I Missed This Clause in My Home Inspector's Contract, and It Cost Me a Fortune

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  • When I purchased a previous home, I paid for an inspection.
  • My inspector missed a serious problem that cost me over $10,000.
  • I was out the money for it because a clause in the contract limited the inspector's liability.

If you're getting a home inspection, be on the lookout for this important contract term.

Many years ago, I purchased a home that was a little bit older. I had the home inspected by a professional before purchase because I wanted to make sure there were no major problems with it. In fact, I had made my offer for the home contingent on the results of the inspection because I didn't want to be faced with any large surprise repairs to pay for on top of my new mortgage bill.

Unfortunately, it turned out that my inspector included a clause in his contract that ended up costing me a fortune. Here's what happened.

My inspector limited his liability

When I hired an inspector to conduct the pre-purchase inspection for a home I was considering, I signed an agreement outlining the scope of work he would be doing. While I read some of the fine print to understand what he would and would not be looking for as he visited the home, I didn't pay much attention to a clause in the contract that limited his liability.

Specifically, the inspector's contract specified that if something was missed in the inspection, he was not responsible for any costs that I incurred because of it. If I was to make a claim against him because a problem arose that he failed to find in the inspection, the extent of the compensation I would be eligible for was a refund of the fees that I paid for the inspection. These totaled a few hundred dollars.

Since I signed this agreement, I was essentially taking on the entire risk of the professional inspector I hired failing to properly do his job. And it turned out that this cost me a lot of money in the end.

The inspector missed a serious problem with the home

Unfortunately, the inspector whom I hired -- whose website indicated he was skilled at inspecting both homes and swimming pools -- entirely missed a crack in the side and bottom of the pool. The pool was a concrete pool that had been resurfaced so the crack wasn't easily visible to the naked eye, but it was something that several pool companies ended up telling us the inspector should have easily been able to see and point out.

Our inspector did not tell us anything about this, though, or suggest any further investigation be conducted. As a result, we moved ahead with the purchase of the home. After we bought it, we discovered almost immediately that this crack was causing a large leak and would need to be fixed. And it turned out to require major, extensive and costly repairs of the entire pool. These repairs came at a price of more than $10,000.

Despite the fact that our inspector had assured us the pool and home were structurally sound, we had very little recourse and it wasn't worth pursuing a claim to recover the small amount the inspector had been paid. We just had to pay for the huge losses out of pocket and there was nothing that could be done.

This lesson was an important one for me, and I'm now very careful both in researching the reputation of home inspectors and in understanding the details of any contract I sign limiting liability. It was a costly lesson to learn and a mistake I won't make again.

Our Research Expert

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