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Repair & Proper repair


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Is there any real difference between using the word "repair" and the phrase "proper repair"?

I feel inclined to throw in "proper" to mean "to code, to mfg's installation instructions and to any applicable industry standards, etc."

But am I just imagining that it really means anything to anybody but me?

Does the HI have an obligation to indicate that the quality of the repair should at least meet some standard or are we Ok just to say fix it, repair it and not worry about a bum reading into our statement that since we didn't indicate that the repair had to be to code yada yada yada that we are therefore indicating that it's OK to use bondo and bubble gum?

Chris, Oregon

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I'm sorta w/Les. There might be times where I'd reference a specific code (egress porches in Chicago come to mind; remember the porch collapse of July '03?), but most of the time I tell folks to have it fixed by a contractor.

Same w/recommending contractors.

When we say "licensed contractor", we're recommending someone the state says is OK. Not that they are OK (as we all know), but who am I to pull rank on the state?

I'd have a hard time believing we'd get hung if we told someone to have something fixed by a licensed contractor.

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

OK, so it's a vain imagination that adding proper to repair means something to anybody else but the HI who thinks it does.

But by your responses you seem to be indicating that we should indicate someone who should be qualified to make a proper repair are you not?

Is it our duty to do so?

Chris, Oregon

I wouldn't call it a vain imagination; it's a valid consideration.

I guess I don't think it through that hard. I tell folks to have it fixed by a licensed guy, or word it somewhere along the lines of what Mike just said; I've often said something like "Don't let the guy that did this the first time do the repair".

The thing that give us a job (non-existent competent trades), comes back to confound us when we recommend repair. More weird stuff to consider in this thing we do.

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Just for the fun of playing around with the words, I'd say that anything that's not a proper repair isn't a repair. It's just another foulup.

An HI calling for a "proper repair" is much like a person looking heavenward and asking for a "breathtaking sunset," or maybe a "toe-curling orgasm." You get what you get.

I might change my mind in ten minutes, but I think, in the context of HI recommendations, the word, "repair" doesn't need a modifier.

WJ

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For you EW's has an inspector ever got into trouble for recommending a repair but not being clear or correct about the qualifications of the one who should do the repair?

I have also wondered if in a complicated problem requiring the skills of multiple trades if an inspector might get hung because he either didn't recommend the correct trade or didn't go far enough in alerting the client that multiple trades were most probably going to be needed?

What I am thinking is lets say you recommend a carpenter, and the client negotiates with the seller consideration of a repair based on a carpenter, later after the deal has closed the client finds out that the repair will require not just a carpenter but a roofer, electrician and a plumber and a lot more money would the client have a case against the inspector for making an improper recommendation?

Another question this leads into is the case where the HI recommends a repair to rot damage at a window , but says nothing about investigating for the source and correcting it and addressing all the adjacent damage beyond whats exposed to view. Could the HI get hung for failing to recommend repairing the source and adjacent damage?

Some examples:

The whatzit is damaged. Have the whatzit repaired.

or

The whatzit is damaged. Have the whatzit repaired including its cause/s and any other problems found while repairing the whatzit.

or

Hire a qualified contractor to repair the whatzit.

Which one is more likely to keep the HI out of trouble, if any?

Chris, Oregon

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Chris,

This discussion has developed, so here is "more" from me.

I think inspectors get to thinking they are way too important in the home buying process, in global sense. We are there to make a record of a snapshot in time and that is all. That snapshot usually includes our opinion and a source. ie: WJ and his code disc, JLC, etc. Many inspectors get into trouble when they try to cya and save the world during a home inspection.

I have no experience in my expert witness work with any inspector (person) that fails to identify the method or means of repair. It just does not seem to happen in my area. They will get into trouble when they don't specify a repair. By specify I mean "Have it repaired". An inspector does not usually know how to repair it, nor will they make the repair, nor will they warrant the repair, etc.

It is no accident that the more experience inspectors typically write less than the newer inspector. Kurt M ain't really a gruff nasty guy, he just writes that way. I suspect he has learned to write and say something like "The roof is worn out, have it repaired/replaced." He could cite code, he could write about water leaking onto the knob and tube in attic, he could write about black mold (mould), he could write or say "the asbestos shingles that are painted with lead based paint and flashed with lead are worn out and should be replaced by a licensed roofer, after the site is tested for environmental contamination. This repair may cause structural damage after the three layers of shingles are removed and the rafters rise. The shrubs may also be damaged when the roofing crew strips the roof and that may affect the drainage at the grade around foundation. A wet foundation will deteriorate and should be monitored and evaluated by a licensed engineer if it ever appears to be wet." etc etc

This may seem silly, but my experience is simple, direct communication is best and what we get paid for. Me thinks we take ourself too seriously. Learn, work, learn, made mistakes, learn, listen and then make more mistakes - but don't try to save the world and don't try to make friends with your client, real estate agent or house. The friendships come naturally when you are clear, concise and educated.

