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  1. Hi TIJ Readers, My favorite articles to write are ones that directly stem from home inspectors' questions. This is one of those articles. An inspector asked us how to approach negative reviews without increasing his liability. Here's our answer. Enjoy! Stephanie P.S. Have a topic you'd like us to write about? Let us know in the comments. How to respond to negative reviews against your home inspection business Online reviews matter. But just how can reviews affect your home inspection business? A 2017 survey by Podium revealed that reviews impact 93 percent of consumers' purchasing decisions. According to the Harvard Business School, a one-star increase in Yelp ratings leads to a five to nine percent increase in that business' revenue. The 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey found that 94 percent of consumers choose to avoid a business based on a negative online review. The bottom line? Online customer reviews can directly impact your success. Which led one of our readers to ask us this question: At InspectorPro, we know a thing or two about receiving negative reviews from people that aren't clients. Receiving negative reviews, especially from non-clients, can be frustrating and disconcerting. The good news? Your response to reviews can make a difference. In a recent study, the Harvard Business Review found that replying to customer reviews, positive or negative, results in better ratings. Software company Vendasta listed three reasons why responding to unpleasant reviews is beneficial in a recent blog post: In this article, we discuss how to respond to negative online reviews to defend your reputation and discourage potential claims. Investigate the allegations internally. Before responding, look into what the reviewer is saying. See if they are a client of yours or otherwise related to an inspection you performed (i.e. seller, real estate agent). Then, examine how their claims match up to your recollection of the inspection and your report. If you weren't the one who performed the inspection, take time to discuss the review with the inspector that did to make sure you have all the facts. Evaluating the feedback first also gives you the opportunity to put your emotions in check. Reacting defensively could inspire your negative reviewer to escalate. Worse still, if your upset reviewer is particularly angry or petty, they might seek to get a bigger reaction from you by spreading their unfavorable assessment across online platforms. [READ MORE]
  2. Hi TIJ Readers! Happy New Year! And Happy National Radon Action Month! With the growing interest in radon inspections among the inspection community, we decided to kick off the year by interviewing 10 inspectors that offer radon testing. They share why they test, what investments they make to test, and how they manage risk. See an excerpt below. Best, Stephanie Radon inspections: What you need to know Radon: the colorless, odorless gas emitted into the air by the radioactive element, radium, as it breaks down in soil, rock, and water. Typically, radon penetrates buildings through small cracks or openings in foundations undetected. And, once radon has entered a property, the radon may be trapped inside. In fact, this is what home inspectors test in their radon inspections. More statistical evidence may be necessary to fully understand the causal relationship between radon and lung cancer (more below). However, the EPA continues to characterize radon as a cause for concern. In 2017, the EPA designated January as National Radon Action Month, encouraging observers to "Test, Fix, Save a Life." Since testing is the only way to determine a home's radon levels, the EPA and Surgeon General recommend that home buyers, sellers, and remodelers test all homes below the third floor. If consumers discover elevated radon levels of four picocuries per liter (4 pCi/L) or higher?which the EPA estimates that nearly one in every 15 households do?then the EPA urges them to take corrective measures, including the installation of a radon-reduction system. Many national and local governments encourage and, in some cases, even mandate radon testing during real estate transactions. This has led many home inspectors to offer radon testing as an additional service. In fact, over a quarter (25 percent) of the inspectors we insure carry the radon endorsement. This implies that just as many inspectors currently offer radon testing in the market at large. (More on endorsements later.) In this article, we explore why 10 home inspectors chose to offer radon testing and what recommendations they have for home inspectors considering offering the additional service. Why inspectors test for radon. When asked why they offer radon testing, the 10 home inspectors we surveyed said that they began offering the service for one or more of the following reasons: 1. They wanted to protect clients from potential lung cancer risks. The labels "silent killer" and "cancer-causing radioactive gas" characterize public opinion and discourse regarding radon. But how did radon amass such a bad reputation? While researchers studied