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  1. #1
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    Default My first stolen report...help

    I received a call this afternoon from one of my favorite and most loyal realtors. She informed me that one of my reports which she had forwarded to a listing agent as part of the Repairs Addendum she prepaired for my client had been shared with another buyer by the listing agent.

    The listing agent had subsequently closed on the house with that second buyer using my report. My first stolen report.

    I include the following in big bold type on the Table of Contents page of all my reports.

    This report is non-transferable and is the exclusive property of Trebor Home Inspections and *Client*. This report is not to be used by any other parties, for any other transaction, without our knowledge and written consent.


    I know we can't eliminate this problem from agents so inclined but I've been thinking about how to handle this specific transgression and deter future ones. I would welcome any and all feedback on how more experienced inspectors protect their reports and deal with realtors they know have inappropriately used one.

    Once again....thanks in advance for all the help.

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  2. #2
    James Duffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    In NC as far as I know the report belongs to the person who hired you and they can do with as they see fit. In the scenario you described the only person who might have a complaint is the person who paid for the report....unless they gave the listing agent permission to use it.

    I have some agents who always get pre-sell inspection and put my report on the web along with the listing. That is kinda like what you are describing I think.

    I think of an inspection report like a car. Once it is paid for by the customer it is theirs and no longer mine to control. IMO


  3. #3
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    I received a call this afternoon from one of my favorite and most loyal realtors. She informed me that one of my reports which she had forwarded to a listing agent as part of the Repairs Addendum she prepaired for my client had been shared with another buyer by the listing agent.

    The listing agent had subsequently closed on the house with that second buyer using my report. My first stolen report.

    I include the following in big bold type on the Table of Contents page of all my reports.

    This report is non-transferable and is the exclusive property of Trebor Home Inspections and *Client*. This report is not to be used by any other parties, for any other transaction, without our knowledge and written consent.


    I know we can't eliminate this problem from agents so inclined but I've been thinking about how to handle this specific transgression and deter future ones. I would welcome any and all feedback on how more experienced inspectors protect their reports and deal with realtors they know have inappropriately used one.

    Once again....thanks in advance for all the help.
    All I can say is it will happen again......

    We as home inspectors really need to realize that once we "sell" the report to the client it is theirs to do with pretty much as they want. We can put all of he copyrights we want on the report, it will not stop folks from using it however they want.

    About 10 years ago I came to the realization that when the report left my hands I no longer had any control over it.

    I would not worry about it.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Robert,

    Bottom line is I don't think you have much control over how your report is used regardless of what text you put in your contract or report, people are going to ignore it. That's not to say that your occurrence should tick you off - any inspector would be PO'd. I'd let it go. If something comes of it later on then deal with it at that time.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  5. #5
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post

    This report is non-transferable and is the exclusive property of Trebor Home Inspections and *Client*. This report is not to be used by any other parties, for any other transaction, without our knowledge and written consent.

    That's a good clause to include. While it may not prevent your report from being used in transactions you are not a part of, it should prevent or isolate you from any potential lawsuits if problems or omisions are discovered by the new buyers. I have heard of inspectors in California being dragged into lawsuits from 3rd party buyers in the exact situation you describe.

    Joe Klampfer RHI
    www.myinspection.ca
    Pacific Home Inspections

  6. #6
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Robert, this is like fishing. For every one fish you catch on the surface, there are 4-5 more feeding beneath the surface. In other words, it's probably happening to you more than you think and there isn't much you can do to stop it.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  7. #7
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    I retain sole ownership of my reports, been doing this for years, never had a question about it.

    Then, if someone is caught using it or trying to use it as a warranty I can press theft and copyright charges.

    If I find another inspector using my template they will also owe me lots of money : )

    Bruce King, B.A. King Home Inspections, LLC
    www.BAKingHomeInspections.com
    Certified Master Inspector, Independent Inspectorwww.IndependentInspectors.org

  8. #8
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    I was sued once by someone that got ahold of a report I did on a house a couple years prior. The case got thrown out, but still cost me.

