. Yesterday would have been his 114th birthday. To my considerable surprise, he died in 1983. Up until about 1980, I really expected him to make it to 100.

For one thing, he was never really sick. For another, he was still doing physically demanding labor even as he was turning 80.

About six months before his 80th birthday, I was vacationing in Ireland, both touring and visiting with family. One Sunday, my cousin Denis introduced me to a few of my father’s contemporaries who were hanging outside church after Mass,smoking and joking. Pointing to the Yank, Denis asked my dad’s friend and cousin Cormac McFadden if he knew who “that fellow there is.”

He hadn’t “a clue” and Denis told him “That’s Denis’s son, Joe!”


New Year’s Resolutions [For Home Inspectors]

The general over-the-top excitement bordering on mass hysteria that surrounds the turning of the calendar from one year to the next has always puzzled me. In fact, so un-into it am I that I am seldom awake when it happens. To me the whole cultural phenomenon is a vast waste of calories that could be put to much better use.

One such use that I heartily endorse is the making of New Year’s Resolutions, especially those that revolve around breaking bad habits and forming good ones.

Here are some that home inspectors should give some considerable thought to adopting.


Tabula Rasa

There’s something about the start of a brand new year that tops off my hope reservoirs and makes me look forward to bigger and better things. Out with the old, in with the new.

Not that last year was too shabby, mind you.

I got speaking invitations from the four corners of the nation, the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf of Mexico, Boston Bay to the Nevada Desert and deep in the heart of Texas. In April, this website launched and has attracted a thousand unique visitors each month ever since. And I successfully terminated an average of two claims per week on behalf of home inspectors from all over the United States.

Looking over the list of claims, I was struck by their variety. Many of the claims were against home inspectors who are not insured but most of them were against home inspectors who were insured and were simply tired of being sold out by their insurance company. In two of the cases, I was able to convince the insurer that both it and the inspector would be better off if it allowed me to respond. Of course, that is not an issue for inspectors insured through the Lockton program that I promote on this site.


How Long Should Home Inspectors Hold on to Written Reports?

The other day, I received a comment from Naperville, Illinois Home Inspector Carol Fisher to a recent post on how long inspectors need to hold on to inspection reports.

Carol, who posed the original question, wrote: “The answer you gave is safe.  Of course I would save my digital reports, but some of us have been out there in the dinosaur era when they weren’t digital. Plus even today I still have paper relative to each report that I still need to keep even if the inspection report is digital. I have 21 years of reports and I would like to get rid of some of them. There must be some limit of liability to this industry or case law that would help in validating a time frame.”

Point taken. I confess that, in responding to Carol’s original question, I hadn’t even considered that the legion of home inspection pioneers who created this industry generated their reports the old-fashioned analog way. I’ll try to rectify that oversight with this post.

As I have repeatedly pointed out on this site and in home inspector training seminars, claims that are made against home inspectors almost never have any validity. And the proof of that can generally be found in the inspection report itself. It is the inspection report that is of inestimable help to me in responding to claims on behalf of home inspectors. So hanging on to them for some length of time is a matter of considerable self-interest.