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

For you EW's has an inspector ever got into trouble for recommending a repair but not being clear or correct about the qualifications of the one who should do the repair?

Warning. This will sound mean. Proceed at your own risk.

In my humble experience, the HIs who got in trouble got that way because they wrote soft-sell passive-voice pablum. (Look up Herner vs. HouseMaster for a court report that actually uses the terms "worthless" and "pablum" to describe an HI report.)

Everybody here knows what that worthless pablum looks like, and everybody here knows it's the standard language of the HI biz.

Examples:

1. An HI who did an inspection on a house, missed a lot of dead obvious roof trouble, then "blessed" the roof. He got called to inspect the same house a few months later, and actually said that the roof was better on the second trip than on the first. Court battle ensued: Hundreds of thousands of dollars lost.

2. Back when I took on a job of editing 10,000 bits of HI boilerplate, I found a recurring theme. I called it: "It's screwed up, but it's OK" writing. A windy paragraph that described a problem, followed by a suckup paragraph that tried to erase the problem.

3. Here comes the mean part: A good 90% of the HI reports I've reviewed were just plain written by illiterates. Neither their descriptions nor recommendations made any sense at all. These HIs relied on their came-with-the-software-or-checklist-report boilerplate, which was also written by illiterates who were also suckups. Simply put, these HIs were just too dumb to do the work.

Lawyers can easily destroy these HIs. The lawyers pick apart the grammar, the spelling, the non-sequiturs, the logical breakdowns, the realtor-pleasing language, the "thank-you" letters to the realtors, the cozy relationships with realtors, etc.

id="blue">
I have also wondered if in a complicated problem requiring the skills of multiple trades if an inspector might get hung because he either didn't recommend the correct trade or didn't go far enough in alerting the client that multiple trades were most probably going to be needed?

What I am thinking is lets say you recommend a carpenter, and the client negotiates with the seller consideration of a repair based on a carpenter, later after the deal has closed the client finds out that the repair will require not just a carpenter but a roofer, electrician and a plumber and a lot more money would the client have a case against the inspector for making an improper recommendation?

I'm with Les. If the HI plainly tells the customer to get the busted widget(s) fixed, that's enough. If there's a condition that warrants destructive testing/further evaluation, just say so clearly, and everything ought to be copacetic.id="blue">

Which one is more likely to keep the HI out of trouble, if any?

Chris, Oregon

The simple truth, plainly stated. (Hint: Write like Katen.)

WJ

id="blue">
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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

2. Back when I took on a job of editing 10,000 bits of HI boilerplate, I found a recurring theme. I called it: "It's screwed up, but it's OK" writing. A windy paragraph that described a problem, followed by a suckup paragraph that tried to erase the problem.

That one really blows my mind. That an HI would both document and dismiss the same obviously significant problem, in writing, for all to see and scrutinize later. I try to warn potential clients about that on the first page of my website:

"Unfortunately there are many home inspectors who make a good living out of not rocking the boat. They never find much, and report even less. Anything they do find and report will be minimized and soft-soaped to death. According to them nothing is ever really a problem."

Brian G.

While it's true that the ridge of the roof has pulled apart several inches and the whole roof structure is going to collapse soon, the attic ventilation is great like this! [;)]

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O.C.A.

Observe, Concern, Action.....

Its a 3 step process to writing up a problem. I am just mentioning this known method since Chris asked for opinions on examples how to write something up.

1. Observe; describe the problem

2. Concern; say why it is a problem

3. Action; say what should be done to correct it

It is a 3 stage process but that does not mean you need 3 separate sentences to do it. Sometimes it reads better if done in one or two sentences.

The whatzit is damaged which can cause a problem with______. The whatzit should be repaired or replaced by a qualified contractor.

Observation > The whatzit is damaged...Concern > which can cause a problem with______....Action > The whatzit should be repaired or replaced by a qualified contractor.

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Originally posted by AHI

O.C.A.

Observe, Concern, Action.....

Its a 3 step process to writing up a problem. I am just mentioning this known method since Chris asked for opinions on examples how to write something up.

1. Observe; describe the problem

2. Concern; say why it is a problem

3. Action; say what should be done to correct it

It is a 3 stage process but that does not mean you need 3 separate sentences to do it. Sometimes it reads better if done in one or two sentences.