radon?s effects on miners for decades prior, testing within homes began in Pennsylvania in 1984. While entering the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant, which was under construction, an engineer named Stanley Watras tripped a radiation detector. This monitor measured unsafe radiation levels for plant workers. Three things stood out to safety officials: When he set the monitor off, Watras was coming to, not going from, the Plant. Due to the construction, the Plant was not currently operating. No other workers were contaminated. Based on the evidence above, Plant officials were certain that Watras had not been exposed to the radon at work. So, the officials took measurements of the Watras' home. To their alarm, they discovered radiation levels more than 200,000 times above the level permissible for people living close to nuclear power plants. Believing that Watras' exposure to radon in his home may not be uncommon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a survey of 10 states that volunteered. During the 1986 survey, the EPA tested 11,600 homes for radon. The results: one of every five homes tested contained health-threatening radon levels. The EPA declared radon a national problem. [READ MORE]
  3. Hi TIJ Readers! When you're in the process of buying or selling an inspection business, insurance is rarely the first thing on your mind. However, planning for your prior acts and future coverage is an important part of ownership changes. We go over some of the important insurance-related considerations in this article. Enjoy! Stephanie What happens to my insurance policy when I sell my business? And other coverage questions relating to ownership changes Could or have one of the following scenarios happened to you? The owner of the home inspection company that you work for dies unexpectedly. When he retires, the owner sells his home inspection business to you, his employee. To get into the business, you buy the name of a prominent home inspection company in your area. Whether you're considering entering or leaving the business or simply preparing for the future, it's important to know what your insurance policy says about changes in business ownership. Knowing your policy's conditions will better prepare you and your company for both unexpected tragedies and unforeseen opportunities. It will help you choose how to protect against liability, whether you choose to carry tail coverage or transfer that liability. In this article, we give you the basics. You need to let your insurance company know when there's a change in ownership. Under the section Who Is An Insured, your policy defines who automatically receives insurance coverage. For typical home inspection insurance coverage, your list of insureds looks something like this: When an owner dies or a new owner inherits a business, insurance coverage doesn't automatically transfer into someone else's name. Thus, when an owner dies or changes, you need to let the insurance company know so that the new owner(s) can receive proper coverage. And, more importantly, you need to let the insurance company know who will take on the liability of the business going forward. Be sure to make plans for your retroactive coverage. When a business loses or gains a new owner, there are a lot of considerations to take into account. One important consideration is who's liable for the retroactive (prior acts) coverage for the business. In most cases, business owners can choose one of two options: The original owner can keep the liability for past inspections and receive coverage for that liability with an extended reporting period (ERP) endorsement, or tail coverage. In cases in which the original owner has died, the owner's legal representative may purchase tail coverage on the deceased insured's behalf. (See "Transfer Of Your Rights And Duties Under This Policy" in the Conditions section of your insurance policy.) Alternatively, the original owner may pass all liability, including past inspections performed by the business, to the new owner. That owner, who purchased the business, is responsible for all claims, including claims for the original owner's inspections. To protect against such claims, the new owner can carry continuous insurance coverage with a retroactive date reflecting that of the previous owner. Owners should specify who will take on retroactive coverage in their purchasing agreements, which should be written by or with the help of professional legal counsel. As such, insurance companies may ask new owners for copies of their purchasing agreements to ensure proper coverage is given. [READ MORE]
