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What would you do?


tbird
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Back in July, I inspected a older home. When I got to the kitchen sink, there was a leak at the drain. I quickly shut off the sink faucet to prevent further damage. I took a picture ond put a arrow to it. I guess they had a plumber fix that leak.

Fast forward to today. I got a call from my client and said that there is now a hole in the glavanized pipe on the other side of the picture where I do not have a arrow. I asked why wait 3 months to call and she said she just now noticed it. She says when you run water in the bathroom sink (behind the kitchen sink), water runs out of the hole. She says the hole in the pipe had to have been there when I inspected because a hole does not happen overnight.

A. When I noticed the leak, I did not run any more water.

B. Being one man, how could I know if the water was leaking also under the kitchen sink when you ran the bathroom sink?

C. The wall and the sub floor was so wet in this area, it definitely was not a new leak, it was leaking for quite a while.

My report wording: Leakage under the sink is present at the drain line. Water stained wood under the leak is seen in the crawlspace.

She wants me to refund my inspection fee. What would you do?

Thanks.

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Originally posted by tbird

My report wording: Leakage under the sink is present at the drain line. Water stained wood under the leak is seen in the crawlspace.

She wants me to refund my inspection fee. What would you do?

Thanks.

Others may differ, but I think that's mighty soft reporting language. "Leakage under the sink is present?" "Water stained wood under the leak is seen?" That's about as passive-voice and disengaged as you can get. It's the very opposite of "owning the comment." It's running away from the comment.

It would've been much better to write something like: "There's a leak in the supply line under the kitchen sink; and, I could see water-stained wood in the crawl space, in the area under the kitchen sink. Have a plumber repair the leak(s); and, have a carpenter make any needed repairs to the floor and/or subfloor."

Just my humble opinion, but I think if the customer just wants a refund, you ought to give it to her and be thankful that's all it'll cost you.

That said, leaks do appear overnight. I don't know why folks don't understand that. Everything that breaks was working fine up until the time that... it broke! I remind people that everybody who ever turned their ignition key and found that their car battery was dead had a functioning battery when they last fired up the car.

And for people who I think can deal with graphic descriptions, I offer a little observation from the Zapruder film: JFK was fine when Oswald's bullet was 1/32" outside his skull. But when the bullet was 1/32" in his skull, there were problems galore.

WJid="blue">

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I am going to find out more monday. By the way, do you think I should go take a look at what she is talking about?

The wording is passive, but it is in red coloring. The legend of my report states that anything in red needs to be addressed immediately by a licensed professional.

Thanks for your input

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Hi Carl,

Yes, you should go look at it. When you get a complaint, grab a copy of the report and go out there as quickly as possible. You need to see it before they bring in an army of contractors who start tearing stuff apart and replacing it, and you end up being presented with the bill.

From your description, every time the bathroom sink is used water is running out of the kitchen drain. How could anyone live in a home for 3 months and not notice that? That's what I'd be asking her.

FWIW, I think your color coded convention and the fact that it took them to call you will save you if you have to go to small claims court - especially if they never bothered to do anything to fix the leak, strong recommendation or not, but I agree with Walter; for crying out loud, if you think it, write it! Don't be afraid to say so with confidence and don't write like Master Yoda speaks.

Carl, when you described the issue to us above, you didn't use that passive voice gobbledygook; you used active voice, so why would you use it in your report? Next time you're writing a report, just imagine that it's your mother, sister, wife or brother sitting there in front of you and write it the way you'd say it to one of them. If you do that, you can't go wrong.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Did you state that a plumber needs to repair the plumbing under the sink or did you just note a leak?

In older homes, that have original cast, once you start repairing one section you may find other parts that are weak and need replacement even though they weren't leaking at the time. When I find a leak in these homes I always write that there may be more damage found during the repair (not cya, just fact). I also talk about it face to face.

I agree with W.J. though and would take this opportunity to turn the situation into a positive. Meet with the unhappy customer, explain your position (once and don't be argumentative) and then say you'll pay for the repair. I would rather be out 150.00 than have a customer telling others not to use our company.

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Fast forward to today. I got a call from my client and said that there is now a hole in the galvanized pipe on the other side of the picture where I do not have a arrow.

Hi Carl,

Simply noting the leak and not mentioning the fact that the waste plumbing is galvanized is why you may want to give her the money now. When she she gets some estimates to re-plumb the whole DWV system because it's 50+ years old and is ready to fail in dozens of spots she'll have her hand out for a bigger check than the inspection fee. Get a release signed and get your report back.

