It’s an unfortunate fact that we live in a litigious society, and home inspectors are not immune. By and large, inspections go off without a hitch. But every once in a while, something goes wrong.
In those cases, it’s more often the buyer who attempts to sue the inspector for allegedly overlooking a problem. But sometimes a seller can sue an inspector. It’s not common, but it does happen. Here’s how to guard against it.
Why Sellers Sue Inspectors
In the inspection business, the contractural obligation is usually with the buyer. The inspection reveals defects that the buyer should know about, which helps with the decision-making process. In a home with costly or dangerous defects, the buyer can back out before committing to the purchase and avoid a future of repairs and replacements.
From the seller’s perspective, a buyer who backs out is money lost. Inspectors might think that a lost sale isn’t their problem, since reporting defects is what inspecting is about. But sellers often disagree if the buyer backs out because of what’s contained in the inspection report. Oftentimes, seller claims against an inspector are frivolous. But sometimes they are not.
A seller might have a claim if the inspection report is misleading or if the inspector makes statements of fact when they are really just opinions. For example, if a buyer is present for the inspection and the inspector uses persuasive language to convince the buyer that the house is not worth buying, the seller might have a claim.
How Inspectors Can Protect Themselves
Sometimes a seller claim is all about the language and its persuasive effect on the buyer. Working RE says that an inspector’s findings should always be stated as facts and observations, not just facts. That’s a subtle but important distinction.
If an inspector observes that a furnace isn’t working or that it’s long past its prime, the report should state the specific observed condition of the furnace, including its age and what is defective. But it’s probably best to avoid additional commentary that the furnace is in terrible shape and that it will cost a fortune to replace.
According to First Indemnity Group Insurance, inspectors have several ways to guard against frivolous lawsuits. One of the most important is keeping excellent records with ample photographs of the property. Recording all communication with the buyer and seller is also helpful. These can’t prevent someone from filing a lawsuit, but they will help defend against one.
Lawsuits are a dime a dozen these days, and sometimes they emerge from unlikely places. Even when a defendant is completely in the right, a judge can rule for the plaintiff if there aren’t enough provable facts to support the defense. It doesn’t seem fair, but it does happen.
The best methods of protection are keeping detailed records of every inspection, stating facts as facts, and being clear about when an observation is just an opinion. Disgruntled sellers are bound to appear every once in a while. With well-documented protection, the frivolous claims are easier for a judge to recognize and dismiss.
Working as a home inspector is much more about the ups than the downs. But as in any industry, it pays to prepare for the worst in case it one day happens. That’s part of our training. Get a free course demo today and see why ICA School is so much better at preparing students for a career in home inspecting.