Dear Barry,

I’ve been a home inspector for about two years and am now having a problem with a home buyer, more than seven months after the inspection. She claims that I am responsible for roof leaks. How can that be possible this long after the inspection? How should I address this situation? –Roy

Dear Roy,

Complaints of this kind are the bane of every home inspector. Sooner or later, and more than once, it will happen to everyone who has entered this field of work. The number one rule when you receive complaints about undisclosed defects is to respond immediately by making an appointment to reinspect the area of concern.

When you do your reinspection, check thoroughly for any visible roof conditions that could have resulted in leakage. If you find that you missed a visible defect, offer to have it corrected and have it reviewed by a roofing contractor of your choosing. If it’s a simple repair, you may be able to do the work yourself. If a contractor is needed, be sure to meet that person at the site. In some cases, a roof that has no visible defects will leak when subjected to wind-blown rains. Therefore, it is possible that no defects will be apparent where the leaking has occurred. You won’t know till you reinspect.

But regardless of the circumstances, it is essential that you respond in a way that demonstrates genuine concern. This is the best way to maintain good customer relations and to reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit.

Dear Barry,

We purchased a brand-new home that had been on the market for two years, and we hired a home inspector before closing escrow. But our inspector didn’t discover that the dishwasher was connected to the cold-water line. According to the owner’s manual, the unit must be connected to hot water. The builder and plumber refused to correct this problem, so we paid to have it repaired ourselves. Shouldn’t home inspectors check more closely for this kind of problem? –Ben

Dear Ben,
Home inspectors typically perform a rudimentary inspection of dishwashers. Included would be the apparent physical condition of the appliance, secure attachment to the cabinet, proper connection of the drain hose, general operability, and evidence of leakage. Some inspectors may do more, but this would be the extent of a typical dishwasher evaluation by a home inspector.

To determine whether the unit was connected to hot or cold water, a home inspector would need to turn off the supply valve at the water heater. This, however, would be an unusual procedure for an inspector because connection to the cold-water supply is such a rare and unlikely defect.

In homes where the water heater is located far from the kitchen, connecting the dishwasher to the hot-water supply might actually be of no benefit because the water contained in the long supply pipe is likely to contain cold water.

In your case, the builder and plumber should have taken responsibility for an obvious construction defect, especially because this was a new home. If you were forced to pay for this repair, it would be worthwhile to test the case in small claims court.

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

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