Understanding what a home inspector can and cannot do goes a long way toward managing expectations when performing a home inspection.
A home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of a residential property that identifies material defects and safety issues within a home’s structure, systems, and components.
So you may be wondering, what are home inspectors not allowed to do in a home inspection? A home inspector shouldn’t perform any professional service without proper certifications or licensing. Many home inspectors have backgrounds in other construction trades or engineering.
Let’s look at some of the things that home inspectors are not allowed to do according to industry standards of practice. At the same time, this is not an exhaustive list and may vary by state and the individual inspector’s training and certifications. These are 14 things home inspectors are not allowed to do during the home inspection process.
Perform Destructive Testing
A home inspector often inspects a home for a client looking to purchase a home or investment property. The purchase offer is generally has a home inspection contingency upon a satisfactory home inspection. Because the seller wants to sell the house, they often agree to the sales contract terms.
The home inspector has a responsibility to perform a non-invasive, visual examination. A home inspector examines the readily accessible areas of the home and can’t perform destructive measures such as removing drywall, siding, trim, paneling, floor coverings, etc.
Suppose a home inspector finds evidence of damage. In that case, they should observe and document the damage in an inspection report with a recommendation examination or repair by a licensed contractor.
A home inspector needs to respect the sellers and their property by treating it with the utmost respect and professionalism, including leaving the property in the exact condition they found it.
Issue a Pass or Fail Grade
A home inspector examines the home and notes in their inspection report any items that are damaged or not functioning as intended in their professional opinion. Licensed contractors should examine systems and components that are not working to determine if corrective measures are needed.
Only the client can determine whether the property is a worthy investment.
Condemn a Property
Home inspectors are not allowed to determine if a property is livable or not. Home inspectors lack the legal authority to condemn a home. Only a local building inspector has the legal power to condemn a house, which is limited to within their jurisdiction.
Enforce Local Building Codes
Home inspectors are not building code inspectors. While home inspectors know current building codes and can reference a particular code in an inspection report, they do not legally enforce building codes. This authority rests with building code enforcement officers employed in their local jurisdictions.
However, building code enforcement officers do not inspect residential homes unless it is new construction, an ongoing renovation project, or a complaint regarding the living conditions. New home construction is not without its problems, though.
In our article New Construction Home Inspections – Common Problems & Building Defects we discuss some of the most common issues discovered in new home construction, including limitations to building code enforcement inspections.
See our article at Home Inspectors & Building Inspectors: What’s the Difference?
Issue a Certificate of Occupancy
To establish electrical power to a residence, the power company will need a certificate of occupancy authorizing them to install the electrical meter to the house when the utility company removed the meter due to a vacancy.
Building code inspectors can only provide a certificate of occupancy through an electrical inspection from the local building code enforcement office. Home inspectors cannot offer this service because they lack the legal authority to do so from the local building code enforcement office.
Determine What a Home is Worth
Often a client may ask a home inspector, “do you think this house is worth it?” Home inspectors are not allowed to determine what the market value of the house is or should be.
Establishing a house’s market value or appraised value is reserved for a real estate appraiser. Appraisers look at market conditions and determine the appraised value based on many factors, including current market conditions.
As a home inspector, clients often ask me if I think a home is worth the asking price. My response is almost always the same, “I don’t know the details of your financial situation. If you’re comfortable with the findings we’ve discussed today, then I see no reason for you not to purchase a home.”
Determine Property Boundary Lines or Encroachments
Property boundary lines establish the size of a parcel of real estate. Property boundary lines are sent by land surveyors and outlined on the property plat.
Home inspectors are not allowed to determine property boundary lines as this is outside the scope of the standard home inspection. If a home inspector is also a trained land surveyor, the home inspector can provide this service as an ancillary service separate from the standard home inspection.
Repair a Home They’ve Inspected
Most U.S. states have home inspector licensing. However, there are still some states with no home inspector licensing. Home inspectors can and should be certified even in states with no licensing.
There are two prominent certification organizations for home inspectors. They are the International Association of certified home inspectors (InterNACHI or NACHI for short) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).
Home inspectors can obtain certification in one or both organizations. Both have an ethics code that prevents a home inspector from repairing any home inspected, for a fee, for one year.
Report on Cosmetic and Matters of Taste
Home inspectors shouldn’t report on aesthetic concerns, matters of taste, or cosmetic defects. Home inspectors are looking for items deemed a material defect.
According to NACHI Standards of Practice, a material defect is
a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people. The age of a system or component in a residential property in and of itself has not been deemed a material defect.
The Insurability of a Home
Home inspectors are not allowed to determine the insurability of a home. A home inspector can collect information for an insurance company via an inspection report, such as a four-point inspection. However, the decision of insurability rests with the underwriter at an insurance company, not the home inspector.
The Life Expectancy of the Property or Components
Most home inspectors won’t predict future conditions or the remaining life expectancy of a property or its components. Any prediction offered isn’t a guarantee.
A home inspector can determine the current estimated age and current condition of a property or components. However, no one can predict when a property or a component will need to be repaired or updated.
A home inspector may advise you that a system or component is nearing the end of its useful life. Still, as stated earlier, a property or component that is old and in working order is not a material defect.
Determine the Presence of Hazardous Materials
A home inspector is not allowed to determine the presence of potentially hazardous materials such as lead-based paint, asbestos, radon, or mold without proper laboratory testing to justify their findings. Most home inspectors provide ancillary services for a fee over and above the standard home inspection. Not all home inspectors offer ancillary services.
Determine the Presence of Air Quality
A home inspector cannot determine the indoor air quality without proper laboratory testing to justify their findings. You can often include indoor air quality testing for an additional fee over and above the standard home inspection. Not all home inspectors offer indoor air quality testing.
Determine the Presence of Electromagnetic Fields
Home inspectors are don’t determine the presence of electromagnetic fields within a home. Electromagnetic fields are a combination of invisible electric and magnetic fields generated by natural phenomena (such as the earth’s magnetic field) and through human activities such as electricity.
There you have it. We hope this article helps you better understand home inspections and what a home inspector doesn’t do.