  4. Hi TIJ Readers! One of the most common topics we're asked to address in our articles, presentations, and one-on-one conversations is report writing. How can home inspectors do it well? To answer this question, we went to several experience home inspectors and asked them for their tips. See what they recommend in the article, excerpted below. Best, Stephanie Inspection Report Writing: 8 Best Practices For inspection clients and home inspectors alike, inspection reports are worth their weight in gold. Many inspection clients?often home buyers?rely on the findings inspectors detail in their reports to make important purchasing decisions. "[The inspection report is] basically a giant list of everything that is wrong with your (potential) home," explained Kristin Wong in her article "How to Read (and React to!) a Home Inspection Report" for the Architectural Digest. "And while not every issue is a big deal, some are significant enough to have you rethinking your offer, or at least renegotiating with the seller." Likewise, the home inspectors themselves find value in the reports they generate. For many inspectors, well-written inspection reports symbolize a level of maturity and expertise in the industry. Furthermore, many state licensing boards, associations, and franchises review inspector-members' reports annually as a way of measuring the quality of the inspectors' work. "There's almost nothing more important to your reputation and success as a professional home inspector than the quality of the report your client receives after you've finished inspecting a home," argues Inspection Certification Associates (ICA). As important as inspection reports are to the industry, there's a wide array of opinions regarding exactly how to write a good report. Sometimes, it feels as though there are just as many ways to generate a report as there are home inspectors. As a home inspection insurance provider, we're interested in what techniques home inspectors can employ to create quality reports. So, we interviewed several seasoned inspectors to learn what strategies they suggest other inspectors use to achieve report writing success. We've compiled their tips into eight inspection report writing best practices below. 1. Don't rush it. Of the home inspectors we interviewed, all of them have completed reports onsite, but none of them still do. Our interviewees argue that finishing reports offsite makes for better final products. "I wouldn't put my John Hancock on any report that was completed and generated onsite," said Mark S. Lodner of LBI Home & Building Inspection in Virginia. "It's just asking for trouble." What exactly did our interviewees find concerning about onsite reports? Mistakes. After reviewing some of their own onsite inspection reports, our inspectors realized that writing reports in one go made it more likely that they make mistakes?often, minimal misspellings, but sometimes, complete oversights. Thus, our home inspectors believe it's important to take the time to review reports with fresh eyes before sending them to clients. For many of them, taking a few hours or an evening to complete a report still allows them to deliver reports in a timely manner, thus respecting their clients' time and deadlines. "[By writing reports offsite,] I don't have anybody looking over while I'm typing, rushing me, which can result in sloppy sentence structure, making mistakes, and leaving things out," said Miki Mertz of Complete Home Inspection in Kansas. Randy Sipe of Family Home Inspection Services in Kansas and the Board for the National Home Inspector Examination (NHIE) agrees⁠?not just from his own report writing experience, but from reviewing other inspectors' reports. Additionally, Sipe finds that he's better able to contextualize defects when he reviews all the inspection photos later on. It also helps him determine the seriousness of the issues when considered as one piece of a larger puzzle. Mike Burroughs of QED Service in Louisiana, too, has discovered ways to improve his reports post-inspection. In fact, reviewing his reports offsite has helped Burroughs catch significant property defects he would have otherwise missed. "There have been a number of times [when] I've come home, blew up photos, [and] started looking to make sure I put all the right markings on them, indicating what the problems were. And lo and behold, I've found another issue that I didn't notice while I was onsite," Burroughs said. Appearances. In addition to defending the inspection information's integrity, completing reports offsite can also help with inspectors' appearances. As a former member of the Louisiana State Board of Home Inspectors, Burroughs has heard clients complain about home inspectors who spend their inspections buried in their phones and tablets. According to Burroughs, these clients wonder if their inspectors are paying more attention to their devices than the inspections themselves. "As an inspector, you have to remember what the public sees you do and what their opinion of what you do is," Burroughs said. [READ MORE]
