DEAR BARRY: We just purchased a home and hired a home inspector before closing. He reported no problems with the whirlpool bathtub. But the first time we turned it on, the bath water became filled with black specks. There is some kind of mold or mildew in the pipes, and we haven’t been able to remove all of it, not even with bleach. When we called our home inspector, he said that he checks only the working ability of the tub jets and nothing else. If he checked the jets, he must have filled the tub, so how could he have missed the problem? –Annie

DEAR ANNIE: The mold or mildew problem in your whirlpool tub is a common one because the pipes in most whirlpool tubs do not drain very well. When the tub is emptied, water remains in the pipes and becomes stagnant. When this foul brew evaporates, a black residue is left in the lines. Then, when the tub is filled again, the crud is loosened by the water flow, and black particles are washed into the bath water.

Your question about the home inspection procedures makes sense. If the inspector operated the jets, then he must have filled the tub with water. If so, then black particles must have entered the tub, and this should have been mentioned in the report. It seems fair to ask the inspector this question.

A reliable method for cleaning contaminated whirlpool lines is as follows: Fill the tub with hot water, add two cups of dishwasher detergent, and run the system for at least half an hour. Then drain the tub and rinse with a second tub of hot water. In most cases, this effectively removes the residue from the pipes.

DEAR BARRY: We recently bought a house that needs a lot of work. When we started to repair the kitchen, we discovered a lot of mold under the sink. The estimated cost to eliminate the mold is nearly $10,000. Do we have any recourse against the seller or home inspector? –Jaime

DEAR JAIME: The liability of the sellers and of the home inspector depends on whether the mold was visible and accessible. If it could be readily seen, then the seller should have disclosed it, and the home inspector should have reported it. However, the area below the sink may have been full of clutter, preventing a full inspection.

A common disclaimer offered by home inspectors in these situations is that mold is not within the scope of a home inspection. That claim is true. But water stains and visible evidence of water damage is totally within the scope of a home inspection and such conditions should be reported. The home inspector does not need to specify the presence of mold, but evidence of water damage needs to be included in an inspection report.

In order to hold a home inspector liable, you must let him see the problem before you repair it. Once the evidence is eliminated, it is difficult to make a claim against a home inspector.

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


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