Liability of Home Inspectors

Buyers are often concerned that the house they are purchasing is laden with problems, and they as the new homeowners will be burdened with the bill to fix the problems.  Buyers may find comfort by making the agreement for purchase and sale conditional upon a home inspection to the buyer’s satisfaction. This condition should be placed in your contract by your realtor, but your real estate lawyer could also advise on this point.

The big question buyers often ask their real estate lawyer once the home inspection condition is placed in the contract is what recourse do buyers have in the event that the home inspection does not reveal all imperfections with the property?  

Documents and house keys for the new owner

Limitations in your Home Inspection Contract

The answer is two-fold.  Firstly, a home inspector will canvas which types of problems the inspection will address, and such limitations will generally be found in the inspection contract.  However, these limitations must be brought to the buyer’s attention before the commencement of the inspection, otherwise they may be unenforceable.

House or inspection defects that needs to follow up

Patent Defects vs. Latent Defects

The second aspect of the home inspector’s liability depends on whether the defect is a patent defect or a latent defect.  A patent defect is an obvious imperfection that would be noticed upon reasonable inspection and investigation of a property.  One such example would be a cracked window or a hole in the wall. A latent defect is a problem that would not ordinarily be discovered upon reasonable inspection of the property.   Home inspectors are only liable for patent defects which were not discovered upon visible inspection.

Home inspections for patent and latent defect

Specific Concerns

Additionally, it is important to bring to the attention of the home inspector any specific concerns that the buyer would like addressed.  If there is a specific issue that is important to the buyer, then the home inspector would have an obligation to address that particular issue in a clear manner.  If the home inspector does not check for that particular issue, for example searching for mould, then the inspector would be obliged to warn clearly buyer that the inspector will not be commenting on such a problem.  In the event that you discover a problems with your house once you’ve taken possession, contact your real estate lawyer.