  5. Hi TIJ Readers! As many of you have reached out with feedback on our risk management articles, we've discovered that many of the same questions and concerns keep coming up. Many of those ideas have inspired the articles we plan to write in 2020. And we explore just a piece of one in this case study. The concept: When is it appropriate to exceed the Standards of Practice? And what increase in liability, if any, will I experience when I exceed the SoP? In this case study, we see an argument against a relatively common inspection practice: moving seemingly harmless objects to conduct a more thorough inspection. While we're sure there are many cases in which inspectors did something similar without incident, we hope this claim can serve as an example of worst case scenario. And, with that example, we hope that readers like you are more equipped to make judgement calls on the job. Enjoy! Stephanie The Domino Effect: A Home Inspection Insurance Claim The following is a real general liability insurance claim from our insurance claim archives. In order to protect the insured's identity, all identifiable characteristics?including names, associations, and locations?have been omitted or removed. While performing a routine inspection, a home inspector stumbled upon a common problem: Some of the seller's belongings were inhibiting him from performing his inspection duties. Specifically, one of the seller's suitcases was obstructing the attic entrance. Wanting to give his inspection clients, the buyers, the best service possible, the home inspector decided to move the suitcase. It was just one suitcase, he reasoned, and it made the difference between inspecting an entire area of the property and omitting it from his report. Unbeknownst to the home inspector, the suitcase wasn't the only thing on the shelf. A stored- pressure fire extinguisher sat beside the suitcase and out of view. As the home inspector moved the suitcase, he bumped the out-of-sight fire extinguisher, sending the extinguisher crashing to the floor. Upon impact, the fire extinguisher cracked the tile floor and discharged into the cold air return of the running HVAC unit. The discharge blew throughout the house, leaving a fine layer of extinguisher dust in every room of the property. [READ MORE]
  6. Hi TIJ Readers! If you've followed our series on the top claims against home inspectors, you know that most industry allegations involve errors or omissions, which mean they are filed against inspectors' E&O coverage. (For those of you who've missed them, check our articles on the industry's top claims here. We recommend starting with the Top 5 Claims.) However, like E&O claims, there are certain types of general liability (GL) claims that are more prevalent than others. We discuss the top 5 general liability claims against home inspectors and how you can avoid them. Enjoy an excerpt below. I'd be interested to hear if any of you were surprised by the list of GL claims we found to be most prevalent or if the list is true to your individual experiences. Best, Stephanie What is general liability insurance? Unlike errors and omissions (E&O) claims, general liability claims don't typically question the quality of your home inspection or service. Rather, GL claims involve any bodily injury or property damage that result from the inspection. (Learn more about the two coverage types and why they're important here.) There are many reasons to carry general liability insurance coverage. In our survey of over 450 home inspectors, we found that the top three reasons inspectors choose to carry both E&O and general liability insurance are to: Avoid large payouts for claims. According to The Hartford, a general liability claim can average more than $75,000 per case to defend and settle when a lawsuit is involved. Receive claims handling and defense. When you work with an insurance company familiar with the home inspection industry, their claims team can minimize or eliminate your potential liability by properly handling claims. In many cases, our claims team's industry knowledge enables them to resolve liability claims quickly, saving insured precious time and money. Fulfill licensing and state requirements. As of September 2019, the following states have general liability requirements: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. What types of liability claims against home inspectors are most common? Here at InspectorPro, the vast majority of GL claims result from: Water damage Power outage Ceiling hole Garage door Frozen plumbing We go through each one of these common general liability claims scenarios in detail in our infographic. [READ MORE]
  7. Hi TIJ readers! Hope you're all enjoying the summer inspection season. Our latest article was inspired by a question we that kept coming up at shows and on the phone: I know that E&O and GL can protect my business against claims. But is there a type of insurance that can protect my business from loss or damage to all the expensive equipment I use? The answer is yes. Equipment coverage, otherwise known as inland marine insurance or a property floater, is an add-on coverage that protects your tools and equipment. Check out the preview below to start learning what the coverage entails, how it works, and what happens when you have a claim. Best, Stephanie How to protect your tools and equipment Earlier this year, one of our insured home inspectors sent his radon monitor in for calibration. When the servicing was complete, the manufacturer shipped the monitor back to the home inspector. But, when the inspector returned home, the radon monitor was nowhere to be found. The inspector put in a claim with the radon monitor manufacturer, who subsequently put in a claim with the shipping company. Both the manufacturer and the