Golden Rules for Avoiding Liability

Inspectors: Golden Rules for Avoiding Liability

By David Brauner, Editor

Seasoned home inspectors say the golden rules for avoiding liability are simple- write what you see, say what you write and don’t sugarcoat anything! 

More specifically, report what you see and also what you don’t see- and why you couldn’t see it. They also suggest never using qualifying words in a report or in conversation, such as normal, typical, cosmetic.

“Over the years I have been asked by many homeowners, who had inspections when they purchased, to come out and re-inspect their homes,” said Dennis Robitaille, Director of “The previous inspections were all done within a year of my re-inspection. It was obvious these homeowners were upset and looking to build a case against the previous inspector. What I have found is a common theme. Ninety-five percent of the issues/concerns that a homeowner says are not addressed in the original inspection are in fact in their inspection report.”

Robitaille says the problems fall into three categories. “All the problem reports were checklists with handwritten comments. The items of contention were buried in hard-to-decipher handwritten comments. Second, the comments were all tempered with words like ‘minor,’ ‘old/previous damage,’ ‘cosmetic,’ ‘inactive,’ and ‘monitor.’”

Robitaille says, “Finally, according to the homeowners, the verbal discussions at the time of the inspection gave them the impression that nothing major, serious or important was found.” 

Based on these findings, Robitaille says that if inspectors want to minimize complaints and lawsuits, they should:
1. Produce a report that is easily read and understood
2. Drop or greatly reduce minimizing language: damage is damage.
3. Speak straightforwardly and if you do a verbal presentation during or after the inspection, don’t use terms like “nothing to worry about” or “it’s not a big deal.”

Speaking Softly
Many inspectors include language similar to the following in order to protect themselves from homeowner claims that their verbal comments left the impression that nothing was wrong. This is not intended to be legal advice. Any language you add to your report should be reviewed by an attorney in your area.

This report shall supersede any written or verbal conversations, comments and or reports that were provided prior to providing this written report.

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