    The only time I get vocal is when I get a call that goes something like this..."We have a copy of your report you did at XXXXX, and have a few questions for you.", or "You did an inspection at XXXX and we would like you to do a re-inspection".

    After I find out they were not my clients, I make it very clear that they have no rights to my report, and I would be very happy to do another inspection for them AT FULL REGULAR PRICE, and re-inspections only apply to original clients. Unless I did the inspection less than 12 hours before, there will be no discounts.

    I did have a Realtor call me with this request, and after I explained about my time, and my liability, this is how I make my living, etc, she finally got it.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    "Then, if someone is caught using it or trying to use it as a warranty I can press theft and copyright charges."

    Bruce, have you ever done this?

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  10. #10
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    I received a call this afternoon from one of my favorite and most loyal realtors. She informed me that one of my reports which she had forwarded to a listing agent as part of the Repairs Addendum she prepaired for my client had been shared with another buyer by the listing agent.

    The listing agent had subsequently closed on the house with that second buyer using my report. My first stolen report.

    I include the following in big bold type on the Table of Contents page of all my reports.

    This report is non-transferable and is the exclusive property of Trebor Home Inspections and *Client*. This report is not to be used by any other parties, for any other transaction, without our knowledge and written consent.


    I know we can't eliminate this problem from agents so inclined but I've been thinking about how to handle this specific transgression and deter future ones. I would welcome any and all feedback on how more experienced inspectors protect their reports and deal with realtors they know have inappropriately used one.

    Once again....thanks in advance for all the help.
    The agent can be sued and get into some deep stuff from the board of Realtors over this kind of stuff. because they did not inform the buyer that this report is not the buyers and they have no recourse back to the inspector.

    You may want to send a letter to the new owner of that home informing them of this fact. this will get back to that agent and the broker real fast

    Best

    Ron


  11. #11
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    From my report:


    "This inspection_report is intended solely for the use and benefit of the client who contracted for our services. Our liability does not extend to any additional party. Third party users and/or their agents should be prepared to bear any financial liability for errors or omissions."



  12. #12
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    I'd be inclined to send the Realtor an invoice for use of a copyrighted report. Consider the charge as a royalty fee. While you may not get satisfaction it would send the message to the offender and that you are wise as to what went on.


  13. #13
    Bill Emelander's Avatar
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Last fall I bought a new home. The listing agent gave my agent the previous inspection report, septic inspection, and termite inspection. I think he was trying to save me some money. These reports were all 6 months old and the previous buyer that back out was not aware that they were being passed on.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Emelander View Post
    Last fall I bought a new home. The listing agent gave my agent the previous inspection report, septic inspection, and termite inspection. I think he was trying to save me some money. These reports were all 6 months old and the previous buyer that back out was not aware that they were being passed on.
    Very unethical. I'd like to see that agent spend a week or two driving a potential client around, showing different properties, then actually writing up purchase contracts, then have the client say they want to take all the documentation home to sleep on, then take everything to a 3rd party realtor to submit the offer and cheat the 1st realtor out of their commision.

    I think then the realtors might understand. In fact, we should start a separate thread and post the offending realtors full contact info... call it "unethical realtors" or "Self-Centered - Don't give a Rat's A$$ about anything except their comission - Rip Off Realtors"

    Joe Klampfer RHI
    www.myinspection.ca
    Pacific Home Inspections

  15. #15
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    "Then, if someone is caught using it or trying to use it as a warranty I can press theft and copyright charges."

    Bruce, have you ever done this?

    No, never had to, yet.

    One other thing to remember is that the sellers and agents are obligated to disclose the information from the inspection so what better way to make sure it is all disclosed than to just simply hand over the report. The buyer should be savvy enough to know it is old information. If the agent suggests they skip an inspection then they just set themselves up for trouble.

