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posted: 9/20/2020 6:00 AM

Home inspector damaged wood flooring

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Q: I am a Realtor representing the seller of a well-maintained home. The buyers of the property hired a licensed home inspector who made several holes in my client's wood flooring. These holes were roughly patched but are very noticeable. The inspector said he suspected moisture under the flooring and therefore needed to make holes to enable use of his moisture meter. The flooring, however, shows no signs of moisture, such as stains or damage. This is the first time I've known an inspector to make deliberate property damage. Is this kind of thing acceptable, and what should I and my seller do about it?

A: What you describe is neither normal nor acceptable for a home inspector. In fact, most home inspectors would be surprised to hear that an inspector had done this. According to the Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors and of every other established home inspector association, home inspections are limited to observing what is visible and accessible, without using intrusive methods and without damaging components of the property.

Moisture conditions below wood flooring are not accessible and are only visible if stains or physical damage are observed. Drilling holes into wood flooring is outside the scope of acceptable home inspection protocols. When water stains or moisture damages are apparent, the duty of the inspector is to report those conditions and to recommend further evaluation and repairs by a qualified professional. Drilling holes would have been acceptable if the seller had given permission to do so. Therefore, it is reasonable to insist that the home inspector pay for repairs, as needed.

Q: We have a mobile home with a curved metal roof that needed replacement. The roofing contractor we hired mistook this for a flat roof, and the flat metal roofing panels he used were too stiff to conform with the curved shape of the structure. When he forced the material into position, the framing and interior ceiling were damaged. We took the roofer to small claims court, but he won the case because he had an engineer testify that the roofing material was acceptable for the job. We were unable and not prepared to argue against his expert opinion. What can we do at this point?

A: Had I known your situation before you went to small claims court, I would have recommended that you get legal advice from an attorney on ways to present your case. I would also have advised you to appear with an expert witness, such as another roofing contractor, a home inspector or a licensed building contractor.

The fact that the roofing material was not designed for a curved roof should have been persuasive in court. A letter from the roofing manufacturer, stating that fact, would have been strong evidence in court. Now that you've lost the case, it may be possible to appeal in municipal court, but you'll need to get advice from an attorney before taking that step.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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