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I just received a call from a gentleman named "Ray" in regards to an inspection I did last month.

The granddaughter is trying to purchase the house of her late grandparents, and I did the inspection for her. Ray (son of deceased) was the one who got the house ready for my inspection, answered any questions, etc. I think he was the caretaker of the house during the last several years.

He called me for my opinion, because 2 lawyers are butting heads over my report, and the disclaimer that it is to be used only for my client. He said he wanted me to break the tie in an argument as to whether it is OK for the realtor to hand out my report.

It turns out that there is bad blood in the family. Ray's sister sounds like a complete *#*@#, and has decided that her parents house is perfect, and that my client is getting way too good of a deal on it. Ray and my client discussed it, and decided that they wanted to give the sister a washed copy of my report (company name, contact info, etc. removed supposedly). The sister took the report to an agent who started calling Ray demanding he disclose who the inspector is, etc. Ray declined and told her she needs to deal directly with my client, who luckily chose not to include my info. on the report.

There was an estate sale some time back, and Ray's sister brought in the agent who started handing out business cards, telling everyone that the house was for sale. She ended up getting a contract written up for the sale of the house.

Here's where Ray wants my opinion. The agent has given the client's my report to use for the transaction, so Ray went to his lawyer about it. Supposedly his lawer stopped after reading my cover page and said "see this"-- they can't use it. Then another lawyer got involved, I'm assuming from the other side who said "bull".

Now, do you guy's think I really have any legal authority to stop anyone from using my report, disclaimer or not?

I've got the agent's name and number-- Ray was kind enough to give it to me-- what would y'all do in this situation. I'm getting sick of agent's handing out my reports.

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Unfortunately, I don't think that you can stop other people from using your report. Some brokers are simply snakes, and you can't change that. However, if you copyrighted it and made it clear that the report was intended for your client alone and can't be relied upon by anyone else, then you probably can't be held liable for anything by anyone other than your client.

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I don't mind if my report is handed out to the buyers and sellers agent with regards to exchange of information. The sellers agent has to show the owners what the potential buyers are asking for based on my report.

What I do have a problem with is doing pre-sale inspections and then the client makes numerous copies of my report to pass out to potential buyers - that's a no-no.

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My opinion is that the damage done by the distribution of copies of your report is to your client who rightfully owns the report, not so much to you, the inspector. That disclaimer is for the benefit of your client. I wouldn't get involved, unless you somehow become damaged yourself. As I see it, this is your client's fight, you've done your job and your fees are fully earned.

Marc

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Jim is on to something, you did copyright your report right? Call the agent's broker and inform him that she is distributing stolen copyrighted material and that your lawyer will be in contact unless all ilicit copies are returned to you. Give him a deadline so he knows your serious.

If you didn't copyright your stuff, you need to start. All of my work product is copyrighted; report, pics, and contract.

Tom

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You might not be able to stop them from distributing it, but if it's copyrighted you might be able to sue the real estate agent involved for violating your copyright. Somewhere in the archives of this site - I think it's the front page - we ran an article from Working R.E. years ago where an appraiser here in Washington State won a judgement for copyright violation against a realtor that had distributed his copyrighted appraisal. You could probably sue the lawyers involved as accessories since they should know better than to be distributing copyrighted material without the permission of the person that owns the copyright.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Here's where Ray wants my opinion. The agent has given the client's my report to use for the transaction, so Ray went to his lawyer about it. Supposedly his lawer stopped after reading my cover page and said "see this"-- they can't use it. Then another lawyer got involved, I'm assuming from the other side who said "bull".

Like Jimmy said. We have no reasonable control over the distribution of the report.

You could hide behind Oregon law and refuse to talk to anyone, but your client. Tell the third party to get their own inspection, you're done with this one.

Chris, Oregon

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After reading Mike O's post, an interesting point comes up. If you hire a photographer to take photos for you, the photographer owns the negatives and sells you the prints. If you want additional prints, you have to purchase them. Is this what's supposed to happen in our industry too? We own the report and sell a hardcopy to the client? If we had a clause set up that way in our contract, we'd have solid grounds to sue anyone who copied them without our permission. More importantly, it would deter agents and sellers from doing so. That would be the purpose of it.

Marc

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Exactly. Both my contract and my report state that I retain ownership of the material. Every page of my report has a header that reads " Confidential Report. Prepared for the exclusive use of ..." and a footer that reads " © 2010 Clear Creek Home Inspection Services. All rights reserved. DO NOT DUPLICATE WITHOUT PERMISSION."

Every page, every time.

Tom

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This is from my contract:

Third Party Liability – The inspection is done for You and the report is prepared for You, for Your own information, and is copyrighted. The report may not be used or relied upon by any other person unless that person is specifically named by Us in this Agreement as a beneficiary of the report, in which case the report may also be used by the additional beneficiary We have named. You agree to maintain the confidentiality of the report and reasonably protect the report from distribution to any other person. If you directly or indirectly cause the report be distributed to any other person, You agree to indemnify, defend and hold Us harmless if any third party brings a claim against US related to our inspection or the report. By initialing here (______), You authorize Us to distribute copies of the Inspection results to the real estate agent(s) and/or mortgage company directly involved in this transaction, who are not designate beneficiaries of the report, intended or otherwise.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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