DEAR BARRY: I bought my home 10 years ago. At the time, my home inspector reported no plumbing defects. But recently, my plumber pointed out several conditions that violate the plumbing code. Some of these involve pipes that are fully visible in the basement and should have been seen by my inspector. After this many years, do I have any recourse against the home inspector for not reporting visible and costly issues? –Paul

DEAR PAUL: Ten years is well beyond the time when you could hold your home inspector liable for negligence. Liability time limits vary from state to state, but no state is likely to extend home inspector liability for this many years. Besides that, most home inspection contracts have time restrictions on liability that would certainly not extend for a decade.

When home inspectors fail to provide full disclosure, discovery of defects may not occur for many years. Therefore, buyers should be sure that the home inspector they hire is highly experienced and thoroughly qualified. Most buyers rely on their Realtor to recommend a competent inspector. In some cases, that reliance is well-placed. But there are agents who do not provide the best referrals. Buyers should ask questions about a home inspector’s qualifications before blindly accepting the referrals offered by their agent or broker.

At this late date, you should deal with the plumbing defects without looking back to a 10-year-old home inspection. On the other hand, it would be wise to have your home reinspected by someone who is truly qualified and who will give you a thorough analysis of the entire building. If you do this, be sure to find an inspector with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness.

DEAR BARRY: We just hired a home inspector for a house that we may buy. During the inspection, he found rotted framing below the porch and living room, but he did not list this as a major defect. The sellers say we cannot cancel the deal without losing our deposit because the "inspection contingency" in the contract allows us to cancel only for major defects. What should we do? –Larah

DEAR LARAH: Whether the wood rot is a major defect depends on two considerations: the extent of the damage and the cost to repair. If large portions of the porch and floor framing are damaged, then the condition cannot be described as minor. It should also be understood that dryrot is not a static condition. It is caused by fungus infection of the wood, and fungus spreads further into the structure with each exposure to moisture. If left unchecked, small amounts of rot can become very extensive. So from that perspective, the problem could be potentially major.

Finally, there is the question of expense. If the cost to repair the damage is major, then the rot could be regarded as a major defect. To resolve this debate, get three bids from licensed contractors for replacement of the porch and living room framing. Hopefully, the repairs will not be too costly and you can proceed with the purchase of the home.

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


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