DEAR BARRY: We are buying a mobile home, and our agent says we don’t need a termite inspection or a home inspection. She disclosed water damage at the bathroom floor and said this was caused by a window being left open during heavy rain. She says that a contractor can assess the damage. What do you think about this? –Sharon
DEAR SHARON: Any agent who advised clients to forgo a home inspection is either unethical or totally ignorant of the real estate profession. There is simply no excuse for giving that kind of irresponsible recommendation to a buyer. You need to look out for your own interests because your agent is apparently not doing so.
As for the water damage: How does the agent know this was caused by an open window? Is she professionally qualified to make that kind of assessment? In most cases, moisture damage in a bathroom is caused by water from a tub, a shower, or a leaking toilet seal.
You need to hire an experienced home inspector, someone who routinely inspects mobile homes. Don’t let anyone talk you out of this. A competent inspector will definitely provide a list of defects that are not yet known to you or your agent. Buyer beware.
DEAR BARRY: Last year my husband performed a home inspection and now we are being sued. His report stated that there was stagnant water under the house, and he recommended that this be addressed.
In her deposition, the buyer said my husband told her everything in the house was good except the deck, but that’s not what the report says. Our attorney advised us to settle the case, rather than going to court because there is a chance we could lose. And the cost of going to trial could be as much as $20,000. What should we do? –Michelle
DEAR MICHELLE: Lawsuits, especially frivolous lawsuits, are an ever-present risk for home inspectors. A cynical joke among inspectors is that there are two kinds of home inspectors: those who have been sued and those who will be.
Unfortunately, anything can happen in a lawsuit, and the cost of a suit is prohibitive, as your attorney has warned. That is why home inspectors should carry errors and omissions insurance. If you were insured, your only risk would be the cost of the deductible: approximately $1,000 to $2,000. The suit could be turned over to the insurer, who would settle or litigate without further cost to you.
The only thing that should matter in your case is what is stated in the inspection report. Allegations of contrary verbal disclosures are hearsay. Most home inspectors have written contracts clearly stating that the written report is the entire report, regardless of what is alleged to have been said. But people sue, regardless of contractual agreements, and a contract can be accepted or rejected by a court.
The cost of a legal settlement may be better than trying to fight the case, as your attorney has advised. But before you make that choice, get a second opinion from another attorney.