Dear Barry,

The house we just bought has problems that were missed or minimized by our home inspector. The main one involves the toilet, which he reported as loosely attached to the floor. He said this was not a major problem but that it should be checked. We bought the house as is but have now learned that there’s a major leak in the toilet drainpipe. The plumber quoted $900 for the repair. We relied on our inspector but now believe that he was incompetent or dishonest. Maybe he took a payback from the Realtor to help close the deal. Is this possible? –Dave

Dear Dave,

Although “payback” relationships of one kind or another may exist among some agents and inspectors, such occurrences are very rare. I would hesitate to make that kind of assumption.

Sometimes defects literally escape the attention of a home inspector. This may be due to professional negligence or simply a lack of apparent symptoms at the time of the inspection. At other times, an inspector may discover a problem but fail to make the proper evaluation, as apparently occurred with your loose toilet. This may be due to faulty judgment or a lack of adequate experience on the part of the inspector.

On the other hand, you mentioned that the inspector recommended that the toilet be checked. What’s important here is whether he advised checking it prior to purchasing the property. If he recommended pre-purchase evaluation by a licensed plumber, the negligence in this case may actually be your own for opting to buy the home as is.

Regardless of who is at fault, you should promptly contact your home inspector. Advise him of your concerns and request that he meet you at the property for a re-inspection of the plumbing problem and a review of the inspection report.

Dear Barry,

After purchasing our home, we hired a chimney sweep in preparation for using our fireplace. He looked up the chimney and found that the metal liner was buckled due to overheating. He said this was a safety hazard and advised us not to use the fireplace at all. Repairs will involve cutting into the walls, and the estimated costs could be as much as $3,000. We depended upon our home inspector to discover such problems. Aren’t home inspectors required to inspect the inside of a chimney? –Diane

Dear Diane,

Home inspectors routinely inspect visible and accessible portions of chimneys. For example, if a chimney interior can be directly viewed from within the fireplace or if the chimney top is open and readily accessible from the roof, those interior surfaces would be subject to evaluation by a home inspector. In some cases, however, disassembly of fireplace components is necessary to reveal defects, which is why some problems not revealed by home inspectors are later discovered by chimney sweeps. That would be a critical consideration in your situation. If your warped chimney liner could be viewed without dismantling any portion of the fireplace or chimney assembly, then the home inspector should have discovered the faulty condition you describe. In either case, you should notify your inspector of the problem and request a re-inspection of the chimney.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

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