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Carl,

I think the very best thing to do is respond quickly, be nice, give the money back.

Then spend a little time changing how you report things. I am not a fan of color coding, nor the blanket statements concept. Nearly every inspection report I am asked to review is faxed to me in black and white.

You seem to know what you are doing, now write like you know.

The best reports I see are quite short with minimum boiler and bs.

I agree with everyone else's responses. There is a real problem when we are asked to give our opinions regarding report writing. There are lots of reasons the more experienced inspectors write like they do. Too many to explain on a forum. Walter usually goes to the common sense and technical; words mean things. Chad has a teacher's perspective. Mike and Jim are keen on facts. etc

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tbird,

Thanks for posting your problem. As much as I learn from my mistakes I can also learn from others when they have guts like you and decide to share.

Having said that I will keep a comment something like this in mind;

"There is a leaking drain pipe under the kitchen sink. Galvanized drain pipes are also present and these pipes can rust from the inside out. They could look perfect from the outside but in reality be ready to fail at any moment. You need to hire a plumber to fix the current leak and while they are here, have them evaluate the condition of these older galvanized pipes".

I would address any water damaged wood in the cabinet section of the Kitchen category.

On a side note not necessarily related to this thread;

Imagine people being satisfied and understanding your report in the beginning. Then when a problem arises they go back to read it again. At this point they are trying their best to mis-understand it. I mean making an effort to be confused.

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Originally posted by AHI

Imagine people being satisfied and understanding your report in the beginning. Then when a problem arises the go back to read it again. At this point they are trying their best to mis-understand it. I mean making an effort to be confused.

I think that's an astute observation. Any unhappy customer will try to interpret the HI's comments (and truck, clothes, tools, body language, personality, grooming etc.) in a way that helps the unhappy customer and hurts the HI.

That's why we HIs need to wise up a little, and write comments that just can't be misunderstood. Believe me when I tell you, that saves time, heartaches and money.

We should practice writing comments that a circus monkey could understand. That doesn't mean dumbing down. It means using your own brain to control events in a way that helps you. Kinda like not jumping into a pool where you can't see the bottom.

Finally this: Beware of canned, generic HI boilerplate. If I had to guess, I'd say that there aren't 20 people in the world who can write useful HI boilerplate.

These days, I'm thinking HIs should bag reporting software altogether, and just start every report with a blank page.

WJ

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Imagine people being satisfied and understanding your report in the beginning. Then when a problem arises the go back to read it again. At this point they are trying their best to mis-understand it. I mean making an effort to be confused.

That is a good point John.

I agree that Tbirds statement is weak and maybe if a real plumber had seen the report or did the repair he would have seen the other problem, they usually do, but another point I would ask Tbird is did you stop looking at the plumbing once you detected a leak and found what you thought was the problem?

For example once I found a dishwasher that I couldn't run because the latch didn't work. I stupidly wrote that the latch didn't work and needed repair. Well the whole dishwasher didn't work! After that I was more careful about following thru on whether or not I could complete an evaluation on something.

My point is that if one starts their evaluation of something and has to terminate it short of completion then you need to state that fact and recommend that the evaluation be completed, right?

Chris, Oregon

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These days, I'm thinking HIs should bag reporting software altogether, and just start every report with a blank page.

Maybe 10% of my report is boiler.

GFCI's are blah,blah, blah .

Galvanized pipe is Blah, blah, blah

Greek desserts are baklava

The more reporting I do, the more I tailor each report specifically to the house I just inspected. It's the only way it all fits together to make a readable, understandable document.

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I cant wait till the time that it just flows like lightning out of my mouth into speech and finger tips into print. I know I have work to do and I will trudge on to the goal and beyond.

There are plenty of people who struggle to disagree with others. They make a life out of it. They are all around you and you may not even realize it.

Just relax for a minute or two and imagine yourself working for people like this. Remember, they are paying you so they can have an opportunity to disagree with you in the future.

Scary ain't it?

I am so friggin glad I decided to stand up and communicate on this forum. Seriously, if I screw up, please don't ignore me. Just slap the friggin crap out of me will ya....

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Originally posted by tbird

Thanks for all your responses. I see my err. I will be more concise from know on. Does anybody have a sample liability waiver you have them sign when you sign the check? Do you ask for their copy of the inspection report?

Get a local lawyer who knows a little something about the HI biz to draw you up a general release. You'll probably use it more than once during your HI career.

WJid="blue">

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"Leakage under the sink is present at the drain line."

Passive or wimpy or straight forward - what's to not understand? Does "Leakage....is present" not say anything?