Maybe so. But not in the example below.id="blue">

The whatzit is damaged which can cause a problem with______.

That's unclear, and contains a syntax glitch. "The whatzit is damaged which?" I think a quick edit would've picked that up...

This time, four short sentences would be better: The whatzit is damaged. (Add sentence of description here.) This can cause problems with... Fix the whatzit."

Simply put, a short sentence or two (or three) is much more effective than a long sentence that's booby-trapped with misplaced words.

I think HIs who are working on their reporting chops would get the best results by taking unnecessary words out. It's like picking up the sticks before you start pushing the lawn mower.

WJid="blue">

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Back when I took on a job of editing 10,000 bits of HI boilerplate, I found a recurring theme. I called it: "It's screwed up, but it's OK" writing. A windy paragraph that described a problem, followed by a suckup paragraph that tried to erase the problem.

I will often put things in my report that are questionable, but then qualify it with the fact that it should be ok only in that specific circumstance.

For example: Drip cap flashing is recommended along the top horizontal ledges of all window trims. Flashing was omitted at the upper level windows. I am not concerned with the lack of flashing at these windows since there is an eave overhang that will protect the upper level windows.

I do not typically write the above paragraph-- it is just what came to mind.

The reason I put this stuff in the report is that I do not want an inspector coming in behind me saying flashing is required and should have been installed. Maybe I am wrong in doing this.

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

I will often put things in my report that are questionable, but then qualify it with the fact that it should be ok only in that specific circumstance.

The reason I put this stuff in the report is that I do not want an inspector coming in behind me saying flashing is required and should have been installed. Maybe I am wrong in doing this.

I wouldn't say so; I do that too. Having read thousands of posts on this and other HI websites, I know a lot of others do the same. Surely part of our job is to help clients understand what really is a problem vs. what really isn't.

I can't speak for Walter, but I was thinking of things that actually are a problem. It's amazing what a dedicated buckethead will candy-coat to keep his realtors happy and the job stream flowing. Walter's #1 example, for instance.

Brian G.

The slab is breaking up. Consider putting a little caulk in those cracks one of these days, and it'll be fine. [:-paperba

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

Back when I took on a job of editing 10,000 bits of HI boilerplate, I found a recurring theme. I called it: "It's screwed up, but it's OK" writing. A windy paragraph that described a problem, followed by a suckup paragraph that tried to erase the problem.

I will often put things in my report that are questionable, but then qualify it with the fact that it should be ok only in that specific circumstance.

For example: Drip cap flashing is recommended along the top horizontal ledges of all window trims. Flashing was omitted at the upper level windows. I am not concerned with the lack of flashing at these windows since there is an eave overhang that will protect the upper level windows.

I do not typically write the above paragraph-- it is just what came to mind.

The reason I put this stuff in the report is that I do not want an inspector coming in behind me saying flashing is required and should have been installed. Maybe I am wrong in doing this.

Not that I want to be Mr. Nitpick, but writing up problems in passive voice, for instance, "Drip cap flashing is recommended along the top horizontal ledges of all window trims," may come naturally in your writing. That's not unusual with HIs.

However, passive voice is the most-used tool in the writing toolbox of HIs who want to soften up descriptions, recommendations, etc. Passive voice, by nature, avoids clean explanations, derails the readers' trains of thought, and generally fuzzes up what the HI is trying to say.

If you look at the reporting samples from Katen, Mitenbuler, VanAlstine, O'Handley, Goodman, et al, you'll see a pattern: not only can they be understood, they can't be misunderstood.

If you look at the passive-voice samples offered by other brethren, you'll see a pattern that makes readers pause and think, "Huh?"

When Katen writes, "replace the furnace," everybody knows exactly what he means. When a passive-voicer writes, "Recommend further evaluation by a licensed qualified hairdresser to ensure that an effort is made to correct all situations which could be conducive to deterioration, monitor situation indefinitely," nobody knows what the hell he means. Heck, they don't want to know what he means. They just wonder why he can't write plainly.

It's not that every so-so or bad-writing HI gets into a bunch of trouble, and loses a six-figure lawsuit. For the most part, people like their HIs, they know that even a bad inspection is worth the low dollar that they pay, and they're generally pleased with the result.

But given enough time, and enough soft and fuzzy passive voice, an HI will likely run into a situation that will clean out his deductible, or worse.

I think it's brother Katen who tries out his reporting language on his mother. (If not, sorry for the error.)

Trying out reporting language on grade-school kids and senior citizens is actually a brilliant idea. It ought to be part of a test to get into the HI biz.

