DEAR MONTY: I purchased a home after a home inspection was done. The seller would not allow me to bring in the inspector my agent and I chose. My agent advised me that the seller’s inspector was a licensed state inspector and would be fine. Two months after closing, I walked on the deck beside the pool and fell through two rotted deck boards. A day laborer found that 70% of the deck was completely rotted. The new deck boards concealed the rotted areas. Lifting one or two of the deck boards to inspect underneath would have only taken five minutes. Therefore, the owners were covering a hazard, and a lack of due diligence on the inspector’s part allowed this to occur. I filed a complaint with the state regulators, and they would not investigate due to insufficient evidence. I am not going to let this matter die. I intend to put an end to this fraud. Why didn’t the inspector let me know the deck was a hazard in his report?
MONTY’S ANSWER: I have not seen the inspection agreement you signed. Did you read the inspection report contract? Most inspection contracts exclude unobservable defects. The contract likely states that he does not have an obligation to lift boards, conduct testing or move items obstructing his view. An inspection is a visual inspection only. The visual-only clause is likely why the regulators dismissed the complaint.
A SECOND OPINION
Unfortunately, the regulators gave you a broad answer in rejecting your complaint. It is very possible the inspector was unaware of the rot. Consider seeking legal advice if you have the financial resources and strongly feel that you can win. Based on the information you provided, a competent attorney may tell you that you won’t have a strong case against the inspector unless you can prove he was in cahoots with the seller.
THE MISSING LINK
I am curious as to why you are not upset with your real estate agent as well. Perhaps you hired a friend you trusted and did not realize they may be complicit here. Maybe the agent is not a friend. What other conversations did you have with the agent? Does the seller condition report mention decks, porches or patios?
Why would you proceed with the sellers demanding you use their inspector? This request was a big red flag. Did your agent suggest you could, or should, pass on buying the house? Or insist you have a right to your inspector? Your agent could have or should have explained that the seller and the inspector could have some hidden conflict of interest. If the agent did not explain, could it be because they have a conflict of interest? I have no idea what an attorney would tell you concerning your agent and the agent’s broker. This open question is a reason to consider seeking a legal opinion.
DO A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS
You did not mention what it will cost to repair the deck. That is another consideration. If it is a small deck and the cost is about 500 dollars, with added legal costs, you may be better off absorbing the cost and moving on.
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty, or at DearMonty.com.