What should a home inspector do in a situation where they come to a house and realize they’ve inspected it before and are being asked to inspect it again for a different client?
Joseph Denneler, Esq. from the InterNACHI Legal Team has provided legal advice, insight and best practices to help home inspectors address this situation.
Home Inspections are Confidential and Belong to The Previous Client
First and foremost, any inspection that a home inspector performed for a prior client belongs to that client. Whether by state regulation or association regulation, you as the home inspector are required to keep any and all of the information in that home inspection confidential. The right to allow dissemination of any information from that home inspection resides with the client. In some states with regulation, the right to share the inspection with anyone including real estate agents and lawyers requires written approval from the client.
Perform an Entirely New Home Inspection
Regarding what to do when arriving at a house that you’ve previously performed a home inspection on, it’s always best to perform an entirely new home inspection. You should also try, to the best of your ability, to treat it as an original inspection as many things have probably changed from the time you previously inspected the house until now. In addition, the seller of this property may have had information that was critical to the prior inspection repaired or hidden. There may have been conditions that were previously visible that aren’t anymore. Therefore, you have no way to determine if there had been an adequate repair nor should you be making that determination.
Should You Refer Back to Your Previous Report?
Additionally, when you’re inspecting the same property close in time to the prior one, you maybe walking into a situation of attempting to determine whether or not the repairs or further evaluation that you suggested in your prior report has been completed. It’s certainly no harm to refer back to the prior report and if you have your client’s permission to do so, make mention of things that were changed or different from your previous inspection. But again, if you’re going to disclose any information about that prior inspection, other than the fact that you conducted one at that house without any other identifying information as to your client or the results, you need to have authorization from your client.
Be Sure to Obtain Writing Authorization Prior to Disclosing Information
As a lawyer, we’re always picky about having any kind of authorization in writing as people sometimes forget over a period of years or for one reason or another. Therefore, its always better to have that permission in writing. Besides, it’s always better to treat the inspection as a new inspection but be mindful that if are certain critical things that need to be mentioned, primarily related to safety, that you’re cognizant of those and that information does make it into your report.