On the surface, it sounds simple enough. But, in fact, the simple re-inspection of a previously inspected
home or property is very high liability to the working home inspector. A synopsis of the complexities
of the re-inspection process, and why it worries home inspectors, is provided below.
Frequently a home inspector
is asked to re-inspect repairs at a house where that inspector had previously performed an inspection. This is typically done
at a fraction of the cost of the original inspection. On the surface, this process sounds simple enough but, in fact, home
inspectors are often very uncomfortable doing re-inspections. While this might seem strange to the casual observer, the reasons
for this reluctance on the part of the inspector are described below.
An inspector, and this is the primary role
of the position, is expected to go in to a home and find visible defects — some of which might be subtle. The inspector
should recommend that the repair work be done, and that the system be evaluated for upgrades, by a qualified party: a licensed
electrician, a licensed plumber, a licensed contractor, a licensed roofer, a licensed HVAC professional, etc. So far, it seems
simple enough but then reality sets in. The seller or a friend, or someone free, cheap or casual labor, will end up doing
all the work at a fraction of the cost one would pay to a qualified professional. While that might be satisfactory for some
smaller maintenance or cleanup jobs, the big problem comes in when this same party works on complicated repairs, projects
or systems. For example, let us assume that the inspector initially found melting insulation on solid-strand aluminum wiring
in the main electric panel. The inspector later comes back to re-inspect and finds that somebody has snipped off the charred
ends and put the same wires back in the same panel on the same terminals. Even if some better than average amateur repair
was done at the melted wires, chances are that the aluminum wires are also corroded, melted and unsafe at the terminals at
the other end where they connect to the wall outlet. The non-electrician, who did the work, had no clue that the problem in
the panel was merely the tip of the iceberg. He or she missed the big picture which is equally, or even more, dangerous. Similar
situations, where defects can be concealed by shoddy work, occur in plumbing, roofing, HVAC and other parts of the home.
Home inspectors are generalists, who know a fair amount about many different systems. The inspector is not, usually,
an expert on any one area. Inspectors work hard to detect problems but then will, to make sure the repair is done correctly,
refer work to specialists: licensed plumbers, electricians, contractors or HVAC technicians. That way the component or system
called out as faulty, and anything more complicated in that system, will be detected and repaired by the specialist and that
leads to an extra margin of safety for the consumer.
Trying to discern if work is done correctly is actually harder
than finding the initial problem, especially if anyone involved in the repair is sneaky. That is the reason an inspector wants
to see specialized work done by qualified and licensed parties. That policy, of recommending professionals, protects the inspector
to some degree and is a kind of insurance policy. If it ends up that a licensed electrician, plumber or contractor did a lousy
job, in a concealed area, that company is responsible for the problem that remains. On the other hand, if some fly- by-night
worker with no skill or license only half does the work, then that can get an inspector into hot water. Take for instance,
a worker who replaces visible galvanized steel supply pipe but replaces none of the rusted pipe that runs inside the walls.
Six months later, as water begins to gush through holes in the pipes, the buyer is mad at the inspector for not guessing that
the handyman didn’t replace the rusted pipes that were hidden inside the walls. If a professional plumber had been in
that equation, and did such poor work, the buyer would be able to complain to the plumber. But since the repair was done by
an unlicensed party, who might have even vanished into thin air, the easiest person to get mad at is the inspector who is
still around, insured but certainly could not see inside those walls.
Obviously, in a re-inspect, a wise inspector
uses defining and exclusionary language. Also, a number of inspectors just flat will NEVER sign off on any electrical, plumbing,
roofing or structural work unless invoices prove that all of the work was done by a qualified and licensed party. That policy
applies regardless of how good the work might look on the surface. This kind of strict, and non-flexible policy, is always
frustrating to the sellers or the realtors involved. Regardless, agree or disagree with this kind of policy, now you know
why home inspectors feel that they have extremely high liability during re-inspections.