Dear Barry,

As a Realtor, I’ve had problems with a local home inspector. On a recent inspection, he found some foundation cracks and stated that the building is “structurally defective.” His report recommended “that the north and south walls of the house each have five hydraulically driven steel piers. Estimated cost of structural defects: $8,000 to $10,000.” A subsequent inspection by another home inspector stated that the foundation cracks were normal for a 75-year-old home. Does a home inspector who is not a structural engineer have the qualifications to advance such findings? – Sandra

Dear Sandra,

Recommendations of the kind you have quoted are far beyond the pale of established home inspection standards. To any responsible home inspector, such findings would be a source of wonder and amazement. Without being licensed as a structural engineer, no home inspector should advance conclusions and prescription that would constitute or resemble an engineering analysis. In fact, most states strictly prohibit unlicensed persons from performing the services of a qualified engineer. In a worst-case foundation situation, where major cracks are apparent to the home inspector, an appropriate recommendation would be as follows: “Large cracks were noted in the foundation stemwalls. Further evaluation by a licensed structural engineer is recommended.” For a home inspector to specify particular kinds of structural repairs, as you have cited, is over-reaching and totally irresponsible.

Dear Barry,

My friend hired a home inspector before buying her house. After moving in, she discovered that there are no rain gutters on the roof. But the home inspector checked off the box that indicates aluminum gutters. Shouldn’t the inspector have realized that there are no gutters? Has my friend paid for gutters that she did not receive? What should she do? – Anna

Dear Anna,

Disclosing rain gutters, when in fact there were none, was most likely a simple note-taking error on the part of the home inspector. He probably checked the wrong box inadvertently. However, the cost of a home is not increased or decreased by the presence or absence of rain gutters, and in many areas, roof gutters are not even required on a dwelling. You should contact the local building department to determine whether gutters are mandated. If not, it is unlikely that your friend has actually paid for gutters that were not received.

Dear Barry,

We’re getting ready to put our home on the market and just discovered rats in the subarea. The TV cable guy was under the house last week and found droppings all over the place. I’ve set traps but am wondering what I should tell buyers. Any advice? – Randy

Dear Randy,

Before listing your home for sale, have the subarea inspected by a licensed exterminator and then have the rat problem addressed in a professional manner. Although you could probably eradicate the invaders on your own, the documentation provided by the exterminator can be used as part of your disclosure statement to buyers, and this should help to allay any health and safety concerns pertaining to rats.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


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