Dear Barry,

We are very unhappy with our home inspector. When we bought our home, he reported what he thought was a roof problem and an interior mold problem. He admitted that he was not a licensed roofer or a mold expert and recommended further evaluation. After moving in, we hired a roofing contractor and a mold expert. Both said there were no problems. Thus, we wasted $200 on needless inspections because of this home inspector who, by his own admission, is not qualified. The last thing we want is to deal with him ever again, and I intend to spread the word about his services. If a home inspector is not qualified to inspect for mold, roof conditions, or anything else, he should keep his mouth shut! – Earl (not my real name)

Dear Alias Earl,

Your situation raises some interesting issues regarding the practice of home inspection. To begin, the purpose of a home inspection is to identify observable defects and recommend further evaluation and repairs in accordance with those observations. Roofing is a primary aspect of the home inspection process, and qualified inspectors should be competent in the identification of roof defects. When roofing problems are found, the proper recommendation is to “consult a licensed roofing contractor for repairs as needed.” If a roof condition is questionable, then further evaluation should be recommended.

Mold, however, is not within the specified standards of practice of the home inspection profession, and most inspection reports specifically list mold as an excluded item. On the other hand, a home inspector would be remiss to simply ignore common mold stains when they are clearly visible on a wall or ceiling surface. In such cases, home inspectors may recommend further evaluation by a qualified mold specialist to determine the type of mold in question, and particularly, whether or not the mold is a harmful variety.

An obscure practice among a small minority of home inspectors is to recommend further evaluations by specialists, even when there is no basis for such recommendations. This is an over-reaction to frivolous lawsuits against home inspectors and is an attempt on the inspector’s part to minimize liability whenever possible. This is not to say that your inspector did that, but if your roofing contractor and mold expert found no problems, it is a possibility.

Roofers and other specialists, however, can also make mistakes. There are numerous instances where a home inspector will identify a genuine problem involving a roof, a furnace, a plumbing or electrical condition, etc., only to have a contractor disagree with the inspector’s evaluation. When such discrepancies occur, it should not be reflexively assumed that one or the other person is correct. Steps should be taken to ascertain the true condition of the property. In such cases, the inspector should be asked to return to the property to show you and the contractor precisely what problems were observed during the inspection.

Before you “spread the word” regarding the quality of your home inspector’s work, make sure that he was truly at fault. He may or may not have been wrong in his findings and deserves a chance to defend his position before you denigrate his reputation. A reputable home inspector will gladly respond to a request to revisit a property where findings are in question. Let him know there is a problem. See how he responds before you react.

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

***

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