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First complaint-- arghhhh.


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I got back from a weekend trip to find this e- mail in my inbox:

Just thought I’d let you know that we intended to use both the refrigerator and dishwasher at Moonridge. The Frig has a serious defect and the dishwasher is non operational altogether. These did not appear in your reports. Jake suggested I contact you to inform you of these matters.

This is my first complaint I have received in 5 years, and it just so happens to be appliance issues. I remember when I worked with a larger company, many of the complaints were dishwasher related.

The inspection was 3 months ago, and the house sat vacant during that time. I'm wondering if maybe a power surge caused issues? That, or someone could have changed out the appliances.

I'd love to have our state standards changed to exclude kitchen appliances altogether. All I can do is run a dishwasher once and check to make sure a built- in fridge is cooling and that the door seals are intact.

How do you guys handle complaints in regards to appliance issues?

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I respond immediately and say I'm sorry they're having trouble.

Immediately following that comment is something to the effect of "it's an appliance, appliances fail, no one including me can guarantee appliance performance".

I relate my own experiences with appliances, which includes many upsetting failures caused by control modules crapping out.

If someone is going to complain, hope it's only an appliance failure.

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What did you do to test them during the inspection?

Dishwashers: Open door and make sure it functions properly, slide racks back and forth, check drain hose, look for any issues inside, and then run it through a cycle. At the end of my inspection, I go back through and make sure it fully drained.

Fridges: Open doors, check seals, make sure there's no damage inside, and see that they are cool/cold. That's about it.

Did you document what you did and how they behaved?

I don't document what I do to inspect appliances-- should I?

When I don't document how they behave, that means I didn't find any defects. Only defects have made my reports- perhaps that should change.

The only comment I made about the dishwasher was that the drain hose needed to be high looped.

Thanks for the responses.....

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I'm with Kurt but if the house was uninhabited at the time of the inspection, I'd comment on that in my response to the complaint. Appliances that sit unused for extended periods of time are more likely to give trouble when they're finally put into operation.

I don't mention that I inspected them. If you do and you're consistent with that practice throughout the report, your report doubles in length with content that the reader won't appreciate.

First complaint in five years? You're good.

Marc

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It's not enough information to go on. I would call them and get more information.

On a recent inspection, I found the dishwasher wired on a light switch circuit, light had to be on for the dishwasher to run, and this was new construction. Also, if it's older construction I have found dishwashers on counter circuits protected by GFCI's, which when tripped will kill power to the dishwasher or breakers may get turned off or trip between the time you inspected and the clients move in. Maybe they didn't push the dishwasher door in far enough, who knows until you talk to them.

While the vast majority of stuff doesn't deserve an expanded positive statement more than "Satsfactory", etc., I think they have some value on some things like furnaces, A/Cs, dishwashers, ranges, etc.

Chris, Oregon

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I document if they are satisfactory at inspection, with a blurb that all I do is test one cycle, don't check cleaning ability, etc. (just a couple sentences). Similar for other appliances (I do the same on fridges regarding just seals, and cold on fridge side, freezing on freezer side). It saved me on an electric range last year. I operated it at inspection, documented all the burners operated by the controls. A few months later the buyers moved in and it didn't work. Advised them to see what happened to it while the seller was there because it worked at inspection.

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I don't test appliances. I look at built-in stuff but don't touch anything free standing. My reports are 20 pages long and in the vicinity of 4000 words, I don't think my client wants to read that 'I opened the fridge door and the light came on, it was cold inside, the freezer was colder.' It's pointless.

Brandon, sorry for your troubles.

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Just curious......

Do folks think that including a paragraph of "I did this and I did that and I poked here and operated there and I looked at these things and it was all OK" stop the complaint process?

I don't know if has any effect on the complaint process.

State licensing requires that we state the mandated list of items was Inspected. About 8 areas of items have to be Operated (plumbing fixtures, smoke detectors, kitchen appliances, heating system, cooling system, exterior doors & garage doors, windows & interior doors) Two things we have to report the Presence or Absence of (aluminum wiring, smoke detectors). Also have to Move insulation where plumbing passes through floors or probable signs of leaks.

I list the 6 mandated kitchen appliances and state Inspected & Operated. If any are not present, instead the report states Not Present

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Like Tom I don't do appliances, period. If I found the light on when opening the fridge door, how would I know what the light does when I shut it?

The new Ashi standards don't call for anything to be operated. I will operate heat/air if they are connected.

One lady buying a house for her college kid talked me into checking a stove, even to the point of putting an oven thermo in it, but I was just trying to get along by that point.

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I do a visual check of the appliance and will run them to confirm operation. My report states that the appliances were check and found to be operable/in need of repair. I also will take pictures of them and supply these in the report. This provides proof to the client of what was in the home at time of inspection.

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Just curious......

Do folks think that including a paragraph of "I did this and I did that and I poked here and operated there and I looked at these things and it was all OK" stop the complaint process?

It won't have any effect on the complaint process, but it helps with the understanding-what-the-inspector-did process. If you don't say what you did, they get to imagine what you did.

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I don't inspect appliances;

I inspect their connections and I make sure they "work", but I'm not really concerned with how well they work. The client is told that up front.

