Understanding what a home inspector can and cannot do goes a long way toward managing expectations when having a home inspection performed.
A home inspection is defined as a non-invasive, visual examination of a residential property that is designed to identify material defects 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 they are not specifically licensed or certified to perform in their state. Many home inspectors have backgrounds in other construction trades such as general contracting or engineering. These services would not be performed as part of a professional home inspection.
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Let’s look at some of the things that home inspectors are not allowed to do according to industry standards of practice. This is not an exhaustive list and may vary by state and the inspector’s certifications. These are 14 things home inspectors are not allowed to do during a home inspection.
Perform Destructive Testing
Most of the time, a home inspector is inspecting a home for a client who is looking to purchase the home or investment property. The sales offer is generally made contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection. Because the seller wants to sell the home, they will often agree to the terms and ratify the sales contract.
The home inspector has a responsibility to perform a non-invasive, visual examination. This means the home inspector can only examine the readily accessible areas of the home. A home inspector is not allowed to perform destructive measures such as removing drywall, siding, trim, paneling, floor coverings, etc.
If a home inspector finds evidence of damage, they can examine it in a non-destructive manner and note the damage in an inspection report with a recommendation for the area to be examined by a licensed contractor.
It’s important for a home inspector to respect the sellers and their property by treating it with the utmost respect and professionalism. This includes leaving the property in the exact condition it was found.
Issue a Pass or Fail Grade
A home inspector simply examines the home and notes in their inspection report any items that are damaged or not functioning as intended in their professional opinion. Systems and components that are not functioning as intended should be examined by licensed contractors to determine if corrective measures are needed.
Only the client can determine whether the property is an investment they are willing to make or not.
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 local building code enforcement officers have the legal authority to condemn a home and even that is limited to within their jurisdiction.
Enforce Local Building Codes
Home inspectors are not building code inspectors. While home inspectors are knowledgeable in current building codes and can cite a particular code as a reference in an inspection report, they do not have the legal authority to enforce those building codes. This authority rests with building code enforcement officers that are employed in their local jurisdictions.
However, building code enforcement officers do not inspect residential homes unless it is new construction, there is 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.
For further details on the differences between home inspectors and code enforcement officers see our article at Do Home Inspectors Interpret Code Violations?
Issue a Certificate of Occupancy
In order to establish electrical power to a residence, the power company will need a certificate of occupancy authorizing them to install the electrical meter and establish power to the house. This happens with both new home construction and existing homes where the service meter has been removed due to a vacancy.
A certificate of occupancy can only be provided through an electrical inspection from the local building code enforcement office. Home inspectors are not allowed to provide this service because they lack the legal authority to do so from the local building code enforcement office.
Determine What a Home is Worth
Oftentimes 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 market value or appraised value of a house is reserved for a real estate appraiser. We will state appraisers look at market conditions and establish what a home is worth based on a number of factors including current market conditions.
Prior to becoming a home inspector I attended real estate agent school. One of the things that we were taught there is that real estate is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.
As a home inspector, when I’m asked this question 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 Encoachments
Property boundary lines are used to establish the size of A parcel of real estate. Property boundary lines are sent by a 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 services separate from the standard home inspection.
Repair a Home They’ve Inspected
Home inspectors are licensed in most US states. However there are some states in which they are not licensed. Even in states were no licensing is in place, home inspectors can and should be certified.
There are two main 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 that are certified but either or both of these organizations are bound by a code of ethics which does not allow for a home inspector to repair any home that has been inspected, for a fee, for a period of one year.
Report on Cosmetic and Matters of Taste
Home inspectors are not allowed to report on matters of aesthetic concerns or what could be deemed as matters of taste or a cosmetic defect. Home inspectors are looking for items deemed a material defect.
According to NACHI Standards of Practice, a material defect is defined as 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 is not 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
Home inspectors are not allowed to determine future conditions or the remaining life expectancy of a property or its components.
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 but as stated earlier a property or component that is old in and of itself 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. These are ancillary services that are performed for a fee over and above the standard home inspection. Not all home inspectors offer the services.
Determine the Presence of Air Quality
Hey Home inspector is not allowed to determine the indoor air quality of a residence without proper laboratory testing to justify their findings. Indoor air quality testing is an ancillary service that is performed for a fee over and above the standard home inspection. Not all home inspectors offer the service.
Determine the Presence of Electromagnetic Fields
Home inspectors are not allowed to determine the presence of electromagnetic fields within a home. Electromagnetic fields are a combination of invisible electric and magnetic fields that is generated by both natural phenomena (such as the earth’s magnetic field) and through human activities such as the use of electricity.
There you have it. We hope this article helps you to gain a better understanding of home inspections and what a home inspector is not allowed to do.