    Bruce King, B.A. King Home Inspections, LLC
    www.BAKingHomeInspections.com
    Certified Master Inspector, Independent Inspectorwww.IndependentInspectors.org

  16. #16
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Hum... copyright it, and deliver it digitally? The recording industry has spent a TON of money to establish that when you purchase a digital copy of a copyrighted work you do NOT have the right to redistribute it without permission.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 08-14-2010 at 05:49 AM.
    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  17. #17
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    Post Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    I was sued once by someone that got ahold of a report I did on a house a couple years prior. The case got thrown out, but still cost me.

    The only time I get vocal is when I get a call that goes something like this..."We have a copy of your report you did at XXXXX, and have a few questions for you.", or "You did an inspection at XXXX and we would like you to do a re-inspection".

    After I find out they were not my clients, I make it very clear that they have no rights to my report, and I would be very happy to do another inspection for them AT FULL REGULAR PRICE, and re-inspections only apply to original clients. Unless I did the inspection less than 12 hours before, there will be no discounts.

    I did have a Realtor call me with this request, and after I explained about my time, and my liability, this is how I make my living, etc, she finally got it.
    I am surprised the real estate agent got it!

    Randall Aldering GHI BAOM MSM
    Housesmithe Inspection
    www.housesmithe.com

  18. #18
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    Post Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    I'd be inclined to send the Realtor an invoice for use of a copyrighted report. Consider the charge as a royalty fee. While you may not get satisfaction it would send the message to the offender and that you are wise as to what went on.

    I'd invoice the real estate agent and the new buyer for the full fee of the inspection, plus an hour of consulting time. Send a copy of the invoice to the closing company and the title company.

    Randall Aldering GHI BAOM MSM
    Housesmithe Inspection
    www.housesmithe.com

  19. #19
    Richard Soundy's Avatar
    Richard Soundy Guest

    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    I do not know the legal status in other states, I am sure there are variations across the country. Here in California, we are generally known (in regards RE) as a "full disclosure" state.

    Once your report is shared with the seller, the information in that report basically becomes something that must be shared with all. The primary contract between an RE agent/broker and seller clearly states this.

    Who's contract will stand up in court - yours or the RE contract, especially when the State encourages "full disclosure".

    I consulted a lawyer on this one and got back the typical "lawyer" response:

    "If this was an issue and resulted in a legal suit against you, that you lost. You then have a right to sue the agent"

    No answer if you could or have a fair shot at winning your argument - just let us create another suit by hiring more lawyers etc......

    All the best - Richard


  20. #20
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    The best advice to the agents and sellers is take the material defects from the report and retype them for disclosure to the next buyer but to not let them actually have the original report.

    Since this is a lot of work, they will never do it.

    I think we will see a shift in the way inspections are setup and results handled in the future, it may take 10-20 years for it to happen but it will.


    The way of the future:

    1. No agent will dare show up at the inspection since they don't want to have any knowledge of the defects in case the buyer walks.

    2. The agents will not be recommending inspectors or at least only verbally. They may even start recommending the better ones they have come across since they can be held liable for keeping their clients away from the better inspectors in their area.

    3. The sellers will start getting prelisting inspections and actually making some repairs for fear of the buyer walking away and then having to disclose the inspection results to the next buyer.

    4. Buyers will start suing sellers for their lost time and inspection/appraisal expenses incurred to find out the house has issues that the seller should have known about.

    5. When the seller agrees to repairs they will hire a contractor that specializes in repairing typical inspection issues without using the agents buddy or their neighbor to patch it up. The agents will stop holding everyones hand during the repair process. If the deal makes it past the first repair/ renegotiation phase then the agent can safely step back in and help process the reinspection and next round of negotiatons in preparation for the closing.

    Bruce King, B.A. King Home Inspections, LLC
    www.BAKingHomeInspections.com
    Certified Master Inspector, Independent Inspectorwww.IndependentInspectors.org

  21. #21
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    I rarely get word that my report is being passed around. Most times the seller and their agent don't want to see the report lest they have to disclose it in the future. Be nit-picky enough and people don't want to see that report again!

