Recourse against inspector-boiler is a complete hack job

17 Replies

Hello! So long story short, I had a boiler specialist out to our property (closed last Thursday) to see why it wasn't getting warm. They opened it and said it's very, very obviously a hack job and they even had speaker wires in there to make certain connections. They bypassed a variety safety items, and so while we can get the boiler to turn on and heat if needed, it absolutely would NOT pass a city inspection, and I would 100% not be comfortable with it the way it is for tenants living in both my units.

So, we DID have the home inspected before we purchased and the inspector didn't say anything about the boiler. They took a picture of it, and had no notes or anything about the boiler being a problem (and we were present as well, he didn't say anything personally either). He took a picture of the front plate being off so you can see the wires and that was it.

The picture itself clearly shows that the boiler is not up to code, and our specialist is going to get a letterhead explaining this. Once we have that, our agent is going to be calling the inspection company.

My question is, because their inspector absolutely neglected to properly mark that boiler as being a problem, could we hold the inspection company liable for not inspecting it properly? The parts for the boiler will likely end up costing more than buying a completely new boiler, and that was absolutely not something we were expecting when our inspector said the boiler is completely fine. Ideally, we would want them to pay for the fix or a new one, but what would be realistic in a situation when we have proof that the inspector didn't inspect something properly?

Hi @Kelly Conrad

Sorry to hear you are having this issue. In my experience it would be a waste of time to try and go after them. I am surprised that they didn't have verbiage along the lines of "Recommend Boiler inspected by Qualified HVAC Technician". Also there is generally some wording at the end that is something like "While we have made a best effort we cannot see behind walls/panels etc so get each system inspected individually".

They are supposed to test that the heat works, not necessarily to know if the boiler is up to code (although most would probably catch it).

So clearly if the heat doesn't work, then they were negligent. I have no legal advice though.

Most inspectors are hacks themselves.  They take an online course and claim they are experts.  Usually they have a clause claiming no liability for missed items.  However they should of atleast ran all mechanical items in the house assuming utilities where on when they inspected the house.  So if the boiler did not fire up/start they should of noticed it but they might not of notice the lack of heat depending on how long they ran it for.  So I would say small legal standing to get money back.  Realistically you might get the inspection fee back.  I would be surprised if they cover the replacement/repair.  

All the above said this is why I forgo inspections since I know more than most of them about houses.  Saves me a couple hundred when doing cash deals.  

Most HVAC techs dont have boiler experience , A home inspector wouldnt really know what he is looking at . if it were summer time when it was inspected and the boiler was off , he probably turned it on , heard some noise and said it worked . It takes a good 30 minutes to get the heat rolling . As far as holding him responsible , I doubt you would get anything more than your inspection fee back 

@Mike Cumbie Yeah, they have that verbiage as well, but our boiler guy said it is so blatantly obvious that to not have anything marked down is an extreme oversight as an inspector.

@Kelly Conrad

That's a tough one. it worked during the inspection. So, I wouldn't call that an oversight. Inspectors never open up boilers. They turn up the heat and they either work or they don't.

I assume you didn't recheck it during the walkthrough.

@Christopher Phillips He did open up the boiler, we have the picture in our report

Also, see under General Condition that there are "no problems visible". 

does this inspector/company have some sort of license where you could file a formal complaint? Other than that, probably not worth your time, but I bet if you were firm enough they'd refund you. If you paid by credit card you could probably get them to refund it.

@Kelly Conrad

Ah, okay. I misread. I was thinking the front was already off or missing.

But, you're saying it wasn't turning on anymore once you closed, but it was at the time of the inspection?

Did the repair person tell you what they had to bypass?

So what's the inspector's liability,, if the report was incorrect.. I bet,, 0  Zero.. or limited to cost of inspection.. a negative review on Yelp or their website might be about the best way to warn others.. 

Call get another estimate for replacement and for a new boiler or repair.. from another company before you accept the first guys bid.. I'd get at least 3 bids.. as long as it's up and running a bid isn't a service call and you shouldn't be charged for an estimate..

@Kelly Conrad , it is so frustrating to get an inspection, then discover problems after closing.

You won't get anything more than the inspection fee back. Inspectors have a clause in their contract stating their liability is limited to the amount charged for the inspection.

Like @Mindy Jensen said, standard home inspection contract limits the liability to the cost of the inspection.

Also just for future reference....there is nearly 100% chance on every property you close on in your life that there will be problems discovered after closing on the property. Its just a fact of life that everyone has to deal with.

Man, this is a real bummer. I had a similar situation myself with an inspector who promptly referred me to what @Mindy Jensen mentioned. I was not happy to say the least. 

Home inspections are great and all, but I have found that the quality of the actual inspectors themselves can be seriously lacking. For this reason, whenever I buy, I make sure to have a General Contractor (GC) I trust also come out and look at the property. It adds another set of eyes and more often than not the GC catches things the home inspector missed. 

@Kelly Conrad Unfortunately you won't get anything out of the inspector in this case for the reasons others have mentioned. It even says in the inspection page you posted that his inspection was "not technically exhaustive". 

Bummer I know but as @Russell Brazil said issues always come up post closing. Tough to take the risk out of REI.

@Kelly Conrad I see the photo posted above... I think he has an "out". He notes it is a visual inspection and not technically exhaustive. It sounds like he ran the system and it did "work". As much as an HVAC expert says something is obviously not to code, neither you or the inspector caught that. If that is the case, then maybe things didn't look off to someone who isn't an HVAC expert. I honestly wouldn't expect an inspector to catch incorrect wiring used... I'm not even sure a lot of town inspectors would even catch it.

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.