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Inoperative light fixtures


Chris Bernhardt
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What a pain. I hate these. I never know quite what to do. If its easy I will spin in a new bulb or rather an adapted 3 light tester. But so many times taking the fixtures a part to check the socket and thus the circuit is not practicle, unsafe or could cause damage. Realtors and sellers have complained when I do report it as "too picky" and its just a burnt out bulb. But sometimes its not.

What say yee on how best to write these up or not?

Chris, Oregon

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I don't test fixtures. Too technically exhaustive. Just as you're describing you could spend literally an extra hour or more during an inspection troubleshooting all the light fixtures in a home. It could be light bulbs, bad switches, etc. Too much!

I'm not aware of any standards that require light fixtures to be included. I've never tested 'em and I've never had a complaint that I don't look at 'em.

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

What a pain. I hate these. I never know quite what to do. If its easy I will spin in a new bulb or rather an adapted 3 light tester. But so many times taking the fixtures a part to check the socket and thus the circuit is not practicle, unsafe or could cause damage. Realtors and sellers have complained when I do report it as "too picky" and its just a burnt out bulb. But sometimes its not.

What say yee on how best to write these up or not?

Chris, Oregon

"The hall light doesn't work. Have the seller demonstrate its proper operation."

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by randynavarro

I don't test fixtures. Too technically exhaustive. Just as you're describing you could spend literally an extra hour or more during an inspection troubleshooting all the light fixtures in a home. It could be light bulbs, bad switches, etc. Too much!

I'm not aware of any standards that require light fixtures to be included. I've never tested 'em and I've never had a complaint that I don't look at 'em.

Unfortunately, Chris & I are required to observe the operation of a representative number of these per the Oregon Standards.

I had an interesting customer complaint regarding this only a few weeks ago. She said that the carriage lights on either side of her garage didn't work. She discovered this 5 months after moving in when she wanted to turn them on for Halloween. Both the builder and his electrician had come out to look at the problem and confirmed that the lights weren't working. The electrician even took apart the switch plate to attempt to trace the wires but he couldn't. They told her that it would be very expensive to fix because the garage was on a lower level and the front door was very distant. It would involve destroying sheet rock.

Wait a minute. New Construction? Five months old? I gently suggested that the builder and his electrician ought to be responsible for fixing this on their own dime. She said that they were going to fix it but they felt that I ought to share in the expense because my inspection was negligent.

I held my temper and told her I'd be out to look at it the next day. When I got there, she showed me how when she flipped the switch nothing happened. "Um, I see that there are broken filaments at the bottom of these light bulbs. Did you try changing them?"

"Uh, no."

- Jim in Oregon

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I check every every fixture, uh, I mean every luminaire. If a bulb doesn't light, it gets noted in the report, but I don't bother to list the location: At least one light fixture is inoperative. This may simply be a bad bulb or it could be a bad fixture or wiring. It is beyond the scope of this inspection to determine why a fixture is inoperative. You should discuss this with the current owner.

The same goes for switches. I'll flip every one to see if it does something. It's a rare house that doesn't have at least one mystery switch. One or more switches do not appear to control any devices. You should consult the current owner for more information.

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I've done what Joe, Jim, & Charlie do, in various combinations.

Most of the time, I just say, "The ...... light doesn't work. Fix it."

When I've had realtors & sellers get into me because it's just a broken bulb (which is most often the case), and they go into the "What'd you make a big deal about a broke bulb for?" bullshift, I hold my temper & tell them "I'm just a list maker; this is an item on the list. The only folks making a big deal about changing a lightbulb are you guys".

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I'm basically on the same page.

I list as a defect where each light that didn't operate and simply write have seller replace bulb and check for proper operation prior to closing.

I however use a disclaimer about motion control lights that I don't verify these.

As far as receptacles I use the high visibilty dots and write the problem on the dot eg; loose or open ground. Then I list the defect in the report, Upstairs rear right bedroom has receptacle with an open ground, marked with colored dot.

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Would it not be better to say that such and such light did not turn on, or no power found at.....?

I don't think so. How do you know no power was found unless you are using a meter or another tool to check for power? I am not going to the trouble of trouble shooting the problem?

To say that a fixture is inoperative may lead some people to believe that it's the fixture itself that's the problem. Yes?

Maybe or the bulb, wiring or switch, but that is ok if they believe that because it might be that or who knows what else. I just suggest changing the bulb and checking the light because that is typically what it is.

My two cents for what it's worth.

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Originally posted by randynavarro

I'm not aware of any standards that require light fixtures to be included.

Let me retract this statement. I just read my ASHI SOP again, (for the. . .70th time?) A representative number of installed lighting fixtures, switches and receptacles is required to be inspected.

Oh well.

But also to clarify, I actually do flip all the switches as I walk through a building. Its second nature. If nothing lights, I don't spend time tracking it down. Just too many variables. On a 4500 sq. ft. place, (or 1500 for that matter) I'm not writing down what switches don't light anything.

If something starts zapping and popping, then we've got some action!!

I'm surprised some of my ASHI brethren did not catch my original misstatement. Or was anyone too afraid to say anything? [:-bigeyes

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I'll open myself up to criticism here.....

Inoperable light fixtures are somewhere down @ the absolute bottom of my priorities. I'm hunting bear, not swatting @ mosquitoes. Same w/outlets. In 2 decades, I've never had a complaint about a light fixture or an outlet. Never. (knock on wood......)

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Bobby,

If I write no power present it's because I did check for voltage. Easiest way is with a stick type volt tester which I carry on my belt. If I've got the time I'll unscrew the bulb and check the socket. I don't take time to open fixtures. I will sometimes also use a tic tracer or volt meter, again depending on time and curiousity.

To ignore such situation on the report and to tell the client that it's typically a burned out bulb is an assumption, and usually you'd be right. But if you're not...... I've gotten into the habit of trying to write exactly what I know or found.

I don't make big issues of lights not turning on or no power somewhere. I just raise the question - is it a bulb? a switch I didn't find? or some other concern? I leave it up to the client to follow up with the seller or make his own assumptions.

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I agree with Jeff, What you do not want to do is step beyond the bounds of the typical home inspection in regards to lights not working. You should note them down, make them aware of it and even snap a picture of the light in question so on the report you can refer to it and say what ever you wish.

But I believe it should be noted simply because you know the old saying.....and I am sure you all have heard it before...." it worked before the Home Inspector got here "....

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