Before you purchase a home, you have opportunities to ensure it’s in good condition. You tour the property yourself, taking notice of anything that needs attention or you would like to replace. When you are satisfied it’s the right house for you, you submit a purchase offer. Once the seller accepts your purchase offer, you deposit earnest money and then schedule inspections. Among these are a pest inspection, wind mitigation inspection, and a home inspection.
Can I Sue a Home Inspector?
The home inspection is conducted to find what’s known as “material defects.” These are issues that devalue a property, because they are very expensive, and/or pose a health and/or safety hazard. So, an old roof with leaks is definitely a material defect because it devalues the house. Also, an outdated electrical system is a material defect because it too devalues a property but likewise poses a safety issue. However, old appliances, even non-working appliances, don’t cause devaluation or pose any health or safety issue. But, these will be noted on the home inspection report.
“Before even reaching the issue of claims against the home inspector, you should consider claims against the home seller. If you purchased a newly constructed home, you may have legal claims for defects against the home builder. If you purchased an existing home, different states have different rules and regulations governing suits against sellers for undisclosed, known defects.” —Nolo.com
The point is, a home inspection’s chief purpose is to find material defects. But, this doesn’t mean the inspector will find every problem and won’t predict future problems (although these might be mentioned, like the age of a major appliance). So, what happens if the home inspector doesn’t catch a material defect and you’ve already closed on the property? Can you sue a home inspector? And, what are your options?
- Read the fine print. When you hire a home inspector, you’ll enter into an agreement, which typically includes an exculpatory clause, limiting the home inspector’s liability. Basically, this clause states the home inspector will only repay their fee to the buyer. So, if you discover a $10,000 problem, you’ll only get back the money you paid for the inspection. Read through the documentation to see if there is such an exculpatory clause.
- File a negligence claim. You can file a negligence claim against the home inspector, alleging reasonable and necessary steps to detect materials defects were not taken. You’ll have to provide proof, of course, such as photos of a cracked foundation. But even this might not be enough, particularly if you signed off on the inspection report. At the very least, you should hire another home inspector to have a second inspection completed to determine if the first inspector should have found the material defects.
- Sue for breach of contract. If you are unable to prove the inspector was negligent, you might be able to sue for breach of contract. For instance, if the contract states the home inspector is required to test all major appliances, or components, like the electrical system and/or plumbing, but you believe this wasn’t done the contract was breached. Here again, you’ll have to provide solid documentation the inspector did not meet the terms of the contract.
- Sue the seller for failure to disclose. The state of Florida has home seller disclosure laws, which require sellers to disclose any known material defects and/or problems with the house. They key is the home seller must have known about the issue(s) and did not tell you, the inspector, their listing agent, or your agent. It’s important to note that sellers under Florida law are not liable for problems they should have known about.
If you are considering buying a home in Orlando, contact us for the latest market information. We’ll also provide you with the right advice to find a house quickly and for the best price.