Who holds home inspectors accountable if they miss problems?

Posted at 11:11 PM, Oct 27, 2017
and last updated 2018-08-09 01:14:33-04

Colorado’s housing market is booming and that means big business for home inspectors.

They’re supposed to protect buyers from major issues, but who holds them accountable if they overlook problems?

The answer—no one!

Our investigation found while the majority of states require home inspectors go through a license process, Colorado is not one of them.

This means the inspector you hire may have no idea what he or she is doing and if they miss a key problem, the burden is on you.

“I feel like in this case, it was one of those fly by night inspections,” homeowner Connie Earls said.

Connie and Stephen Earls moved in to a home in the 1500 block of County Rd. 95 in Florence back in April.

Soon after, they started noticing problem after problem they feel should have been caught during the inspection process.

“We had a pipe burst immediately in the house,” Connie said. “We had our boiler unit stop working and had no hot water.”

In the disclosure, the inspector makes it clear that his inspection is “very limited” and “disassembly is beyond the scope of a home inspection”.

However, News 5 Investigates can confirm the inspector removed the boiler cover for testing and no problems were noted at the bottom oft he report.

After the boiler broke, Earls called River Valley Plumbing and Heat.

The company found “a bunch of failed venting connections” and piping that was “recalled due to excessive failure rates”.

Technicians with River Valley ultimately said the heating system was “hazardous”.

“I would like to see inspectors actually do their job properly and not overlook things that could potentially harm future homeowners,” Earls said.

Earls is also dealing with bats in her attic.

“We started smelling some urine in the bedroom upstairs and the ‘Rid-A-Critter’ guy said when you start smelling urine, it’s pre-existing,” Earls said.

Earls believes the bat infestation should have been discovered during the roof inspection where visible cracks and holes can be seen from ground-level.

In Rid-A-Critter’s official report, the owner of the company said “it appears the bat issue has been ongoing with the amount of previously conducted work that had been done prior to this year in an obvious attempt to address the bat situation”.

The total cost to get rid of the bats–$3,358.50.

However, in the original inspector’s report, the home inspector explains that he does not look for pests.

Earls also says the wood logs on their home are rotting and have water damage.

“It’s going to cost us anywhere from $8,000-$10,000 to get new siding on the house and then when they tear out all the wood, we’ll know whether there is structural damage,” Earls said.

Stirling West, the owner of Inspection One agreed to talk with News 5 about the inspection and addressed Earls’ concerns with us.

“There’s no rot whatsoever,” West said. “I did re-visit the property. The wood needs to be re-stained. The wood is not rotting in any way shape or form.”

Earls’ insurance company disputes this. In a claim letter received in September, an independent adjuster found “rot and deterioration damage” to the siding of the house.

Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross asked West, “In the report you had written, is there anything you missed?”

“No,” West replied.

What about the boiler that heating technicians said was hazardous?

Ross asked, “Is this something you should have noticed or would have noticed at the time of inspection?”

“Honestly it’s something that’s not true,” West said. “I don’t have a way of referencing that other than the connections were fine when I did the inspection.”

Ross then responded by asking, “Have you seen the report done by River Valley Plumbing and Heat?”

“No” West replied. “It honestly doesn’t interest me. I’m personally a plumber and I’ve installed many boilers.”

Although West said he is a plumber, News 5 Investigates could not find a valid plumbing license on file with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

News 5 Investigates then started asking questions about licensing requirements for home inspectors.

“In Colorado, you don’t have to be licensed,” West told News 5. “Print out a business card and call yourself an inspector.”

Our state has some of the most lenient regulations regarding home inspectors—leaving little accountability in the industry.

For example, in Texas, home inspectors must take a 448-hour training course or perform 250 supervised home inspections plus pass an exam in order to get a license.

In Colorado—you can complete an online training course and call yourself a home inspector–no license or test required.

The Earls family would like to see new regulations for the industry, while West puts partial blame on Earls for the problems she’s having with her home because she wasn’t present during the inspection process.

“As a home buyer, the most important thing is to be there because if you aren’t there, you don’t see what the inspector is looking at,” West said.  “No one is perfect”

Lawmakers did attempt to implement licensing requirements for home inspectors in 2014, but the bill was rejected in the legislature.

How to protect your investment during the home inspection process:

Get a second opinion! Paying an extra $300 or $400 in the beginning could save you thousands in the long run.

If you can, be present during the inspection. This way you can ask any questions you feel are necessary.

Make sure you get the disclosure and liability forms before paying money. It’s important to know what is and is not inspected during the inspection process. In Earls’ case, should she be able to successfully prove the inspector didn’t do a proper job, she’s only entitled to three times the cost of the inspection as stated in her contract.

Understanding the home appraisal process:

Earls also was concerned about a major difference in the Fremont County tax assessors home value and independent appraisal value for her home. An independent appraiser recently valued her home at $350,000, which was $100,000 more than what the county said the home was worth.

For an independent opinion on the matter, we met with the assessor in El Paso County. He says it’s not uncommon to see a discrepancy between an assessors value and independent appraisal value because county assessors use market data that is two years old. New county appraisals are done every odd year. Steve Schleiker says values often change month to month and year to year based on the overall market and sales data. 2017 county appraisal data will be uploaded next year.