QDEAR BARRY: When I bought my home, I made the mistake of not being present for the home inspection. Instead, I trusted that the inspector did a good job and that everything was okay. After I moved in, I began finding things the inspector had missed. Worst of all was moisture and rotted wood at the base of the kitchen cabinets. I tore out the cabinets and spent a lot of money to repair them. What recourse do I have against the home inspector for missing these problems? -- Fawn
ADEAR FAWN: Your case against the inspector is weakened if the damaged cabinets are no longer on the property. A claim depends upon whether the moisture and damaged materials were visible and accessible at the time of the inspection. If the cabinets are gone, so is the evidence. When the problem was discovered, you should have called the home inspector and the pest inspector. Both were responsible for finding that kind of defect. If you still have the cabinets, you should call the inspectors.
DEAR BARRY: There is standing water in the crawl space under our house, but the source is a mystery. We checked the water pipes and sewer lines but found no damage or leaks. What can we do? -- Benjamin
DEAR BENJAMIN: There are two possible sources for the water beneath your house. Either there are leaks in buried portions of the water lines or waste piping, or there is a problem with ground water drainage.
You can figure out whether there's a leaking water line by observing your water meter for 15 minutes, while no plumbing fixtures are in use. If the gauge advances, there is a leak. To determine whether your underground waste line leaks will require a plumber. A video inspection of drain lines may be necessary. If no plumbing leaks are found, the water source is most likely faulty ground drainage. For evaluation of site drainage, consult a geotechnical engineer
DEAR BARRY: Before we bought our home, we hired a home inspector and relied on his advice. During the inspection, he told us the seller had mentioned a plumbing problem involving slow drains. But he did not indicate any need for concern or further investigation. Now that we own the home, we've learned that the entire drainpipe system needs replacement. Shouldn't our inspector have red-flagged this problem? -- Michael
DEAR MICHAEL: If the inspector was aware that the waste line system was slow, it was his responsibility to recommend further evaluation by a licensed plumber. It was also his responsibility to indicate this disclosure in the written inspection report, not simply to "mention" what the seller had said. Failure to report such conditions in writing and to recommend further evaluation by a qualified specialist constitutes professional negligence. However, holding an inspector accountable for something he said but did not write down could be very difficult.
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 Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.
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