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Home inspector out $13,000 for leaky foundation advice

January 25, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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A home inspector was successfully sued for more than $13,000 in British Columbia for not advising buyers of a leaking Chilliwack home to fix foundation cracks.

In a ruling released Monday, Provincial Court of British Columbia Justice Kenneth Skilnick ruled that Mr. Home Inspector Ltd., through its agent Lee Fearnley Stonegate Home Inspections Ltd., failed to meet the professional standard of care required of home inspectors.

Mehran Ziragi Moghadam and Shirin Roohijahroomi hired Mr. Home Inspector before buying their house in 2015 from Tamiko Charlton. The actual inspection was done by Lee Fearnley.

Moghadam and Roohijahroomi lost their lawsuit against Charlton as the seller of the home. They alleged Charlton misrepresented the true state of the home but Justice Skilnick found no evidence to support their case.

B.C. was the first province to introduce mandatory licensing for home inspectors in 2009. On April 3, 2017, Ontario also passed legislation requiring home inspectors to be licensed and to have proof of liability and errors and omissions insurance.

In B.C., the Home Inspector Licensing Regulation requires inspectors to state in their contracts whether or not they will look for mold or asbestos. In the report that Fearnley provided on the home that Moghadam and Roohijahroomi bought, Fearnley noted he did not provide a “visible mold evaluation.”

Moghadam and Roohijahroomi took possession of their home in October 2015. In November, they noticed a musty smell in the basement and discovered water pooling in a corner.

The following February, Fearnley returned to the home. The new owners let him cut away some drywall. After turning on a hose they determined that water was getting through the foundation crack.

Fearnley had mentioned the foundation crack in a report, but he did not consider it to be a “significant problem,” Justice Skilnick wrote in Moghadam et al v. Mr. Home Inspector et. al.  Fearnley had recommended that the cracked foundation be “monitored” and noted there was a “chance of water damage” to the building and its contents.

“There appears to be a glaring omission in the recommendation of Mr. Fearnley that the situation should be merely monitored, as opposed to sealing the cracks,” Justice Skilnick wrote. “The former approach suggests a course of action that the homeowner should wait for damage to occur first, while the latter suggests that the homeowner should take pre-emptive action to prevent the damage occurring in the first place.”

The buyers retained a different home inspector as an expert witness. That witness testified that Fearnley failed to emphasize the impact and severity of cracks in the foundation. Concluding that the water entered the home through those cracks, the plaintiffs’ expert testified that the home was in an area of B.C. that was “pretty much a rainforest,” and so, when a foundation cracks, it is “bound to leak when rains return after summer.”

The defendant’s lawyer argued that “little weight” should be placed on the evidence of the plaintiffs’ expert witness because that expert did not actually inspect the property. But Justice Skilnick found that the home buyers’ expert’s conclusion was “logical,” given the climate in B.C. Justice Skilnick added that Fearnley’s work “does not appear to be in keeping with the duty of a reasonably prudent home inspector to make recommendations to correct or monitor” a deficiency found in a home.

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12 Comments » for Home inspector out $13,000 for leaky foundation advice
  1. Dan Brown says:

    So with stupid clients you have to not only tell them a crack could cause water damage, you also have to tell them to fix it.

    • Gina Toupin says:

      Thats why you hire a property inspector. Because you, the buyer, are not an expert and are unable to access if the property is in good repair or has issues that have to be dealt with and/or will need expensive repairs in the future. So do the job you’re hired to do and get paid to do. Or you deserve to get sued.

  2. Don’t agree with the judge, its not like they didn’t know about the cracks. But who can argue with our courts……lesson learned, all cracks of home with now be noted as “must be sealed”….

    An ontario home inspector

  3. Jim H says:

    “Foundation crack. Chance of water damage.”

    Case closed.

    Stupid judge. Stupid home buyer.

  4. Mark Merrel says:

    Bad judgement. The inspector found the crack and informed the buyer of potential implications: “water damage”.
    Stupid home buyers perpetuate the stigma that home inspectors are stupid. READ YOUR REPORT!

  5. Dave says:

    While you can fix a foundation crack, you can’t fix stupid. Buyer’s were informed but didn’t do anything. Home Inspection is not the same as fortune telling.

