Dear Barry,

When I bought my home, I made the mistake of not being present for the home inspection. Instead, I trusted that the inspector did a good job and that everything was OK. After moving in, I began finding things the inspector had missed. Worst of all was moisture and rotted wood at the base of the kitchen cabinets. I tore out the cabinets and spent a lot of money to repair them. What recourse do I have against the home inspector for missing these problems? –Fawn

Dear Fawn,

Your case against the inspector is weakened if the damaged cabinets are no longer on the property. The basis for a claim depends upon whether the moisture and damaged materials were visible and accessible at the time of the inspection. If the cabinets are gone, so is the evidence. When the problem was discovered, you should have called the home inspector and the pest inspector. Both were responsible for finding that kind of defect. If you’ve still got the cabinets, you should call the inspectors immediately.

Dear Barry,

We have standing water in the crawlspace under our house, but the source is a mystery. We checked the water pipes and sewer lines but found no damage or leaks. What can we do? –Benjamin

Dear Benjamin,

There are two possible sources for the water beneath your house. Either there are plumbing leaks in buried portions of the water lines or waste piping, or there is a problem with groundwater drainage.

Water-line leakage can be determined by observing your water meter for a period of 15 minutes while no plumbing fixtures are in use. If the gauge advances, there is a leak. To determine underground waste-line leakage requires the expertise of a qualified plumber. A video inspection of drain lines may be necessary. If no plumbing leaks are found, the water source is most likely faulty ground drainage. For a comprehensive evaluation of site drainage problems, a geotechnical engineer should be consulted.

Dear Barry.

Before we bought our home, we hired a home inspector and relied on his advice. During the inspection, he told us the seller had mentioned a plumbing problem involving slow drains. But he did not indicate any need for concern or further investigation. Now that we own the home, we’ve learned that the entire drainpipe system needs replacement. Shouldn’t our inspector have red-flagged this problem? –Michael

Dear Michael,

If the inspector was aware that the waste-line system was slow, it was his responsibility to recommend further evaluation by a licensed plumber. It was also his responsibility to indicate this disclosure in the written inspection report, not simply to “mention” what the seller had said. Failure to report such conditions in writing and to recommend further evaluation by a qualified specialist constitutes professional negligence. However, holding an inspector accountable for something he said but did not declare in writing could be very difficult.

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

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