DEAR BARRY: The house we just bought has problems that were missed or minimized by our home inspector. The main one involves the toilet, which he reported as loosely attached to the floor. He said this was not a major problem, but that it should be checked.

We bought the house "as-is," but have now learned that there is a major leak in the toilet drainpipe. The plumber quoted $900 for the repair.

We relied on our inspector, but now believe he was dishonest. Maybe he sought a payback from the Realtor to help close the deal. Is this possible? –Edward

DEAR EDWARD: Although "payback" relationships of one kind or another may exist among some agents and inspectors, such occurrences are very rare. I would hesitate to make that kind of assumption without convincing evidence of some kind. In most cases, home inspection mistakes are unintentional.

When home inspectors fail to report defects, the most common causes are human error, professional negligence, or lack of apparent symptoms. Sometimes, an inspector will discover a problem but fail to make the proper evaluation, as apparently occurred with your loose toilet. This may be due to faulty judgment or a lack of adequate experience on the part of the inspector.

On the other hand, you say the inspector advised having the toilet checked. What matters here is how he stated that recommendation. If he recommended pre-purchase evaluation by a licensed plumber, negligence in this case could be yours for opting to buy the home before calling a plumber.

Regardless of who is at fault, you should promptly contact your home inspector. Advise him of your concerns, and request that he meet you at the property for a reinspection of the plumbing problem and a discussion of the situation.

DEAR BARRY: Before we bought our home, our home inspector reported no fireplace or chimney defects. After moving in, we hired a chimney sweep in preparation for winter fires. He discovered that the metal chimney liner is buckled due to overheating. He said this was a fire hazard and advised not using the fireplace at all. Repairs will involve cutting into the walls, and cost estimates are around $3,000. We depended on our home inspector to discover such problems. Aren’t home inspectors required to inspect the inside of a chimney? –Annie

DEAR ANNIE: Home inspectors routinely inspect visible and accessible portions of chimneys. For example, if a chimney interior can be directly viewed from within the fireplace, or if the chimney top is open and readily accessible from the roof, interior surfaces would be subject to evaluation by a home inspector.

In some cases, disassembly of fireplace components is necessary to reveal defects, which is why some problems not revealed by home inspectors are later discovered by chimney sweeps.

If the warped lining in your chimney could be viewed without dismantling any portion of the fireplace or chimney assembly, then the defect probably should have been discovered by your home inspector. In either case, you should notify your inspector of the problem and request a reinspection of the chimney.

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