QDEAR BARRY: The house we just bought has problems that were missed or minimized by our home inspector.

The main one involves the toilet, which he reported as loosely attached to the floor. He said this was not a major problem but that it should be checked.

We bought the house as is but have learned that there's a major leak in the toilet drainpipe. The plumber quoted $900 for the repair.

We relied on our inspector but now believe he was incompetent or dishonest. Maybe he took a payback from the real estate agent to help close the deal. Is this possible? -- Dave

ADEAR DAVE: Although payback relationships may exist among some agents and inspectors, such occurrences are rare. I would hesitate to make that assumption.

Sometimes defects escape the attention of a home inspector. This may be because of professional negligence or simply a lack of visible symptoms at the time of the inspection.

At other times, an inspector may discover a problem but fail to make the proper evaluation, as appears to have happened with your loose toilet. This may be because of faulty judgment or a lack of adequate experience on the part of the inspector.

On the other hand, you mentioned that the inspector recommended that the toilet be checked. What's important here is whether he advised checking it before purchasing the property. If he recommended pre-purchase evaluation by a licensed plumber, the negligence in this case may be your own for opting to buy the home as is.

No matter who is at fault, you should promptly contact your home inspector. Tell him about your concerns, and request that he meet you at the property for a reinspection of the plumbing problem and a review of the inspection report.

DEAR BARRY: After we bought our house, we hired a chimney sweep in preparation for using our fireplace. He looked up the chimney and found that the metal liner was buckled from overheating. He said this was a safety hazard and advised us not to use the fireplace.

Repairs will involve cutting into the walls and could cost as much as $3,000.

We depended on our home inspector to discover such problems. Aren't home inspectors required to check the inside of a chimney? -- Diane

DEAR DIANE: Home inspectors routinely inspect visible and accessible portions of chimneys. For example, if a chimney interior can be directly viewed from within the fireplace or if the chimney top is open and readily accessible from the roof, those interior surfaces would be subject to inspection.

In some cases, however, taking apart the fireplace components is necessary to reveal defects, which is why some problems not revealed by home inspectors are later discovered by chimney sweeps. That would be a critical consideration in your situation.

If your warped chimney liner could be viewed without dismantling any portion of the fireplace or chimney, then the home inspector should have discovered the problem. In either case, you should notify your inspector of the problem and request a reinspection of the chimney.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

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