26 Things Home Inspectors Are Not Allowed To Do

what are home inspectors not allowed to do
What are home inspectors not allowed to do?

When buying a home, you’ll likely hire a home inspector. However, there are things home inspectors are not allowed to do.

Understanding what home inspectors are not allowed to do goes a long way toward managing expectations when performing a home inspection. A home buyer will often order a home inspection during the home buying process as part of their due diligence.

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 what is a professional home inspector not allowed to do during a home inspection?

A home inspector shouldn’t perform professional service without proper certifications or licensing. Many home inspectors have backgrounds in other construction trades or engineering and can provide ancillary services outside home inspection.

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a non-invasive, visual inspection of the accessible areas of a residential property that is performed for a fee. The inspection aims to identify material defects, safety hazards, and major issues within the home’s structural components, systems, and components. The inspection does not include an assessment of the value of the property or an opinion of the quality of workmanship.

What Does a Home Inspector Look For?

A certified or licensed home inspector will examine the property to identify any visible defects or problems. The inspection is limited to those areas that are visible and accessible. The inspector will not move personal belongings, furniture, carpets, appliances, or stored items.

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What are Home Inspectors Not Allowed to Do?

Let’s look at what are home inspectors 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.

Perform Destructive Testing

A good home inspector often inspects a home for a client looking to purchase a home or investment property. The purchase agreement often has a home inspection contingency allowing the potential buyer to order a professional home inspection.

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 inspection isn’t a test. There is no pass or fail grade given on a home. A home inspector shouldn’t form an opinion for a client to buy or not buy a home.

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 whether a property is livable. 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, they shouldn’t reference a particular code in an inspection report because they can’t legally enforce building codes. Code enforcement 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. 

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 the house’s market value or should be. 

Establishing a house’s market value or appraisal value is reserved for a real estate appraiser. Appraisers look at market conditions and determine the home appraisal 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 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 as material defects. 

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.

Determine 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 insurability decision rests with the underwriter at an insurance company, not the home inspector.

Determine the Life Expectancy of a Home 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 cannot determine the presence of potentially hazardous materials such as lead paint, asbestos, radon, or mold without proper laboratory testing to justify their findings.

For example, homes built pre-1978 may contain lead-based paint. Homes built pre-1990 may contain asbestos. Many homes across the US are exposed to radon. Home inspectors need certifications beyond the home inspector certification to offer these services.

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 Poor Air Quality

A home inspector cannot determine 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 don’t determine the presence of electromagnetic fields within a home. Electromagnetic fields combine invisible electric and magnetic fields generated by natural phenomena (such as the earth’s magnetic field) and 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.

Move Large Items to Perform a Home Inspection

Home inspectors aren’t responsible for moving personal belongings, furniture, large appliances, debris, snow, or ice. These items may block access to areas that need to be inspected.

A home inspector will try to work around these items but may not be able to inspect them if they are in the way. The home inspection report will reflect any areas that couldn’t be inspected.

It’s best to clear the way for a home inspector to do their job thoroughly and efficiently. This will help minimize potential rescheduling issues due to poor weather or blocked access.

Risk Safety to Perform an Inspection

Home inspectors are trained professionals who follow strict safety guidelines. They won’t put themselves in danger to perform an inspection.

For example, a home inspector won’t:

  • Climb on a roof that is steep or has loose shingles, wet, or snow-covered
  • Inspect an attic with insufficient ventilation, walking surfaces, or without kneeboards
  • Enter a crawl space under the home with insufficient clearance
  • Inspect the interior of a chimney from the roof

A home inspector may recommend further evaluation by a qualified professional if they feel it’s unsafe to inspect an area. The home inspection written report will reflect any areas that couldn’t be inspected.

Issue an Opinion on a Home’s Size

Home inspectors don’t determine a home’s square footage. A home’s square footage estimates the finished living area and is often used to calculate the home’s value.

Home inspectors may loan you a measuring tape to measure the finished living area while they perform the home inspection. However, we can’t offer an official determination of the home’s square footage.

Operate Disclosed Non-Functional Systems

Home inspectors don’t operate systems or components that are turned off or disclosed as non-functional. For example, a home inspector won’t:

  • Turn on a water heater that is turned off
  • Light a pilot light that has been extinguished
  • Operate a furnace that isn’t working
  • Operate non-functional appliances
  • Turn on an electrical system that the utility company turns off
  • Operate any component outside of the normal operating controls

A home inspector will note any systems or components that couldn’t be tested and recommend further evaluation by a qualified professional.

