DEAR BARRY: Before I bought my home, I attended the home inspection. In the master bathroom, I pointed out a defect on the outside of the stall shower. The wall appeared to be roughly patched. The inspector said it was probably caused by seepage at the shower door. Then he turned to the seller and asked if there had been any leaks. The owner said, "No."
So the inspector made no further investigation, and no mention of it appeared in his report. But last week, a tile fell from the shower wall and revealed the soaked and moldy drywall and insulation inside.
If the inspector had taken time to look, he would have found water stains and mold in the cabinet next to the shower. The inside of the cabinet was so wet that the seller must have known there was a leak. So now I’m stuck with thousands of dollars in repairs because my home inspector listened to the seller instead of doing his job. What should I do? –Pamela
DEAR PAMELA: If your home inspector relied on seller disclosure, rather than conducting his own investigation, then he was professionally negligent. His job was to search, discover and evaluate defects, not to rely on seller disclosures as a basis for his findings. He was there to make his own observations and draw his own conclusions, to leave no reasonable stone unturned in the course of his quest for defects.
If there was any evidence of leakage at the shower, your home inspector should have followed up by checking all of the surrounding areas, rather than assuming that water seeped over the threshold. The inside of the cabinet should have been checked, regardless of the condition of the shower.
The wall tile at the patched area should have been tapped and pressed to determine if there was any softness or looseness. Some inspectors might have used a moisture meter to test for wetness in the wall.
In situations of this kind, it is advisable to have the home reinspected by a "top gun" home inspector — someone with years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness. If the evidence at the shower was overlooked, other defects in the home may also have been missed.
Once you have a more thorough inspection report, the negligence of your home inspector and the nondisclosure of the seller can be addressed by you, your agent or an attorney.
DEAR BARRY: The home I am buying has knob-and-tube wiring. My insurance company will not cover houses with this old-fashioned type of electrical system. If I make an offer, should I ask the seller to rewire the home? –Kim
DEAR KIM: If the electrical system is functional, it is unlikely that the seller will agree to rewire the building. If your insurance company is unwilling to underwrite the property, you should shop around for another company. If no company will insure the house, you should probably buy a newer home.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.