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Advice Needed

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Hey all, I need a bit of advice.

I got a call for an inspection for a property management company about 2-3 months ago. They told me the current owner is out of the country. I didn't worry too much about it and did the inspection as usual. They called me about 2 weeks ago to let me know the owner was coming to town and had a few questions, so expect a call.

I got a call Monday and he was concerned about some 'missed' items or things he thought I should've included in the report. He started talking about cables going in through crawlspace vents and said they were electrical cables he thought was a big issue. I took it seriously and met him on site. I get there and found that he's EXTREMELY picky. He was concerned about things like scratches on walls and trim, and a coax cable coming through the floor. Apparently he left in 2006 and there were some changes made while he was gone, and they weren't done to his standards. So now he's asking me to include these on an ammendment to the report.

So my ask of you all is twofold.

1. Since my contract is with the property mgt company, what lines should I draw as to providing him with docs or information? I let him know I was concerned and would get back to him, but I may have to deliver any updates to the property management company.

2. Would you have called out the following items, or would you provide an update with them now?

-- Long run of phone and coax cable on the side of the house (20 ft, fastened to brick with screws/clips), then goes into a crawlspace vent. It does prevent the vent from fully closing, but I always recommend these stay open year round anyway. There were plants here when I did the initial inspection so it didn't stand out. I see no safety or major issue worth calling out here. He wants it in conduit and not going through the vent. And a single phone wire on other side of house going in through vent.

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-- Small holes in front porch - 4 of them. These look like they were drilled for a termite treatment then not filled in. They should be filled, but how small of a thing is this?

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-- Also I didn't get a pic but I did miss something real. In the fireplace, under the charred wood and rack was a gas pipe. They had capped it and covered the gas shutoff with carpet. I plan to just advise him to not use the fireplace for wood burning with that pipe present. He insists that there were gas logs when he left and wants them back.

Really I just don't want to get between these folks but I get the feeling I'm being set up to lose. Any advice is appreciated! Thanks!

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An update for you. I got a hold of the mgt company to let them know what's happening and she said "I'd suggest you don't." Apparently he's a guy who tries to get out of paying for anything...including an HVAC system which he hasn't paid for a year later. And which he made the tenants do without for the 3 winter months while he shopped for better prices.

And he throws the S word around a lot... That's right SUE. Now I don't intend to edit the report, but I want to give him a response in writing via email. I think.

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It goes back to what standards of practice you follow and what was agreed too in writing. With that being said, I understand some customers are high maintenance and very picky and dealing with them can be a pain. I find it best to just be straight with them and explain what is and is not included in a inspection.

As far as the wires go there is absolutly no reason for them to be run in conduit. So I would tell the guy "they don't need to be in conduit, I never see them in conduit, I've never heard of them being in conduit, but if you want them in conduit have at it as it won't hurt anything. However I will not put it in my report." Regarding them entering the crawlspace vent, I see it pretty often, but don't usually write it up. I would explin it was the cable company and phone company that most likely ran it that way, so they would not have to drill a hole in the house. Agian I would most likely not put it in my report, but if I did I would say something like: "there is a phone wire going through the crawlspace vent that prevents the vent from closing completly. I don't view this as a problem, but if it is a concern for you run the wire some other place"

I see gas insert that have been removed and the pipe caped off all the time. It the gas is off at the shutoff valve, I don't see a problem.

Of course, you could just tell the company that hired you to deal with the guy as it is their customer, not yours.

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He has unrealistic expectations.

Home inspectors don't do telephone, cable and coax systems and never have. Home inspectors inspect the home, not the nice-to-have accessories.

There is nothing wrong with having a capped-off gas pipe in the hearth - nothing bad will happen because of that. If he wants his gas log set back, he has to talk to whoever took it.

