When Something Breaks During A Home Inspection
We all know that there are times during the home inspection process that items break. Who is at fault? And how is it corrected? An example of this was a time when I was performing a pre-listing inspection for a seller. The seller was present during the inspection and water was being ran at the downstairs fixtures. My assistant asked, "Do you hear water coming from the garage?" We immediately proceeded to the garage to check the source of the noise. To our surprise, water was pouring out of the water heater into the garage. The seller soon walked into the garage and asked "What did you do?", as we stood there with stunned looks on our face. Luckily, the water heater was leaking from the inside out, so the seller realized it was nothing caused by these two strangers in her home. However, this is not always the case. Often inspectors are alone inside a home and/or the evidence of what happened is not so visible.
In most scenarios, when items become damaged during a home inspection it's simply due to routine operation. Examples of this would be the handle of a hose faucet breaking when the inspector turns it on or the garage door bending when opened. These types of occurrences are considered routine operation as this is something that is done by the homeowner on a routine basis. It is the inspector's job to test the components fully and it is actually best for the client if it breaks during the inspection. Consider this: If it would break for your clients on the day they move into the house then it is not the inspector's responsibility to repair or correct. If it breaks prior to the buyer moving in, then the seller would be responsible for fixing the issue as the defect occurred during normal use.
We are all human and inspectors sometimes make mistakes or have accidents. Recently, one of our inspectors broke the glass on the fireplace door when it slipped out of his hand. Other examples of the home inspector being at fault, would be if they let water from a fixture overflow onto the floor, causing damage, or putting their foot through the ceiling while inspecting an attic. Most reputable home inspection companies will take care of these types of accidents or misjudgments immediately and are obligated to make the seller or clients whole.
Agents can also assist in ensuring items do not become damaged during the home inspection. Often during a home inspection, the agent, buyer(s), friend(s) and/ or family will be present. The home inspector cannot keep his eyes on all parties while trying to perform the home inspection. Once during an inspection an agent, the client, and several children were present. An angry seller called wanting to know why the inspector broke his wall mounted mirror. The inspector could only assume one of the children pulled the mirror out while playing inside the home. Unfortunately, this can become an issue of "he said, she said" which is not fair to any of the parties involved.
Try to remember, it is the inspector's job, in some ways, to break things during a home inspection if it's routine operation. It's much better for the buyer to have these items be repaired prior to closing, then move in and they break the first time that they try to use them.