In such a litigious society, you might one day find yourself sworn in and offering a statement in someone else’s real estate lawsuit. Sometimes this happens with a home that you have inspected, and sometimes the case deals with a home that you’ve never seen before.
There are many reasons why you might be called on as an expert witness. When you can secure payment, you should. But because there are some situations where you can’t, you should learn the scope of your responsibility in your state.
Reasons Why Lawyers Need Inspectors
Real estate disputes arise over a number of problems. Maybe the house suffered construction negligence, or maybe a seller and buyer have a dispute about the condition of the home. To settle the dispute, a defendant or plaintiff’s attorney might need the opinion of someone like you, an expert in home inspections.
If the case deals with a home that you’ve inspected, you’ll rely on your report for the information that you provide in court. If not, you may need to inspect the house before giving any statement. This depends on whether you’re only asked to verify facts that have already been collected or if the court needs your assessment and opinion.
When Inspectors Can Expect Payment
There’s only one reason, according to Working RE magazine, that in inspector shouldn’t expect payment: If there’s a subpoena. If a court subpoenas an inspector, that’s an order to appear and give a statement as a witness of fact. Otherwise, and probably much more often, inspectors are retained by attorneys to help support a case. For that, inspectors should always be paid.
With a subpoena, many states only require an inspector to verify facts. Information beyond that steps into opinion territory, and that’s expert witness territory. Experts should be paid. For example, an inspector can verify that a basement was flooded. But any information about what caused the flood is opinion from an expert.
How to Secure Payment
Working RE recommends that inspectors have an Expert Witness Contract drawn up. An attorney can draft the document, and copies can stay in a desk drawer or on a computer until they’re needed. Then when called on to testify, the document would be ready to go. Because an attorney would only call an inspector to help prove a case, most of them understand that inspectors require payment for time and expertise.
There may also be a time when a subpoenaed statement shifts into expert witness territory. If an attorney presses for more information besides just the facts, it’s not improper to stop, produce the expert witness contract and request payment before the statement proceeds. However, states differ. A local attorney, one who would draft the contract, can explain the parameters of witness of fact and expert witness in that area.
Being called on to testify might sound unpleasant, but some inspectors welcome it as yet another avenue for building a client base. If an attorney frequently handles real estate disputes, he could tuck an inspector’s business card away on file and call the same expert each time he needs one.
Home inspectors are an important part of the real estate industry. Home buyers rely on a inspection report to make an informed decision, owners learn more about the property where they live, and attorneys value the expert opinions that help prove a case. If you’re ready to start your career as an inspector, enroll now with ICA School and earn your certification at your own pace.