We inspect and report on homes in the condition we find them and we don't customize reports to suit quirky customer expectations. The fact that there used to be a gas log set there means nothing to the inspector doing the inspection. If there were a gas log set there that was broken or operating improperly or leaking, etc., that would be your business but once it's taken out it is no longer your concern. The only thing I would have done differently was report that the fireplace was plumbed for a gas log.

Next time, don't do the job until the owner has read, signed and returned the contract. Property management company or not, it's the owner that ultimately reimburses the management company for the cost of the inspection anyway so it it's the owner whose acknowledgement you need on the contract if you want to avoid this kind of snafu.



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Thanks guys. I did try explaining these items to him. I told him dealing with coax and phone lines aren't part of the inspection and they were just avoiding drilling a hole, which I didn't see as a big deal.

And thanks for confirmation on the conduit. I had seen it a bunch of times, but not usually a run that long, and not usually attached to brick so it did seem a bit odd.

Good point, Mike, about getting signoff from the customer directly. I'm sure he did pay for it. Will do that in the future. Time to gently back out of the situation...

If anyone else has more ideas, I'll be standing by a few hours on this one.

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If you were doing a standard home inspection for the property management company (they contracted with you for services) then you answer to them, not to their client.

If not a standard home inspection, what were the parameters? That is the big question, what exactly were you supposed to accomplish for the fee paid. This goes back to managing your clients expectations and making SURE that YOU KNOW who the client is. "No man can serve two masters" so you need to know which one it is that hired you and perform the service for that person.

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Management company.

I'd spend perhaps half an hour doing my very best to make him happy, but no concessions, in case it ends up in court. A concession would tell the judge that you acknowledge the owner as a client when in fact he isn't. If he's unreasonable, I'd quietly retreat, inform my insurance of the 'incident' and draw battle lines.

Although a contract is required, it's less useful than a happy customer in staying out of trouble, IMHO. The contract comes into play when you run into that occasional jerk who's had 'lawsuit' in his mind from the get go.

What Mike said.


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Thank you all for your input!!

In case you're curious, here's the response I just sent.

Hello Mr. K,

This is a follow up to our discussion yesterday on inspection report 20100124. After reviewing the situation, I've determined that it would be inappropriate to create any type of amendment or change to the report. This is based on two reasons:

1. The request for this inspection was an agreement between MGT COMPANY and me, and they have no interest in receiving any follow-up reporting completed. If a follow up is required, please have them request this with specific items to be addressed. I performed a standard home inspection as requested and followed the Tennessee standards of practice in testing each item. (Note the attachment section 9.E.4.)

2. The items that you were concerned about, namely the phone and coax cables, the 1/4 inch holes in the porch, and the fireplace having wood instead of gas inserts, are not in the standards of practice as items to be inspected, or are far too minor to be worthy of editing a report, and in my professional opinion were not handled in a way that affects the home's value or safety. If these items were changed while you were away, in a way that is unacceptable to you, this is something for you to address with your property management company, the tenant, or the vendor who you hired to do the work. The issue with the wall behind the refrigerator is something to be addressed with them as well, as this was hidden by the refrigerator during the inspection.

Other than that, I'm bound to limiting my interaction on this subject to MGT COMPANY unless they request a meeting with the 3 of us together on the phone. I'm sorry I'm not in a position to do more at this time.

Thank you, (signature)

I'm sure it will just go away now. Yeah right!

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The owner is trying to use your report as evidence against the management company, tenant, contractor, and/or others. I assume you have an agreement, a fee structure, and a reporting format that you use when a client wants you to consult on their behalf in a dispute--if you choose to do such consulting at all--but the owner has not initiated such a relationship with you. For whatever reason, the management company hired you to perform a standard inspection in accordance with the agreement you normally use and the standards you normally follow, which you did. That is pretty much the end of that story.

If he wants to keep talking, I'd ask him what his motives are, and if he's forthcoming, perhaps you'll choose to continue your involvement. If he has a significant dispute upcoming with another party then I'd expect his attorney to contact you and hire you to help out.

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