Q: I am in the process of selling my house and, of course, the buyer is having the usual property inspections. His termite inspector’s report states that I have subterranean termites. There is no damage to my house except for a small amount of dry rot but he wants to treat the whole house and garage (detached) at a cost of more than $2,000.
Being skeptical of his report, I ordered another inspection. This inspector is local and says he can find no evidence of termites. He states that there is some dry rot in the living room floor because the builder did not put air vents in that part of the house. From what he says, I am sure the cost to repair will also be high. This house is 26 years old and this was not found by the first inspector. He was unable to check the garage, but stated that he could do that when he came back to re-inspect the work that needed to be done and that if he didn’t do the work, it would cost me another $50 for him to inspect it.
How do these crooks become inspectors? Which report do I use?
A: First, in defense of the pest inspection industry, the minimum duties of the inspectors has been laid down in stone for a long time now.
Various government agencies, the state legislature and years worth of court decisions, not to mention the requirements imposed by the inspector’s insurance company, mandate that their business be conducted in certain ways.
Having said that, there are good inspectors and bad inspectors and like all of us they have good days and not so good days.
By far, the biggest danger to consumers is the propensity by some inspectors to cite problems that don’t really exist or to require major repairs for minor problems. Why? Because the inspector knows that, most of the time, the homeowner will pay the pest company to make the repairs, sometimes at exorbitant prices.
It is not unheard of for the inspector to receive a commission based on the amount of money the company receives for the repairs required by the inspector’s reports.
This is one reason why the use of a good, experienced Realtor is so important. Realtors talk among themselves and quickly figure out which inspectors are honest and which ones either conduct inspections with their eyes closed or try to pad their findings as much as possible.
In your case, it sounds like the buyers used an inspector who wanted to sell them the proverbial Brooklyn Bridge. Treating an entire home when no infestation exists is crazy.
Fortunately, your purchase contract only requires you to deliver a clear pest report.
Even though the buyers have a right to have any inspections they desire, your obligation is to obtain a pest report which indicates the home is free of active infestation. Whether that report is the one the buyers paid for or one which you subsequently purchased, is not legally important.
In contract negotiations, it would be great if the buyers and sellers agreed ahead of time on which pest inspection company would be used. But that seldom happens.
Usually the contract calls for one party or the other to pay for the report and that party gets to choose who they will use.
I have seen people spend half of a day calling various pest companies and shopping the price, giving the inspection to the lowest bidder. Unfortunately, the old axiom that, “you get what you pay for” is as true in this industry as any other.
In any case, you will have to get a clear pest report. To do that, you will have to pay someone to make the required repairs. You will either pay the pest company to complete the work or you can hire anyone you wish, in which case you will have to pay for the pest inspector to come back out and sign off the work. If the repairs aren’t complete when the inspector arrives, you will pay another $50 for the next reinspection. There’s not much you can do about it at this point.
Tim Jones is a real estate attorney in Fairfield. If you have any real estate questions you would like answered in this column you can contact him at [email protected]