Sounds contradictory so I'll explain.

The client is told up-front that appliances are accessories and that I don't inspect accessories. I tell the client they are usually guaranteed by the manufacturer for a year and that if they fail on day 366 the manufacturer won't warranty them and getting a home inspection is not the same thing as purchasing an extended warranty on things in the home. I tell them that if an appliance fails - even if it's when I'm backing out of the driveway and I'm not off site yet - I'll feel sorry for their bad fortune, but there is no way an appliance's exact time and date of demise can be predicted and I won't be paying for it.

I tell them that I'll test the appliances but only insofar as turning on the stove/oven to see if it produces a flame or elements get hot - I won't be cooking a cake to see if it will hold a certain temperature for a set amount of time; I'll spin up the disposal but I won't be putting anything down the disposal other than water, so I won't know whether it can even grind jello; I'll test the microwave for a few seconds but I won't know whether it can heat up anything more than a few grams of damp paper; I'll run the dishwasher to look for leaks but I won't know whether it can remove spit from a plate or not because I won't be putting any dishes in it and if there are already a homeowner's dishes in it I'm not going to run it period.

That said, I inspect the circuits appliances are plugged into. I inspect the visible portions of the gas and water piping and discharge hoses connected to them. I inspect the connections/condition of power cords when I can. I ensure that there is heat or that the flame comes on at every burner or element and that there are anti-tip brackets in place on a stoves/ovens. I check exhaust fans to make sure they're sucking, discharging all the way to the outside, have filters and are free of flammable grease. I run dishwashers through a short cycle to see if their hose connections are going to leak or if the tub or door seals will leak. I toss a piece of damp paper towel or toilet paper into a microwave and nuke it for ten seconds to see if it will heat up. I check hose and cord connections to disposals and spin them up to listen for noises indicating that the impellers are rusted up, jammed or bearings are worn out. I run water through the thing as it's spinning up to see if it's going to leak. I look at the condition of supply and discharge hoses on washing machines and the type and condition of connectors to dryer ducts but I don't normally run a washer and dryer other than to put a little water in the tub and put it on pump/spin cycle to see whether the discharge pipe will back up and overflow.

When I can, I observe the connection between refrigerators and their ice maker lines but I never open refrigerators or pull them out from the wall (I once paid a builder to have a hardwood kitchen floor repaired after the hard plastic casters caused two distinct track impressions in the new hardwood floors when I did that - never again. When clients ask why I didn't pull the refrigerator out from the wall, I tell them that they are welcome to pull it out from the wall if they want to, but if it damages the floor they're the ones who will be taking responsibility for any damage it causes, not me.).

When I say "I" it's usually Yung checking most of this stuff. I only do it on days when she doesn't accompany me, unless it's stuff that she can't check because she's too small.

Bottom line, we check the stuff connected to the appliance and we do a very, very brief operational check but we don't have any idea how well the thing will work under actual daily use conditions and we don't really care because how well the thing functions or how long it's going to last isn't our concern because these are accessories and not actually part of a home inspection.

Occasionally a wife, mother in law, parent, friend or sibling will let of a "humph" and later make a big display out of checking all of this stuff "thoroughly." If they want to do that, that is their prerogative; I just warn them that if it breaks or causes damage while they are doing so to remember that they're going to be the one paying for that, not me.

Had a pushy mother-in-law flood a kitchen and ruin a hardwood floor doing that once. The disposal had just been replaced but the installer had kinked the line between the disposal and the air gap. The air gap was turned to face the backsplash instead of into the sink. She dug around under the sink, found some dishwashing soap, put some in the dishwasher, started the thing up and then walked away. Thirty minutes later when the dishwasher started dumping water all of the water couldn't get into the disposal so the water spewed out onto the countertop and then onto the floor. Since nobody was in the kitchen at the time, it was a while before anyone realized the kitchen floor was covered with water. We (they actually) spent twenty minutes using all of my shammys to sop up all that water. The floors were buckling before they were done. I reported the obstructed discharge hose. Guess who took the hit for the damage? It wasn't me.

Bottom line, when we wrote our SOP here we were all acutely aware of how often appliances, which technically are accessories and have absolutely nothing to do with how well a home functions, fails; and we weren't willing to allow inspectors to take the hit for their operation or non-operation. If an inspector wants to pay to repair an appliance out of the goodness of his/her heart, that's fine; but they won't have to worry about someone pointing at the SOP and saying, "Look here, it says you must test the appliances," and trying to hold their feet to the fire when one breaks down.

I'm sorry for your troubles, Brandon. If I were you, I'd just tell them that there is no way to predict how long any appliance will last - even new ones (that's why they have a warranty), so there was no way you could have known whether this one would work three months later.

If they insist on pitching a bitch, figure out how old the thing is from its serial number and purchase a used dishwasher from an appliance repair shop. Make sure that it's the same age or newer than the one that broke down and has a 30 day warranty on it and make it clear that is as far as you are willing to go. Do not replace a used dishwasher with a brand new dishwasher - there's nothing equitable about that and that would be tantamount to saying, "Oh, wait, I DO warranty appliances," and they'll call you again the next time one breaks.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Around here I advise buyers to purchase the appliance insurance offered by the local utility. For $25/yr the dishwasher is covered, parts and labor included. They'll even replace a motor, when it would be cheaper to buy a whole new dishwasher. And, it doesn't matter if it's already broken. Purchase the coverage, wait 10 days, and call it in.

