Can You Sue a Home Inspector for Negligence?

By
Home Inspector with Home Inspection Insider

When you are buying a home, the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not the inspector missed something that could cost you down the line. Unfortunately, this does happen occasionally.

 

Can you sue a home inspector if they miss something? In some cases, the answer is yes, but it may not be difficult to prove and unfruitful. Keep reading to learn more about your rights as a homeowner and when it might make sense to bring a lawsuit against an inspector.

What is a Home Inspection?

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), "A home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of the accessible areas of a residential property, performed for a fee, which is designed to identify defects within specific systems and components defined by these Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector."

 

A home inspection is an opinion by a professional home inspector based on a set of Standards of Practice (SOPs). SOPs are set by certification organizations like the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) that credential home inspectors. These SOPs guide what an inspector should look for and report on when conducting a home inspection.

Home Inspections are Subjective

Home inspections are subjective, and it's difficult to prove that the inspector acted negligently. For example, if the home inspector missed a crack in the foundation that later caused water damage, it may be difficult to prove that the inspector should have seen it and reported it. If the home inspector did report it but chose to ignore their advice and buy the home anyway, you likely would not have a case against the inspector.

 

If you feel that your home inspector did not adhere to the SOPs, or if they missed something included in the SOPs, you may have a case against them. Because a home inspection is performed at a designated time, the home inspection report is written in present-past tense and can't predict future conditions. It can be difficult to prove negligence, particularly if the conditions at the inspection made it difficult to spot the issue.

 

It's also worth noting that the age of a system is not necessarily a defect. A home inspector can only report what they find on inspection day. If the home you're buying has a 15-year-old HVAC system or a 10-year-old water heater, common sense should suggest that these items need replacement sooner rather than later.

 

Inspection Agreements and Liability Insurance

 

Most professional home inspectors carry liability insurance which requires them to have a signed inspection agreement before the home inspection for the insurance company to cover the inspection under the policy. The inspection agreement likely contains a clause that limits the inspector's liability.

 

All this doesn't mean the home inspector can't be held liable. Laws vary by state; some states, including Georgia and California, have no state licensing for home inspectors. Since certifications are also not required, some home inspectors are operating without licensing or certifications.

 

You can sue a home inspector for a few different things. The most common is visible damage to the home. For example, if an inspector misses a visible wood rot, the homeowners could potentially sue for the cost of repairs.

 

It is important to note that home inspections are not exhaustive, and home inspectors are not required to find every single issue with a property. Depending on the home's overall condition, home inspectors often will only list the most glaring defects. 

 

For example, if a home inspector recommends an obsolete electrical panel, such as a Zinsco panel, for replacement, they may not list smaller deficiencies within the electrical panel for repair.

What to do if You Want to Sue a Home Inspector?

To sue a home inspector, you must first talk to an attorney. They will be able to look at the facts of your case and let you know if it is worth pursuing. Suing a home inspector can be a lengthy and costly process, so you want to ensure you have a good chance of winning before you decide to go down that road.

 

Once you have decided to sue, the next step is to gather evidence. This might include photos of the damage, receipts for repairs, and any other documentation that will support your claim that the inspector is at fault.

 

Your attorney must fill out paperwork and file it with the court. The home inspector will then be served with the lawsuit and given a chance to respond.

 

The case will then go through the legal process, which can take months or even years. If you win, the home inspector will have to pay damages. However, if you lose, you could be responsible for the home inspector's legal fees to defend themselves.

What to do if You are Unhappy with Your Home Inspection?

If you are unhappy with your home inspection, the first step is to talk to the inspector. They might be able to offer insight into conditions you were not aware of. For example, home inspections have limitations, and home inspectors will not move large items to make areas accessible.

 

For example, home inspectors will not move large furniture, appliances, or a seller's personal belongings. These limitations can obstruct a visual inspection.

 

If you are still unsatisfied, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or your state's licensing board.

 

Finally, you can talk to an attorney to see if you have a case for suing the inspector. This should be a last resort, as suing an inspector can be lengthy and costly.

Conclusion

Suing a home inspector is not something to be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider before taking such a step, including the cost and time commitment involved. Research and talk to an attorney for legal advice before deciding.

Comments (3)

Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Hubert. Suing a home inspector is not a decision to be made lightly. Consulting with a competent trial attorney is essential. Consider the costs against the chance of collecting. You wanted an opinion and got one. Enjoy your day.

Nov 04, 2022 05:26 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Hubert - can someone sue is a lot different than should, could or would.  Increased due diligence from people hiring a property inspector might be insightful.  And before the inspection too.   

Nov 04, 2022 05:45 AM
Joe Jackson
Keller Williams Capital Partners Realty - Columbus, OH
Clintonville and Central Ohio Real Estate Expert

This is an excellent post with great information. Thanks for sharing it.

Have a super fantastic week!
Joe Jackson, Realtor-KWCP

Nov 04, 2022 09:10 AM