As a licensed home inspector, I get asked all the time, “can you send me a copy of the inspection report?” This is probably one of the most asked questions I hear. Let’s look at who owns it, who gets a copy of the inspection report, and why.
So who does the home inspection report belong to and gets a copy when it’s published? The home inspection report is the property of the client. The client is who initiated the order and pays the home inspection fee. When a home inspection is ordered, an inspection agreement should be signed. The inspection agreement is between the client and the home inspector. The home inspector can only share the report with their client. It is the client’s discretion with whom the home inspection report is distributed too.
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Let’s explore the home inspection client and home inspector relationship a little deeper. In most instances, the client will be either the home buyer or the home seller, or a realtor acting on their client’s behalf.
A home buyer usually orders a home inspection when looking to buy a new or existing home. A home seller often requests a home inspection before placing a home on the market to sell, also known as a pre-listing inspection.
The home inspection report must be written. It is usually a typed report with pictures used to document repair items noted in the inspection report. Verbal reports cannot be used to substantiate repairs and should not be considered credible evidence.
According to the InterNACHI Code of Ethics, I #7, it states:
“The InterNACHI® member shall not release any information about the inspection or the client to a third party unless doing so is necessary to protect the safety of others, to comply with a law or statute, or both of the following conditions are met:
- the client is explicitly aware of what information will be released, to whom, and for what purpose, and;
- the client has provided explicit, prior written consent for the release of his/her information.”
According to the Association of Certified Home Inspectors (ASHI) Code of Ethics, it states in Section 2C:
“Inspectors shall not disclose inspection results or client information without client approval. Inspectors, at their discretion, may disclose observed immediate safety hazards to occupants exposed to such hazards, when feasible.”
Can a Seller Receive a Copy of the Buyers Home Inspection Report?
Since the home buyer is the one who orders and pays for the home inspection, the report is their property. It’s then at their discretion who receives a copy of the inspection report.
This can be a grey area and is open to interpretation. It’s considered in proper real estate etiquette that if the home buyer wants items inside the home inspection report repaired, a copy of the inspection report (or at least the inspection report summary) will be provided to the seller so that the repairs can be completed.
Sharing a Copy of the Inspection Report with The Buyer’s Agent
The home buyer will need to share the home inspection report with their buyer’s agent to discuss the inspection report and what repairs the buyer would like to be addressed. The buyer’s agent will submit a copy of the repair request with the inspection report as documentation to the listing agent for consideration by the home seller.
The repair request allows the seller the opportunity to repair the defects, enter into negotiations with the home buyer regarding the repair request, or refuse the request altogether. If the seller refuses to make the desired repairs, depending on the type of repairs requested, the buyer may exit the purchase contract and a refund of the earnest money.
Do Sellers Have to Fix Everything on Home Inspection Reports?
There are some repairs that mortgage lenders will require repaired before allowing the home purchase to go to closing. Typically these repairs consist of structural defects, damage or defective systems, or safety issues. If a home inspection reveals such problems, the seller will likely be responsible for making repairs.
A home inspector is often considering two entities during a home inspection; the lender requirements (such as HUD minimum standards) and conditions related to age and safety from homeowners’ insurance.
For example, while HUD standards indicate a roof needs at least two years of useful life remaining, most homeowner insurance companies will not write an insurance policy on an asphalt shingle roof more than 20 years old.
Another example, some insurance companies will not write insurance on a house with a Federal Pacific Stab-Lok electrical breaker panel due to their inherent fire risks and safety concerns.
Required home inspection repair items usually include things like:
- Repairs needed to the roof, such as leaks or damage to the roof coverings.
- Structure repairs such as foundation problems and wood rot or damage to the structure.
- Electrical repairs such as improper electrical connections, dead circuits, electrical items related to safety issues such as obsolete electrical panels, knob, tube wiring, no ground fault circuit protection, etc.
- Plumbing leaks or safety issues related to old plumbing piping.
- Heating/Cooling system failure or damage equipment, ductwork, and thermostats.
- Damage to exterior doors and windows.
- Peeling paint on exterior painted surfaces.
- Health and safety issues such as mold
It is important to note that if the report doesn’t indicate any recommended repairs, there is no reason to share the inspection report.
Home inspectors are not building contractors and should never price repairs in their inspection reports. It is illegal in most states for a home inspector to work on a house they inspect for one year. Repair costs should be provided by a licensed building contractor who has no affiliation with the home inspector.
What if the buyer walks away and hasn’t provided the seller a copy of the full inspection report?
In most cases, the seller can request a copy of the report from their listing agent. In the event the listing agent hasn’t been provided a copy of the inspection report, the seller can:
- Request a copy of the inspection report from the former home buyer.
- Offer to split the cost of the home inspection report with the former home buyer.
- Offer to refund the inspection cost to the former home buyer in exchange for the inspection report.
Does the Seller have to Disclose the Previous Home Inspection?
Yes, sellers are legally obligated to disclose all facts you are aware of about the home on the property disclosure. Direct knowledge of problems that are not disclosed could cause a seller to lose a sale or, worse, get sued after the home is purchased.
If a seller receives a copy of a previous buyers’ home inspection report and does not address the problems identified in the inspection report or disclose this information to potential future buyers, they could face legal action.
Can a Buyer Receive a Copy of the Sellers Pre-Inspection Report?
As the real estate market becomes very competitive, many sellers have a pre-listing inspection to repair items before listing the home for sale. This allows the seller to begin working on issues before showing the home to potential clients and accepting an offer.
Obtaining a copy of the pre-listing inspection is usually not difficult, as sellers are looking to showcase that they’ve been proactive in making necessary repairs. While this is great for the potential buyer, it should not negate the buyer’s due diligence and home inspection.
However, this is not always the case. Many home buyers will take a prior inspection report as gospel without due diligence to save a few bucks. Let’s be cleat; home buyers should always hire their home inspector.
Having your home inspector protects the homebuyers’ interests, not the sellers. Also, all home inspectors see things differently. Two home inspectors can inspect the same house using the same standards of practice and still see things differently based on experience and trade knowledge alone.
Homebuyers should always hire a home inspector who has general liability and error and omissions insurance. Hiring your home inspector who is insured covers you by the home inspector’s errors and omissions policy if the home inspector misses something important.
Even if the seller had a pre-listing inspection, this does not cover you because you were not the home inspector’s client; the seller is.
Is the seller entitled to the home inspection report? While the seller isn’t entitled to a copy of the home inspection report, it is usually typical for the buyer to grant permission and share the inspection report with their agent and the seller’s agent.
The home inspection report is typically used to prepare a list of repair items the buyer wants the seller to take care of before closing. Sharing the inspection report helps to communicate any issues the buyer wants to be remedied with the seller.
Can the seller be present for the buyers’ home inspection? Just as sellers are generally not present for the real estate showings, it’s generally considered common courtesy for the seller to leave during the buyers’ home inspection.
This allows the home inspector the time they need to examine the house without feeling rushed. It also allows the buyer time to ask questions with the home inspector present to feel confident they are making the right buying decision. With that said, sellers can attend the home inspection if desired.
Can a seller back out of a home sale? Once the buyer and seller have a signed purchase agreement, they’ve entered a legally binding real estate transaction contract. If a seller wants to cancel the contract after the contract is signed, they risk exposure to legal ramifications. In most states, a judge or an arbitrator can force the property’s sale regardless of the seller wanting to back out of the sale.