I gotta think that most people are going to understand the statement. I would not be offering a refund. Carl you don't mention whether or not you commented on the life expectancy of galvanized pipe and therefore I don't see it as an issue to speculate on here.

Facts: you reported a leak, put it in red ink, indicated any red ink issue needs correction. That seems to cover the bases quite nicely.

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Originally posted by Eric B

"Leakage under the sink is present at the drain line."

Passive or wimpy or straight forward - what's to not understand? Does "Leakage....is present" not say anything?

Doesn't say anything clearly. First, because it's in InspectorSpeak, which is a foreign language to everybody except InspectorSpeakers.

If somebody walked up to me and said, "downzippage is present under the belt at the fly," I'd most likely draw a blank. I wouldn't think to check my zipper.

Although "leakage under the sink is present at the drain line" isn't completely indecipherable, it would create a "stumble" for any reader who's not used to InspectorSpeak. Just about any passive-voice sentence throws the reader. It's very easy to be clear: "There's a leak under the sink. Fix the leak." So, why not be clear?id="blue">

EB: Facts: you reported a leak, put it in red ink, indicated any red ink issue needs correction. That seems to cover the bases quite nicely.

People who don't read and write HI reports every day don't immediately understand stuff like color keys and glossaries. That's because color keys and glossaries don't occur anywhere else -- not in newspapers, magazines, church bulletins, etc.

HIs are the only people on earth who think all these impediments to understanding -- using a "foreign" language, icons, colors, 2-point type, etc. -- are good things, easily understood. HIs are also the only people who defend vague statements by pointing out that it's all explained in the glossary, and the color code, and the check boxes and the handwritten margin notes. And they wonder why customers get mixed up and lawyers send them letters.

We should keep in mind that the reports are written for homeowners, not home inspectors. Using standard English would be a good start.

WJid="blue">

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Originally posted by Eric B

"Leakage under the sink is present at the drain line."

Passive or wimpy or straight forward - what's to not understand? Does "Leakage....is present" not say anything?

I gotta think that most people are going to understand the statement. I would not be offering a refund. Carl you don't mention whether or not you commented on the life expectancy of galvanized pipe and therefore I don't see it as an issue to speculate on here.

Facts: you reported a leak, put it in red ink, indicated any red ink issue needs correction. That seems to cover the bases quite nicely.

First, Tbird has the fortitude to ask for advice. That's good.

I think Walter succinctly summarized what's wrong. It's made up language, dolled up w/colors as secret indicators. Where, outside of home inspection software report packages, does anyone talk or write like this?

Bases are not covered, let alone nicely. The sentence fragments that comprise the report trail off, and don't provide any hard information or direction.

Send 'em back their money. Quick.

"Imagine people being satisfied and understanding your report in the beginning. Then when a problem arises they go back to read it again. At this point they are trying their best to mis-understand it. I mean making an effort to be confused."

John says he's learning, but this is a very astute observation. When there's a problem, the rest of the report becomes ammunition for exaggerated claims. It's not about "what's not to understand?", it's about not being misunderstood. Clearly, the buyer misunderstood there was a problem.

There was an ASHI past prez who talked about his (lame ITA Matrix) reports as needing a "learning curve" so one could understand them. There is no budget or time for developing a learning curve w/home inspection reports. We get a single shot.

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True story: I was asked to review a particular inspector's reports as part of a panel of "experts". There were two terms and comments that none of us understood.

In fact I couldn't understand the report(s) - period. I tried and I tried. I never knew what kind of building this was and sure as hell did not know the condition of it. This format has been used for many years and is used by many inspectors every day. Will it change? No.

Most folks just have not seen a good inspection report.

(period)

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Originally posted by Les

True story: I was asked to review a particular inspector's reports as part of a panel of "experts". There were two terms and comments that none of us understood.

In fact I couldn't understand the report(s) - period. I tried and I tried. I never knew what kind of building this was and sure as hell did not know the condition of it. This format has been used for many years and is used by many inspectors every day. Will it change? No.

Most folks just have not seen a good inspection report.

(period)

True. And for each indecipherable inspection report, there is an HI who just can't believe that people are so thick-headed that they can't understand his glossaried, color-coded, boilerplated, margin-noted passive-voiced report.

I conjure up an cartoon in my mind: In the panel is Larry, of Larry, Daryl and Daryl fame, slapping himself upside the head as his college-prof customer walks toward his Mercedes. The thought cloud over Larry's head contains this: "Idiots!"

I wish Mike Lamb would draw this up.id="blue">

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