  6. Ches Graham says:

    I’m not sure how this would get to court. $13,000 is not half of the legal cost. Insurance should have settled and the inspector would be able to say your covered and move on.

  7. Brian Fortin says:

    Outrageous. The inspector had to REMOVE drywall to find where the wall was leaking, which means he was unable to inspect the finished basement foundation. He could not have known the crack went all the way through the foundation. He saw no evidence it was leaking at the time of the inspection. He warned them it could leak some time in the future. Guess what? It did.

    “A home inspection is a visual NON-INVASIVE inspection …”

    This was a lousy decision.

  8. Guy Durette says:

    Crystal ball, crystal ball….tell me the future and I won’t have to be a home inspector. Clearly identified and predictions are not part of any SOP. Clearly clients are not informed on what a home inspection is and isn’t.

  9. Maria Burdekin says:

    For the amount these inspectors get paid for a few hours work all there findings should be detailed. This includes advice on what should or what may have to be done to fix an issue. There hired to help buyers. And many new buyers are young an inexperienced not dumb. We had an inspector that did not spot an illegal fire insert in a basement suite. If he had of bent down and actually looked he would have seen all the issues. Cost us 5000.00 to fix so our family would not die in a house fire. We found after tenants left when we were cleaning. Im not an inspector but combustibles like plywood, insulation, gypsome board all around the insert should have tipped in off. He never even looked. Took his 600 bucks and ran. And that’s not all he missed there are even more issues.

  10. Isac says:

    Total BS! Client was clearly advised of issues with the foundation. Now I could understand if they had been told that everything was picture perfect and not to worry about anything at all.. Hopefully insurance paid and all is well with the inspector! BC judge was a joke. Shame on them!

  11. Len Inkster says:

    First, There’s no point in attacking the Judge. If the judge was considered to have erred, then the legal system has a way of dealing with it. It’s called an appeal.
    Second, Home Inspectors should NOT assume anyone reading the report, or more importantly, the agreement for the inspection understand anything. While our clients might not be stupid, we should, as professionals consider them as such in matters of our expertise. Consider this, if the clients knew as much as we did as inspectors, there’d be no point in hiring us in the first place.
    Third, there are too many inspectors that rely on their agreements to get out of performing a full inspection to the standard expected of them. I’m not saying this is the universal case, but it happens more than it should. In the real-estate sector, Home Inspectors are not unique in not doing their jobs to the fullest.

    This leads me to why a home Inspector might suggest (incorrectly in my opinion) that a buyer should monitor a crack rather than fix it.

    Houses crack. Either in the foundation, or the interior finishes or in the external cladding. It’s a fact of life. Houses are not monolithic blocks that don’t move. they are made up of a complex set of components stuck together (or held apart) but various mechanisms to allow for expansion and contraction, shrinkage and swelling. They are usually built upon soil that is affected by seasonal conditions and man-made drainage issues. So yes, they crack. Some more than others. If a home Inspector was to identify each and every crack in a home and state that it MUST be repaired (to cater for those too stupid to realise it anyway) our reports would become a tome of length Tolstoy himself would be proud. Realtors would see us all as deal-killers (after all it’s mainly the Realtors than refer Home Inspectors) and we wouldn’t get any work.
    We could put an all-encompassing comment at the head of the report that stated “Any crack found at the inspection or anytime in the future should be repaired to prevent water or any other damage from occurring” but then those that have it in for inspectors would likely say we don’t earn our money.
    At $600, a Professional Home Inspector, who is fully insured, and has all the correct equipment, vehicles, expenses and marketing to run a professional business is likely only earning just above minimum wage. (yes, we do have overheads and taxes).
    It is those people who think they should only pay $3-400 for an inspection, and the inspector should be able to perform the inspection in an hour and catch everything, hidden or otherwise in the home, and predict anything that might happen in the future, mainly due to their negligent maintenance, that is driving the home Inspection industry to unprofessionalism.
    In my experience, a Professional Home Inspector performs inspections to a high standard, clearly outlines that standard to their clients and works solely for the client in an unbiased fashion to explain the conditions existing at that time of the home they want to buy. They never perform more than 2 inspections in a day (I wish there were that many available) and they provide a complete and comprehensive report with great, timely guidance.
    I don’t know of a single Home Inspector with a crystal ball or x-ray vision, and trust me, if I had those, people would be paying well more than $600 for their use.

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