Ten Inspection Basics to Avoid Claims

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As a building inspector you work in a highly litigious occupation and the trend of increasing litigation appears to be getting worse. There is an increasing number of claims coming from breaches that could be considered fundamental basics of a building inspection. Below are some examples for consideration.

This includes but is not limited to:

  1. Not Getting A Pre-Inspection Agreement
  2. Combined Reports
  3. Assumptions
  4. Not Reporting on Defects Properly
  5. Identifying Defects Incorrectly
  6. Not Reporting Properly on Obstructions And Accessibility
  7. Vendor Reports
  8. Cracking
  9. How Far Away from The Dwelling Should I Inspect?
  10. Roof Pitch

WHY DO I NEED A PRE-INSPECTION AGREEMENT?
This document protects you as it sets out the scope and the limitations of your report. It is also a requirement of some insurers that it is acknowledged and failure to obtain acknowledgement may result in a claim being declined.

COMBINED REPORTS
The combined reports have had recent mentions in several court documents indicating that a combined property and timber pest report was harder to digest than two individual reports. Generally these reports allowed for very little timber pest inspection information and lacked applicable term and conditions.

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT PROPERTIES IN A POOR STATE OF REPAIR
Properties in poor condition, don’t take it for granted that the purchaser accepts or understands the current state of disrepair. You must ensure you cover all bases and more importantly yourself.

DEFECT STATEMENT
Whilst we seem to harp on this matter, we see it time and time again that the claimant is successful because the inspectors hasn’t fulfilled their obligations and provided a complete defect statement. Once you identify a defect you are required to tell them what to do about it (this does not include estimating costs).

  • What is it
  • Where is it
  • What’s wrong with it
  • Recommendation
  • Timeframe to implement recommendations

DEFECT IDENTIFICATION
If the defects are on a load bearing element it should be considered a major defect or noted as a safety issue if appropriate.

OBSTRUCTIONS AND ACCESSIBILITY
It is important to note if the obstructions are localised or widespread, where possible add photos and comment. While it is important to advise where you could access within the dwelling it is equally important to advise where you couldn’t access.

VENDOR REPORTS FOR REAL-ESTATE AGENTS
We understand that for many of you the relationship with real-estate agents is core part of your business. Conducting a vendor report without the vendors named in the inspection agreement means that you are no longer protected by the third-party clause.  This is an area of high exposre for the inspector.

CRACKING
If you see cracking in a building (brickwork, driveway, slab or retaining walls), unless you're an engineer you should report accordingly and recommend further investigation. Fine cracking shouldn't be dismissed as a benign hairline crack. Failure to note cracking or advising it's nothing to worry about has resulted in claims.

ROOF PITCH
Whilst many consider that this is excluded and should be considered compliance or code you do have a duty to report on the pitch if there are conditions conducive. If you find evidence of damp what could be a cause, if the roof pitch is suspect you need to advise that further investigation is required.

HOW FAR AWAY FROM THE DWELLING SHOULD I INSPECT?
AS4349.1 and AS4349.3 say you must inspect where possible up to 30 metres from the dwelling.


The above-mentioned points are for your consideration and are not intended as legal advice. If you have any questions about the adequacy of your reports in relation to the standards you should seek legal advice.