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Around here I advise buyers to purchase the appliance insurance offered by the local utility. For $25/yr the dishwasher is covered, parts and labor included. They'll even replace a motor, when it would be cheaper to buy a whole new dishwasher. And, it doesn't matter if it's already broken. Purchase the coverage, wait 10 days, and call it in.

If the "utility" is on the government payroll, better not let Gov. Christy hear about that program or it's gonna be toast. [:-smile_g

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Brandon, sorry for the headache.

I've had similar experiences with dishwashers in the past, and you'll likely never know what went wrong. A seller called once the day after I was in his house and said the dishwasher began smoking when he turned it on. I explained that I had merely run the thing through a cycle, but that he should call a repair-person. I also said that if the repair-person thought I was in any way responsible, I would pay for the damage if the story sounded legit. I never heard from the seller again, so I suppose I was the victim of bad luck and bad timing.

After I'd left another house, the seal or the water-valve solenoid failed in a dishwasher and leaked a couple of gallons of water on wood laminate flooring. I won't bore you with the details, but that one got contentious and one more person in the world hates my guts.

In your instances, the fridge defect isn't even described, and there's probably something a little tricky with the dishwasher, as others have said. But even if that isn't what's up, three months is three months, and who knows what's occurred during that time?

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Thanks for all of the replies.

Did you ask them if they ran the appliance during the final walk-thru?
Darren--- I don't think many people around here do a final walk- through.
Appliances that sit unused for extended periods of time are more likely to give trouble when they're finally put into operation
This house was vacant during my inspection, but was still privately owned. It then sat vacant for 3 more months after my inspection. I am assuming they had a bunch of remodel work done to the place.
It's not enough information to go on. I would call them and get more information
Chris--- I agree. The client never called, but chose to e- mail me twice this weekend instead. I replied to his e- mail and said that since the dishwasher worked at the time of inspection, and now won't respond, that he needs to check the breaker and GFCI's (didn't think about a switch).

I asked him to let me know what the serious defect was with the fridge as well. Who knows what he considers to be a "serious defect"?

I don't test appliances. I look at built-in stuff but don't touch anything free standing
Tom--- Now I'm curious as to what the definition of "built- in" is. Would you consider a standard dishwasher that's screwed into the underside of a counter in a typical dishwasher slot to be a built- in.
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You might have talked to them by now, but the tone of the e-mail does not always convey the real story, so I suggest what Kurt said, "sorry you're having problems, but ....". Intelligent people will understand that you have a limited time to inspect the house, and disposable appliances are low priority compared to the structure, roof and foundation, etc.

Did they sign a contract stating that the report is not a warranty or a guarantee?

If they start talking about you coughing up for new appliances, I would remind them that even the stores that sell appliances wouldn't replace old units for free. How can they expect that from you? You saw no signs of failure or you would have reported them. What is a major defect? a cracked tray or a bit of rust?

If you don't have pics of the appliances, maybe the realtors do. I take pics and record makes and serial #'s. That forces me to check the appliances out a bit. Older units are pointed out, "could fail at any time".

I am lucky my SOP does not require me to inspect appliances. I check them out a bit and even run the DW if there's time and it is empty, but it is done as a courtesy, not an inspection.

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Tom--- Now I'm curious as to what the definition of "built- in" is. Would you consider a standard dishwasher that's screwed into the underside of a counter in a typical dishwasher slot to be a built- in.

If it's attached, or supposed to be attached in the case of a range and its anti tip bracket, I look at that attachment and check out the plumbing and electrical connections if they're visible. I will not turn them on and I don't move them. The test is to flip the switch and say 'yup it works' or 'no it doesn't'. It's dumb. It wastes my time to check it (if I check it I have to write about it) and it wastes my clients time to read about meaningless tests.

Now if we're talking about vintage appliances, I always take the time to check them out. Vintage appliances are cool.

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Sheesh, Mr. O' is back.......

My documentation of what I did or didn't do is limited to a list w/ "functional" or "non-functional".

Sometimes I'll note "beat up and old".

With all the new control module appliances, the damn things can stop working anytime. I wish we could go back to knobs and buttons.

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Do folks think that including a paragraph of "I did this and I did that and I poked here and operated there and I looked at these things and it was all OK" stop the complaint process?

I think there's a useful difference between:

Dishwasher - satisfactory

and

Dishwasher - I ran the dishwasher empty thru a normal cycle. It completed the cycle, it didn't leak, and the soap door popped open.

It may not stop a complaint, but the conversation usually starts differently.

Chris, Oregon

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Yeah, I said that wrong. Nothing effects the complaint process other than doing a perfect job, which hasn't happened to me yet.

The thing I've found most useful in preventing complaints is doing the job, i.e., running the appliances and seeing if they work, make ugly sounds, or are otherwise problematic.

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