shipping company denied any liability or coverage for the loss. So, the home inspector filed a police report with his county's Sheriff's Department and contacted us, his insurance provider, to see if we could cover the lost radon monitor. What is equipment coverage? Formally known as inland marine coverage or a commercial property floater, equipment coverage insures your inspection tools and equipment. Unlike standard property insurance, inland marine coverage protects your tools and equipment regardless of their location. This is important in the home inspection industry since, rather than housing your tools and equipment in an office, you usually have your materials in your work vehicle or on inspection sites. In most cases, equipment coverage for home inspectors reimburses you for the actual cash value (not the cost of the items brand-new) of your stolen or damaged equipment or tools. Oftentimes, coverage extends to not just items you own but items you lease or rent. Most home inspection tools and equipment are eligible for inland marine insurance endorsements. Examples of typical inland marine insurance claims include: Someone burglarizes your locked inspection vehicle and swipes your drone. As you're taking inspection photos, you trip and drop your digital camera, breaking the lens. While inspecting the roof, someone steals your infrared camera, which you left at the base of your ladder. Someone takes your leased radon monitor from where you left it overnight on the inspection site. While taking off, you lose control of your drone and crash it to the ground, damaging the wings and internal computer. Many equipment insurance policies cover physical loss or damage caused by perils, such as falling objects, fire, lightening, sink hole collapse, vandalism, vehicles, and water damage. To see what perils are and are not covered, review the Conditions and Definitions sections of your inland marine policy. How does equipment coverage work? Typically, equipment coverage is subject to your "schedule of coverages," which describes the property you'd like the insurance company to insure. Most insurance companies require that inspectors provide property descriptions?including the make, model, and serial number?for any items worth more than a certain amount. Here at InspectorPro, we require property descriptions for any items worth $500 or more. For any items worth less than $500, InspectorPro insureds may still cover the property as "miscellaneous tools" without providing make, model, and serial information for each tool. The only caveat is that miscellaneous tools cannot exceed $2,500 in total value. [READ MORE]
  8. Hi TIJ Readers! Wondering how you can better prevent claims? Or what it would be like to have a claim? To try to help answer these questions, we publish details from actual home inspection insurance claims every few months. We hope you enjoy our latest case study. Best, Stephanie The Sinking Yard: A Home Inspection Insurance Claim The following is a real home inspector case study from our insurance claim archives. In order to protect the insured's identity, all identifiable characteristics?including names, associations, and locations?have been omitted or removed. "You have been sued. You may employ an attorney. If you or your attorney do not file a written answer with the clerk who issued this citation by 10:00 a.m. on the Monday next following the expiration of twenty days after you were served this citation and petition, a default judgment may be taken against you." That was how home inspector Nathan Cross' letter from the state began. According to the state, former home inspection clients Patrick and Miranda Spence were suing Cross and the sellers for "deceptive trade practices," "breach of contract," "economic and actual damages," and "intentional damages by omissions." The Complaint Unbeknownst to Cross, the property used to have a swimming pool. The sellers had filled the pool in and covered it up prior to putting the house on the market. The sellers did not disclose the pool's existence to either the Spences nor Cross. So, when Cross performed his inspection, there were no visible signs of a pool in the backyard, nor were there any visible defects. Thus, Cross' inspection report did not indicate any issues in the backyard. About a year after the inspection, indentations began to appear in the backyard. Upon investigating the property's tax records, the Spences discovered that a pool had existed prior to them moving in. (The covered pool was not in the sellers' disclosure.) They surmised that the sellers must have improperly filled the pool, which led to developing indentations. Now, a full year and a half after Cross' inspection, the Spences were taking legal action. The Spences demanded "monetary relief of $100,000 or less, including damages of any kind, penalties, costs, expenses, pre-judgment interest, and attorney fees." [READ MORE]
