Dear Barry,

When we purchased our house, the home inspection report was professional in appearance but not very accurate in its findings. In fact, five important defects were not disclosed.

1. No one told us that the roof leaks. We asked about a ceiling patch on the day of the home inspection, but the seller said this had nothing to do with a leak. That patch turned out to be exactly where the leaking occurs.

2. The inspector charged an additional $50 to inspect the spa. Now we find that the spa leaks and is inoperative.

3. The dishwasher drain squirted water all over the countertop. The home inspector said this was normal, but we had to have the dishwasher replaced.

4. The kitchen vent hood cannot be used because you get shocked when you touch it.

5. One of the windows leaks when it rains.

Shouldn’t these defects have been reported by our home inspector? –Ellie

Dear Ellie,

There are wide-ranging disparities in the relative abilities of home inspectors to discover defects. A buyer should find the most experienced inspector rather than hiring just anyone. Real estate agents usually know who the most thorough inspectors are. Some recommend accordingly; some do not.

Regarding the five defects you listed, your inspector was at fault in some but not all of these instances.

1. In most (but not all) cases, roof leaks can usually be anticipated on the basis of observable roof defects. The question here should be, “Were there visible roof defects that were not disclosed by the home inspector?” If so, the inspector may be liable for those repairs. However, if the sellers were not honest about the cause of the ceiling patch, they were in violation of state disclosure laws and are even more culpable than the inspector.

2. If the inspector charged an additional fee for the spa, he should have operated it and checked for visible defects. If the unit was leaking at the time, that condition should have been disclosed. If the inspector failed to report a visible defect, he should be liable for repairs.

3. If the dishwasher squirted water onto the counter, the problem was a clogged hose between the airgap and the sink drain. The inspector should not have reported this as being “normal.” However, unclogging a drain hose is a minor repair. If someone convinced you to buy a new dishwasher on the basis of a clogged hose, you were misled.

4. If the range hood had an electrical problem causing shock to the user, that condition would only be noticed if someone touched the fixture while simultaneously touching a grounded object, such as the range. It is possible that the inspector was not touching a grounded object when he tested the hood (assuming that he tested it). In this case, it is possible that the inspector missed the defect without being guilty of negligence.

5. Home inspectors routinely inspect windows sills for evidence of past leakage. If the sills at your windows show signs of previous moisture and this was not disclosed by your inspector, then he was probably negligent in this aspect of the inspection and should be liable for that problem.

When defects of these kinds are discovered after the purchase, it is important that you notify the inspector immediately and request that he reinspect the problem areas. Failure to do this can relieve the inspector of liability in some cases. Once a problem is repaired, the evidence of negligence no longer exists.

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

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