Inspecting the physical condition of a home is a critical part of the homebuying process. Given that the sale is first and foremost a legal transaction, it makes sense that home inspectors work with an eye toward the possible legal ramifications of their actions. While the vast majority of your work will likely not result in legal problems, professional home inspectors should do all they can to protect themselves while inspecting homes. Staying proactive about your rights can help ensure your hard-earned cash isn’t tied up in expensive litigation! Try these legal tips on for size:
Find a Lawyer Before You Need One
Every small business owner needs a lawyer, and home inspectors are no different. Attorneys can help you form your business, help you write contracts, and assist in case of a lawsuit. Unfortunately, though, many home inspectors go without legal representation until they absolutely need a lawyer. Consider finding and partnering with an attorney before the need arises. You’ll feel less stressed in the hunt for the perfect lawyer, and you’ll have more time to weigh your options.
To decide on the right attorney for your needs, consult with at least three professionals. Most offer free initial appointments to meet and discuss your options. Find recommendations from your state’s bar association or get referrals from friends and family. Once you’ve identified a few good options, the road forward will become clearer.
Keep Careful Records
Legal trouble often begins with poor record-keeping. Should a former client request an invoice for services rendered a year ago, would you be able to find it quickly and easily? If the answer is no, you may need to step up your record-keeping! No matter how good a home inspector you might be, the administrative side of owning your own business will catch up to you sooner or later. By keeping careful records of all your professional duties from the get-go, you’ll set yourself up for success down the line.
Report Form Pro Nitro is an easy way to keep digital records of each home inspection you perform. Included with registration in ICA’s home inspection training course, this app allows you to create and share your inspection reports online. Include photos, videos, and descriptions of your findings with the click of a button. Even better, you can quickly pull up old inspection reports from jobs performed months or even years ago! It’s never been easier to keep track of where you’ve been and what you’ve found.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
Litigious clients aren’t always easy to spot. In many cases, they seem no different than any other prospective client. Unfortunately, some home inspectors don’t realize there is a problem until they read their online reviews. Unhappy clients will sometimes sound off online without ever raising the issue with the inspector personally. A bad review online can sometimes serve as a canary in the coal mine – it’s often the first indicator that a client will indeed be filing a lawsuit.
While you can’t always predict which clients will spring an unexpected lawsuit on you, monitoring your online reviews can help. Set Google alerts for your name and your business’s name to ensure you’re kept in the loop. Keep an eye on your social media ratings, your Yelp score, and any other spot online where unhappy reviewers might turn. Should a poor review be published, take action sooner than later. By reaching out to the review writer individually, you can attempt to nip issues in the bud and address bad reviews before they fester.
Get Professional Liability Insurance
When shopping for a new home, buyers are often making the biggest investment of their lives. They want to work with home inspectors who are honest about their findings. Should you make a mistake or inadvertently omit an important piece of information about a property, homeowners have the right to sue you. In such cases, you’ll want to have professional liability insurance coverage.
While not required by every state, many local governments require home inspectors to hold a minimum general liability insurance coverage in order to possess a home inspector license. Even if you live in a state that doesn’t require this coverage, it’s still a worthy investment of your money. Lawsuits can take years to settle, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. In that time, your assets can be liquidated and your reputation can be destroyed. Liability insurance can provide the safety net you need to keep your legal and professional life separate.
Partner with ICA Now
ICA has the tools, resources, and training modules you need to inform a long, successful career as a home inspector. Whether you’re brand new to the industry or have worked for years as a professional home inspector, ICA can bolster your efforts to protect yourself legally. Our members receive Report Form Pro Nitro upon joining, which includes a helpful inspection agreement you can use to help reduce liability. It’s just one of the many helpful ways ICA supports our students! Get started by clicking here and enrolling now.