Claims Against Home Inspectors
Home buyers often (and should) insist on a home inspection before they will agree to purchase a home. This makes sense because inspectors have expertise in areas many buyers are unfamiliar with. Finding defects upon move-in can be frustrating and costly, especially when the home inspector reports that the home was in “satisfactory” condition.
Disappointed buyers frequently ask us “Can I sue my Home Inspector?” The answer of that question always depends on the facts of a particular situation. Before rushing into court a few determinations need to be made.
Home Inspectors in Wisconsin
Wisconsin regulates Home Inspectors. In fact, Wisconsin has very specific statutes and administrative regulations that govern Home inspector’s eligibility, registration, and standards of practice. These rules contain many requirements regarding how home inspectors are tasked to focus on readily accessible and observable improvements to residential real estate. A home inspector’s inspection must be reasonable and diligent, but there is no requirement for the inspection to be technically exhaustive.
Wisconsin law requires home inspectors to look at all major aspects of the property. For example, the foundation, roof, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, among much else. Inspectors though are not required to enter dangerous areas, move objects, inspect for rodents, or inspect underground. Home inspectors may remove normal access panels, but are not required to disassemble parts of the property.
Liability For Home Inspectors
Home Inspectors may be liable if his inspection misses problems that existed at the home. The severity of the problem will determine whether the buyer may want to pursue a claim. Few buyers would pursue a claim for a missed faucet. But a home inspector may be hard pressed to explain why he missed a leaky roof or a non-functioning furnace. A buyer may look to the home inspector for the repair costs that were missed for a major problem.
That said, sellers can conceal defects from home inspectors. An inspector may not be able to see that a basement wall is defective where a seller has recently painted the wall or has shelving that conceals the defect. Thus, it is important to determine what the problem is and why it was missed. If the defect was missed because of seller concealment (which is often the case) claims are better brought against the seller.
Limitations on Home Inspector Liability
Home inspectors cannot limit their liability for claims through contractual limitations in Wisconsin. Home inspector contracts will often contain an arbitration provision, which requires the buyer to arbitrate any claims instead of filing a law suit. An arbitration requires the buyer to present evidence in front an arbitration panel. The arbitration panel typically includes a construction expert and an home inspector arbitrator.
The statute of limitations on claims against home inspectors runs for 2 years after the date the home inspection was completed, not upon discovery of a defect. Knowing whether you have a claim against a home inspector may be confusing.
Murdock Law has helped many home buyers understand if taking legal action against a home inspector is the best option. Murdock Law has also defended home inspectors against claims of professional negligence.