Jump to content

Defendable findings


Recommended Posts

Just spoke with a client from last year. I inspected his newly constructed dwelling and found deficiencies everywhere I turned. He's since hired an attorney to sue the builder and the builder's subs. The client and attorney are both highly pleased with my HI report but they are now asking for me to back up everything I found with documents that will stand firm in a courtroom. And the client will part with no more than a portion of the original HI fee for me to do this. That's the smaller issue.

The bigger issue is that I also wrote up the natural gas powered fireplace which does not have a vent. It's a ventless model. I always write them up on new construction because there's no make-up air requirement here and I've never seen make-up air (passive or active) provisions installed on dwellings in this area. Ventless gas fireplaces are permitted by the ICC fuel gas codes (up to a certain btu/hr output), so it doesn't back me up. It's just plain common sense.

I explained to the client that some findings are based only on the inspector's experience and the ventless fireplace was included into the report as such and for his safety. He's not overly distraught and we shook on his new understanding of just what a HI is, but it leaves me with a feeling that I could have done more, that I 've not delivered well enough for this client.

Have I?

Marc

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The client and attorney are both highly pleased with my HI report but they are now asking for me to back up everything I found with documents that will stand firm in a courtroom. And the client will part with no more than a portion of the original HI fee for me to do this. That's the smaller issue.
That happens to us frequently. It immediately triggers us sending our litigation support/expert witness agreement and requirement for a retainer - usually 3x-4x a typical inspection fee.

I explained to the client that some findings are based only on the inspector's experience and the ventless fireplace was included into the report as such and for his safety. He's not overly distraught and we shook on his new understanding of just what a HI is, but it leaves me with a feeling that I could have done more, that I 've not delivered well enough for this client.
Just include an explanation, why the recommendation is made, with the documentation for the other issues.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The client and attorney are both highly pleased with my HI report but they are now asking for me to back up everything I found with documents that will stand firm in a courtroom.

Yep, and the next thing is they will ask you to testify to it in court for free and let the opposing atty get a chance to slap you around silly. If it was me, I would turn over to an HI who likes to do that kind of work and is good at it.

Chris, Oregon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was something that Scott Patterson said a while back about this. If I recall correctly, your response on the witness stand in that situation should be to turn and address the judge, saying that you did not have any contract with the attorney that had just asked you a question. At that point, most judges would respond by directing the attorney to either hire you as an expert witness or let you go.

Anyway, I plan to budget to hire an attorney for a litigation/expert witness contract. Every inspector should have one on standby.

Marc

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just spoke with a client from last year. I inspected his newly constructed dwelling and found deficiencies everywhere I turned. He's since hired an attorney to sue the builder and the builder's subs. The client and attorney are both highly pleased with my HI report but they are now asking for me to back up everything I found with documents that will stand firm in a courtroom. And the client will part with no more than a portion of the original HI fee for me to do this. That's the smaller issue.

One moment after you delivered your inspection report to this client, you fulfulled your obligation to him and earned your fee. What he's asking for at this point is litigation support. He should expect to pay you an hourly fee for that kind of work. He should not be the one to define that fee; you should. He can decide whether or not to purchase your services at the rate you name. His lawyer should be very familiar with this. Also, it's customary for you to ask for a certain amount of hard cash up front -- called a retainer -- to ensure that he's hiring you in good faith.

The bigger issue is that I also wrote up the natural gas powered fireplace which does not have a vent. It's a ventless model. I always write them up on new construction because there's no make-up air requirement here and I've never seen make-up air (passive or active) provisions installed on dwellings in this area. Ventless gas fireplaces are permitted by the ICC fuel gas codes (up to a certain btu/hr output), so it doesn't back me up. It's just plain common sense.

I explained to the client that some findings are based only on the inspector's experience and the ventless fireplace was included into the report as such and for his safety.

That's a perfectly normal part of a home inspection. There's nothing out there that says we have to be able to back up every recommendation with a code citation -- although it's nice to be able to do so. As for the fireplace, I'll bet that if you look hard enough, you'll find several things about the installation that are inconsistent with the manufacturer's instructions. When you work for the plaintiff, it's really easy to find ammo, by the way. Working for the defense is much harder -- at least in my experience.

He's not overly distraught and we shook on his new understanding of just what a HI is, but it leaves me with a feeling that I could have done more, that I 've not delivered well enough for this client.

Have I?

I couldn't say without seeing the report. But if you did a good home inspection, that's all that he's entitled to. He shouldn't expect free litigation support or free expert witness testimony.

- Jim in Oregon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...