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Home Inspector Fails to Find Problems, Walks Away

A recent Illinois case should have Illinois homeowners wary when relying on home inspectors.  Before purchasing a home in Fairview Heights, Illinois, Mr. Zerjal hired Bill Theisman, doing business as Sure Home Appraisal and Inspection Services.  The contract was signed on May 31, 2006. Three years later, the Zerjal family filed suit against the home inspector.  The suit claimed that the home inspector failed to discover and/or disclose numerous defects in the home that “should have been known to a reasonably careful licensed building inspector.” Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the home inspector did not inform them that the foundation was insufficient to support the home’s load, the underlayment was decayed and structurally unstable, the walls were unstable and unable to support the necessary loads, water was entering the home at the footing and the foundation, the HVAC unit was blowing moist air against wooden components of the house, and the home’s electrical system was installed and maintained in an unsafe manner.

In response to the suit, the home inspector relied on his contract with Mr. Zerjal.  He said the inspection was to be conducted under American Society of Home Inspector standards or, if more stringent, the standards of the State of Illinois. The parties contracted for a visual inspection of the property and a written report of the apparent condition of the “readily accessible installed systems and components of the property existing at the time of the inspection.” Latent and concealed defects and deficiencies were excluded from the inspection. The inspector assumed no liability or responsibility for the costs of repairing or replacing any unreported defects or deficiencies either current or arising in the future if not given the required notice, in this case 72 hours. The home inspector made no warranties, express or implied, on the fitness of the property, nor did he insure or guarantee against defects in the structure. By the terms of the contract, Theisman’s liability was limited to the cost of the inspection, or $175. The contract also provided that any legal action must be brought within two years of the date of inspection or was deemed forever waived and barred.

The Zerjal family claimed that home inspectors should not be allowed to disclaim or severely limit their liability when they fail to provide contractually promised services. They argued the State should protect homeowners from home inspectors.  They also argued the home inspector should not be able to limit the time for filing suit.  The Court ruled in favor of the home inspector.

The lesson to be learned from the Zerjal case is that when you hire a home inspector, you may not be getting what you think.  It is important to have the inspector spell out what he is doing AND what he is NOT doing.  It may be wise to hire a lawyer to review the agreement before signing.

If you have found a defect in your home that a home inspector failed to find (or tell you about), call us at Dixon Law Office.  We will do everything we can to hold the bad home inspector responsible for what he has done wrong.  After all, we are here to help you.

Case report:  Zerjal v. Daech & Bauer Construction, 5-10-0066 (5th Dist. Dec. 10, 2010).

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