  9. Hi TIJ Readers! Here's a preview of our latest article, which covers the ins and outs of workers' comp for home inspectors. Enjoy! Stephanie Several months ago, we were reviewing a home inspector's workers' compensation policy. Unbeknownst to that home inspector, their insurance carrier wasn't familiar with the property inspection industry. Despite their lack of experience in the inspection space, the carrier didn't want to turn the home inspector away. Instead, the insurance company categorized (or grouped) the home inspector in what they perceived to be the closest type of business they already insured: window blind installation. With a window blind installer's workers' comp policy, the home inspection business lacked coverage for many of the unique risks their employees faced. For example, since there's no need for a window installer to mount a roof, the home inspection company didn't have coverage in case their employees fell off an inspection property's roof. Thus, by pairing up with a workers' compensation provider unfamiliar with their business, the home inspection company's needs were not being met. What is workers' compensation insurance? Since 2050 B.C., governments have granted sick and injured laborers payment after workplace accidents. Ancient Greek, Roman, Arab, and Chinese law all dictated precise payments for both bodily impairments and disabilities. Thus, their legislation laid the foundation for the workers' compensation insurance we have today. (For more on workers' comp's history, see Gregory P. Guyton's "A Brief History of Workers' Compensation" or AmTrust Financial's summary "The History of Workers' Compensation Insurance".) Workers' compensation insurance provides employees who suffer from work-related injuries or diseases with access to medical and wage benefits. Unlike general liability (GL) insurance, which covers inspection-related bodily injury and property damage claims for non-employees, workers' compensation looks out for people who work for your company. By covering job-related injury and illness costs, workers' comp protects both employees and employers. Employees work under less financial risk knowing they're protected on the job. Additionally, employers limit their liability and deter litigation. Recognizing the need for workers' comp in the home inspection industry, we launched our own workers' compensation insurance program in June 2019. In this article, we go over some of the common questions inspectors do (and should!) ask when shopping for a workers' comp policy. We hope that the information outlined here can help you make an educated workers' comp purchase with us or another provider. [READ NOW]
  10. Hey TIJ Readers! Long time since I last posted. National Home Inspection Month was a busy one for us with our funny home inspection story contest and our first-ever guest-written article. (You can read the top stories from the contest here and Randy's article here.) Since so many of our articles focus on errors and omissions issues, we decided it was time to share a story from our archives that addressed a general liability problem. What makes this one interesting, too, is that it addresses not only the power of pre-claims assistance but the power of a well-written report. You can read the full story on our website here. Or, feel free to check out that preview below. Have a great rest of your inspection week! Stephanie How one inspection report saved thousands of dollars The following is a real home inspector general liability pre-claim from our archives. The inspector has given us permission to reveal his identity and to use direct quotes from our post-pre-claim interview. Pre-claims assistance is exactly what it sounds like: It's free help responding to unhappy clients in a way that may prevent said clients from making any demands. Here at InspectorPro, we define a claim as a written demand for money, which Latham had yet to receive. However, for readers who don't insure with us yet, do keep in mind that every insurance company is unique and definitions can vary. Be sure to read a copy of your policy to be sure of how your company defines a claim. To learn more about pre-claims assistance, read this recent article. The cracked tile While performing a routine home inspection in Oregon, Aaron Latham of Sunrise Inspection, Inc. made what he described as "a very rookie mistake." He set a round, metal flashlight on top of the property's kitchen island. As round objects do, the flashlight rolled off the island. It hit the ground and put a hairline crack in one of the tiles. Realizing that he'd made a mistake, Latham documented both the existing tiles that were cracked and the one tile he cracked with his flashlight in his inspection report. Shortly after purchasing the house?for several thousand dollars less than the asking price due to inspection findings, according to the real estate agent?the agent called about the tile. Latham agreed that he did, in fact, damage one tile, and asked the agent to obtain an estimate. At the time, Latham guessed that they'd quote about $100. "Well, here's the issue," the agent said. "We can't find tile that matches the existing tile, and the seller didn't have any spare tile on hand. What we were hoping is that you would replace the entire floor." That's when Latham called our pre-claims assistance team. [READ MORE]
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