Provide an Estimated Cost of Repairs

Home inspectors don’t provide an estimated cost of repairs. A home inspection visually examines the home’s accessible systems and components.

A home inspector can tell you if a system or component needs repair but can’t provide an estimated cost. The home inspection report will reflect any areas that need to be repaired.

It’s best to get estimates from qualified professionals who can evaluate the scope of work and provide you with an accurate estimate.

Recommend Other Contractors

Home inspectors can’t recommend other contractors. A home inspector is a trained professional who provides an impartial opinion of the home’s condition.

A home inspector doesn’t have a financial interest in recommending one contractor over another. The home inspection report will reflect any areas that need to be repaired or evaluated by a qualified professional.

It’s best to get estimates from qualified professionals who can evaluate the scope of work and provide you with an accurate estimate.

Determine if a Home is Suitable for a Particular Use

Home inspectors don’t determine if a home is suitable for a particular use. For example, if you are buying a home and want to use the space for a business. A home inspection visually examines the home’s accessible systems and components.

A home inspector can tell you if a system or component needs repair but can’t provide an opinion on the home’s suitability for a particular use. The home inspection report will reflect any areas that need to be repaired or evaluated by a qualified professional.

It’s best to consult a qualified professional who can evaluate the home’s suitability for your particular use.

Determine the Condition of a Septic Tank

Home inspectors don’t open septic tanks or inspect underground leach fields. A septic tank is typically buried underground and isn’t accessible for inspection.

To thoroughly inspect a septic tank, a septic company will need to pump the tank to see the walls and bottom of the tank.

Outside of a home inspector running water through the septic system and reporting any visible back-ups, it’s best to consult a qualified professional who can evaluate the septic tank’s condition.

Operate a Whole House Generator

Home inspectors shouldn’t inspect a whole house generator system unless they have specific electrical licensing. Home inspectors can’t determine if the system is properly sized for the home, and testing a whole house generator system would require shutting off the power to activate the generator.

It’s best to consult with a qualified professional who can evaluate the condition of the generator system and determine if it’s properly sized for the home.

Inspect Solar Power Systems

Home inspectors shouldn’t inspect solar power systems without the proper state licensing. Solar power systems are a relatively new technology. Home inspectors aren’t required to have training or experience in inspecting them.

It’s best to consult with a qualified professional who can evaluate the condition of the solar power system.

Determine if a Home is Energy Efficient

Home inspectors don’t determine if a home is energy efficient. A home inspection visually examines the home’s accessible systems and components.

A home inspector can tell you if a system or component needs repair but can’t provide an opinion on the home’s energy efficiency. The home inspection report will reflect any areas that need to be repaired or evaluated by a qualified professional.

It’s best to consult a qualified professional who can evaluate the home’s energy efficiency. Qualified home inspectors can provide a separate home energy audit service outside the home inspection.

Provide a Warranty

Home inspectors don’t provide a warranty. A home inspection visually examines the home’s accessible systems and components. Some home inspectors offer warranties through third-party vendors but don’t warranty the home themselves.

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Other Home Inspector FAQs

What are the most common problems found in home inspections?

The most common problems found in home inspections are roofing, foundation, electrical, and plumbing issues. Home inspectors can’t provide an opinion on the home’s suitability for a particular use. The home inspection report will reflect any areas that need to be repaired or evaluated by a qualified professional.

Should I be nervous about my home inspection?

You shouldn’t be nervous about your home inspection. A home inspection visually examines the home’s accessible systems and components. Even if the home inspector finds major issues, often, these things can be repaired or negotiated.

A home inspector can tell you if a system or component needs repair but can’t provide an opinion on the home’s suitability for a particular use. The home inspection report will reflect any areas that need to be repaired or evaluated by a qualified professional.

Do sellers have to fix everything on a home inspection?

No, sellers don’t have to fix everything on a home inspection. Most items cited in a home inspection report can be easily repaired. Even if the home inspector finds major issues, often, these things can be repaired or negotiated as a credit without sellers having to make repairs.

Do home inspectors look in closets?

Home inspectors will look in closets if they are accessible. However, a home inspector will not move a seller’s personal belongings to make the closet accessible.

What if a home inspector lied on report?

A home inspector who lied on the report would be considered fraud, however, it may be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Home inspectors offer a subjective opinion based on conditions present during the inspection. Home inspectors must abide by a code of ethics and standards of practice. If a home inspector is found to have committed fraud, they could face legal action.

Are home inspectors allowed to move things?

Home inspectors will generally not move things, especially large items like appliances, storage, or furniture, that make a system or component accessible. A home inspection visually examines the home’s accessible systems and components.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
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