Roof Inspections and Home Inspections
I got a call from a concerned Realtor the other day. There was a conflict between my home inspection report and the roofer's roof certification. The roofer stated the roof would not leak for two years, as is customary for home sales in Stanislaus County, but the roofer failed to disclose the condition or age of the roof. My report stated that there were multiple areas of exposed felt, improperly installed flashings, and that the roof was very near to the end of its economic life; and that it would probably need replacement very soon. The roof certification made the roof appear to be satisfactory while my report pointed out all the issues on which my Client should be informed. The roofer was hired by the seller to provide a "Roof Certification." The Realtor was not questioning my findings because I had documented all the important issues with photographs, but the Realtor was asking me how to resolve the conflict between the two documents.
The first thing I explained was that a roof certification is not the same thing as a roof inspection. A home inspection should include a section just for the roof. It describes the various roof systems including the gutters, downspouts, flashing, vent pipes, chimney flashings, type and condition of the roof covering, estimated age of the roof and any other systems that I would want to know about if I were buying this house. The Standards of Practice are clear and not subject to revision by the inspector. To my knowledge there are no standards for a roof certification. The nearest description I can find is in the California Association of Realtors and the HUD handbook.
CAR's "Buyer's Inspection Advisory:"
You are advised to conduct investigations of the entire property, including but not limited to the following:
Roof: Present condition, age, leaks, and remaining useful life. (Roofing contractors are best suited to determine these conditions.)
FHA Handbook 4905.1 REV-1
"ROOF COVERING must prevent entrance of moisture and provide reasonable future utility, durability and economy of maintenance. When reroofing is needed for a defective roof, already consisting of three layers of shingles, all old shingles must be removed prior to re-roofing."
The typical roof certification guarantees the roof not to leak for one or two years. The roofer is not required to describe the condition of the various systems in the certification and there is no advice supplied on how to extend the life of the roof. I have never seen a certification that included photographs, and most importantly, the roofer is hired and paid for by the seller. A roof certification is of very limited value to the buyer. Most times the roofer only agrees to repair the leak in the roof. The roofer does not guarantee to repair any subsequent damage to the roof structure, ceilings or any damage to the furnishings if there is a leak during the certification period.
Getting a home inspection is kind of like taking a used car you are thinking of buying to your favorite mechanic to get an idea if it is mechanically sound. You do not take the car to the seller's favorite mechanic for an opinion; you take it to your own mechanic to be sure you obtain unbiased results. Likewise, why would a buyer allow a seller to choose who is going to inspect the important systems, like a roof, in what is probably the largest investment he will ever make for his family? Anyway, the answer to the Realtor's question was that the roof certification is not a roof inspection and a home inspection is not a roof certification. They are two different documents prepared for two different clients, one for the buyer and one for the seller. Many times the certification is actually addressed to the Real Estate Agent or Company, which could expose the Realtors to litigation if some thing goes sideways. In my opinion, they should be addressed to the buyer because ultimately the buyer is going to rely on certification.
Problems usually arise when the roof is at the end of its life and there is a two-year roof certification issued and I recommend a new roof. In my opinion the lack of proper guidelines for roof certifications should be addressed by the legislature to insure everyone is obtaining good information and any possible conflicts of interests are disclosed. I had one home where there was a fist sized hole in the roof that had already been certified by the roofer. My client was very upset when I showed him the picture of the hole and it wrecked the creditability of the listing agent.
This is my second Blog. Any comments regarding the construction are appreciated. I can barely make this thing work.
20/20 Home Inspections