WJ

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If one uses four short sentences to describe something that could be described in 2 longer ones, then could that be cited as fragmentation?

I suppose there is a fine line for "perfect" writing. I would like mine to be perfect all the time but I know that is not realistic. Its a nice goal to set but if I don't always meet it I wont be slamming head against the wall over it.

Please continue with the constructive criticism Walter. I think it can be helpful to some of us. I will say that it can be confusing for a new guy who is gathering advice and information on how to operate. Quite frequently there is conflicting advice from equally credible sources.

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Hi,

Bonnie, if you've been following this thread, I hope you'll chime in here. This is an area where some of these guys could really use your input.

John,

I think that when we talk directly to one another, and are discussing something in context, we tend to use longer sentences but can still understand one another. However, when we write, we need to keep our sentences shorter, so it's easier for the reader to follow what we're trying to say.

In some languages, run-on sentences and misplaced words (from an English language standpoint) work fine - German is a good example. In German, you can read a sentence that's as long as two English paragraphs, but you won't encounter the active verb until the very last word or two. That leaves the reader mentally holding his or her breath and waiting for the last word to come, in order to know what the speaker/writer is saying. I don't know if you've every noticed it, but Germans are very good at anticipating the end of a sentence, and, when you're talking to them they sometimes tend to finish your sentence for you. That comes from a lifetime of conditioning. It works well for them, but it makes learning German very difficult for a native English speaker.

English is more finicky. When you write in English, it's necessary to try and detach yourself from the informal way that you address someone and pay closer attention to the rules. Perhaps that's where inspectorspeak comes from; inspectors trying to convey their thoughts using a pattern different from the one that they're accustomed. Most of the folks getting into the business have been out of school for 2 or 3 decades. Writing isn't something that they've been required to do. Now here they are; in a business that requires them to write. They know instinctively that they are supposed to write according to certain rules, but they end up going overboard because the rules are long forgotten.

Take Bonnie's class. If Katen says he's getting something out of it, we all need to take it.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by AHI

I suppose there is a fine line for "perfect" writing. I would like mine to be perfect all the time but I know that is not realistic. Its a nice goal to set but if I don't always meet it I wont be slamming head against the wall over it.

I don't think "perfect writing" exists. Writing, like public speaking, depends on the audience. Every report I write is for a different audience, so how can I ever be perfect? Walter said it well: simple, clear writing can be understood, and can't be misunderstood. John, you may spend 15 minutes on you computer composing a beautiful, elegant sentence. If that sentence goes right over your client's head, you've wasted his money and your time.

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Originally posted by AHI

If one uses four short sentences to describe something that could be described in 2 longer ones, then could that be cited as fragmentation?

I suppose there is a fine line for "perfect" writing. I would like mine to be perfect all the time but I know that is not realistic. Its a nice goal to set but if I don't always meet it I wont be slamming head against the wall over it.

Please continue with the constructive criticism Walter. I think it can be helpful to some of us. I will say that it can be confusing for a new guy who is gathering advice and information on how to operate. Quite frequently there is conflicting advice from equally credible sources.

I'll just be blunt here: If you're matching up the advice of, say, me, Katen, Mitenbuler, VanAlstine, Goodman, O'Handley, et al against the teachings of guys at HI school and HI meetings, don't take your lessons from the instructors and rubber-chicken-dinner guys. If they were decent writers, you could Google 'em and see their publications.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that you're struggling manfully to write in the "professional" style that you were taught in HI school, and maybe you think that simplifying your writing will make you sound less "professional."

The "professional" HI style (which usually is the very opposite of professional) is built on the frame of passive voice. Passive-voice writing usually ends up convoluted, and overloaded with extraneous words and thoughts. The whole idea of passive voice (as I understand it) is to disown the comment, and write as if an unknown omniscient speaker were handing wisdom down to the unwashed masses.

No offense to anybody, but it's just a bad idea to take writing lessons from instructors at HI schools. They're among the worst writers on earth. Letting the average HI instructor teach you how to write is like letting a monkey teach you how to build a moon rocket.

HIs in general would be well served to drop the "professional" pose, and just write in normal human conversational English. Think USA Today. Think Time Magazine. Think anything but weasel-speaking bureaucrat.

The only penalty for writing HI reports plainly is that the HIs' words (think Katen) leave no wiggle room. RE agents and sellers don't like that. But as long as the HI is right, RE agents and sellers get used to it.

If one writes plainly, tells the truth and backs up his opinions, HI work gets easier, and might even contain some fun.

WJ

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