REPORTING- LESSON 5: SECTION 2 – Common Defects & Their Implications

Explain the Implication of the Deficiency The deficiency statement should provide enough information to help the client understand why the deficiency is important or what could occur if the deficiency is not addressed. In other words, why should the client care about the deficiency? The implication statement is important and is often excluded or poorly explained in inspection reports. Without this statement, the client may not have enough information to make an informed decision about how to address the deficiency with the seller or other party. Dissatisfied clients often use the lack of an implication explanation as a reason to hold the home inspector responsible for repairs and damages.

The implication statement need not be long; in fact, too much information can be as confusing as too little information. For example, the home inspector sees an electrical cable splice that is not contained in a box. A good implication statement is: “This is an electrical shock and a fire ignition hazard.” A simple statement such as this explains the risks if the deficiency is not corrected in terms that the ordinary client can understand.

The implication statement should strike a balance between helping the client understand the implications of the deficiency, and not being unduly alarming. This balance can be difficult, especially when the deficiency involves subjects that the client may not understand. The implications of structural deficiencies are often difficult for clients to understand. For example, the home inspector sees a beam that has been notched in the center to install a garage vehicle door operator. The home inspector does not see any deformation or other damage. The implication statement might acknowledge the current lack of observed deformation or damage to reduce unnecessary client apprehension, yet also explain the implication of the deficiency. The implication statement might read: “We did not observe current deformation of the beam; however, deformation or failure could occur under certain conditions. We cannot predict whether deformation may occur in the future.”

Advise the Client About How to Address the Deficiency The deficiency statement should provide the client with the home inspector’s recommendation about how to proceed. This does not mean that the home inspector should specify or design a repair; the home inspector should not do this even if qualified to do so. The home inspector is not hired or paid to assume this risk.

Most SoPs provide three options that the home inspector may use to advise the client:

•repair/replace the system or component,

•have a qualified specialist evaluate the system or component,

•monitor the system or component for possible future action.

The home inspector should select one of the options provided by the SoP that the home inspector uses.

Repair/replace is the default option for deficiencies reported using not functioning properly and unsafe. The home inspector should recommend this option unless there is a valid reason for using another option. The decision to repair or replace should be based on the recommendation of the specialist that the client hires. A repair/replace recommendation might read: “We recommend repair or replacement as recommended by a qualified specialist.”

Further evaluation by a qualified specialist is the appropriate recommendation when:

1.evidence of a deficiency exists but the cause or current state of the deficiency cannot be determined,

2.evidence of a deficiency exists, but confirmation requires analysis or procedures that are out of scope of a home inspection,

3.the system, component, or deficiency is beyond the home inspector’s expertise.

Moisture stains on interior surfaces are an example of the first situation. Further evaluation is usually required to determine the source of the moisture and whether the moisture source is active. Malfunctioning HVAC systems (such as a low temperature drop across the evaporator coil) are an example of the second situation. Further evaluation is usually required to determine if there is a malfunction, why it occurs, and what repair might be appropriate. Home inspectors cannot know everything about every system and component that might be installed in a house. It is far better for the client and the home inspector when the home inspector acknowledges ignorance and recommends evaluation by a specialist. A further evaluation recommendation might read: “We recommend further evaluation by a qualified specialist and action as recommended by the specialist.”

Monitoring for possible future action is the most difficult action recommendation, in part because it has the highest potential for improper use. Monitoring is most appropriate for systems and components that are still functioning properly but are near the end of their service life. These systems and components may need more frequent service and will need replacement at some future time. Monitoring may be appropriate when the home inspector wants to alert the client to a condition that the home inspector believes is not deficient at the time of the inspection, but may become deficient at some future time.

A monitoring recommendation should include advice about what conditions the client should look for and what the client should do if the conditions occur. For example, the home inspector sees a long thin crack in the mortar joint of a concrete block foundation wall. The wall presents no evidence of deformation or water infiltration. An appropriate monitoring recommendation might read: “We recommend that you monitor the crack on a regular basis. We recommend evaluation by a qualified foundation contractor if the crack becomes wider, presents horizontal displacement, or admits water.”

Evaluate and monitor are frequently misused in inspection reports. They should rarely, if ever, be used when a system or component is not functioning properly, significantly deficient, or unsafe and when repair/replace is the clearly appropriate recommendation. They should not be used to avoid upsetting a real estate agent in an attempt to downplay a deficiency. Evaluate should not be used to transfer risk back to the client by recommending evaluation of everything; this diminishes the importance of the inspection and the reputation of the home inspector.