Dear Barry,

We bought our home about two months ago. Since then, we’ve found that the exterior siding is warped and crumbly in several places. None of this was disclosed by our home inspector. In fact, his report refers to the siding as “wood,” even though it’s some kind of particle board. And now, we’ve learned from our neighbors that the siding is the subject of a class-action lawsuit, something the sellers should have disclosed but did not. When we called our inspector about this, he said the warping must have occurred since he inspected the building, just eight weeks ago — clearly a lame and irresponsible excuse. Don’t you think that he and the sellers should have disclosed these conditions and should now accept some liability? –Kelly

Dear Kelly,

The acceptance of liability by the home inspector and the sellers seems fair, reasonable and appropriate — the sellers for concealment of significant issues and the home inspector for what appears to be professional negligence.

Experienced home inspectors recognize composite siding as distinct from wood siding and are aware of the problems that commonly occur with this material — mainly warping, swelling and decomposition. It may be that your inspector is not at the top of his game or was simply having a bad day. Either way, his defense is embarrassing at best.

The basic standard of care for a home inspector is to report conditions that are visible and accessible at the time of the inspection. Damaged composite siding clearly fits that definition and should have been disclosed by the inspector and the sellers.

The inspector’s claim that the siding became damaged since the day of the inspection is ludicrous. There is no way that warping and decomposition of composite siding occurs during a two-month period, unless the siding is submerged in water for most of that time, as might be the case in the aftermath of a hurricane or flood. The inspector’s half-baked excuse smacks of liability avoidance and unwillingness to admit to an error.

The big question now is what other property defects remain undisclosed. If an obvious condition such as damaged siding was missed by the inspector, one can only wonder what remains unknown. It is recommended, therefore, that you hire a more experienced, more thorough inspector to conduct a second, and more complete, evaluation of the property. Once you have a comprehensive picture of significant issues, you can raise these matters with the first home inspector, as well as with the sellers.

Dear Barry,

I need to know the cost per square unit for installing tile roofing in the aftermath of our recent hurricane. My insurance company says that my three estimates are too high. –John

Dear John,

If the insurance company thinks three bids don’t reflect the market price, ask if they can recommend some local roofing contractors whose fees are acceptable to them. If they are unable or unwilling to do this, a complaint to the state agency that regulates insurance companies would be in order.

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

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