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  22. #22
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    I just had a buyer call me to ask me questions about a report that was given to them by the listing agent. I just called the broker and let them know what was going on and soon after the "new" agent called me to apologize. It happens to me all the time out here in the CA.

    The MAZZA INSPECTION GROUP
    www.mazzainspections.com
    Level III Thermo-picture-taker-er...er

  23. #23
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Bruce, Some of those things on your list are already happening here in my area.

    Realtors that used to give only my name out are now forced by their broker to give a list of at least three.

    Almost all the Realtors that come out to open the house, make it a point to say they are only there to unlock the door, and were instructed by their broker to NOT be at the inspection.

    A couple Realtor friends have told me about their office meetings where the brokers are talking about lowering their liability.

    I think its funny where they want us to get a key to let ourselves in houses, but limit us to that crappy CBS code crap. I understand it may work great for some of you guys, but it was/is a nightmare in this area. I gave up my Supra key after 10 - 12 months.


  24. #24
    tony d's Avatar
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    I would probably contact the real estate agent that used it. Nicely explain your position but say.. I would appreciate if you have my services used on your next sale as you see how how MY reports close deals for you.... I'm here to help you and not hinder you... and I make you money.

    Last edited by tony d; 08-16-2010 at 12:33 AM.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    I went round with a couple of agents over this issue. The managing broker at one of the two offices called the NC Board of Realtors and got a bogus (in my opinion) ruling that when the buyer checks the box allowing the seller to see the report for the purposes of making repairs, that is a tacit agreement to let the buyer have the report.
    When I differed with him, he promptly emailed all his agents and black-balled me from the office. A big office. It took me 3 years to overcome that loss of business. He eventually relented on the black-ball, but still allows the practice.

    JLMathis


  26. #26
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffrey L. Mathis View Post
    The managing broker at one of the two offices called the NC Board of Realtors and got a bogus (in my opinion) ruling that when the buyer checks the box allowing the seller to see the report for the purposes of making repairs, that is a tacit agreement to let the buyer have the report. JLMathis
    Actually, there's a good reason for the buyer to see the report. Like telling a good joke and having it go through 3-4 people, it generally gets changed along the way. One situation I always remember was when I wrote a CO problem with a furnace - the contractor was told it was the water heater. Too often I've had sellers call me with questions about requests for repairs from the seller's attorney regarding conditions that either were not quite what I reported or were totally separate from what I wrote.

    People love to interpret reports and change the context.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  27. #27
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    I rarely get word that my report is being passed around. Most times the seller and their agent don't want to see the report lest they have to disclose it in the future. Be nit-picky enough and people don't want to see that report again!

    Jim,

    I've seen a few of your reports when I've came through several homes. Buddy, you do a great job but you have got to quit writing those with a crayon.

    rick


  28. #28
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    I appreciate all the feedback. I've been reading it and digesting it as it gets posted. As I said this is a first for me so my opinions and response to this issue are a work in progress. Here's where I'm at so far.

    I cannot speak to the actual legal ruling on this and relative to some other states Virginia is pretty light on HI regulations but I'm thinking that the client doesn't own the report....I do. The client has hired me for my opinion and the report is the written documentation of that opinion...it's my intellectual property. I'm happy for my client to use the report in any way that may benefit their pursuit of purchasing the home.

    I lose control over the report when my client decides not to purchase the home. They need to show cause and the easiest way is to attach a copy of my report. So now the seller and the listing agent have a copy of my report and are required to disclose the now known deficiencies. It's just too easy for the listing agent to make copies available to future buyers.
    Obviously, I cannot control the printing and distribution of the report but I can make it a little more uncomfortable for the agents to share the report to future buyers. I'm in the process of trying to include the below statement as a footnote on each page of my printed reports. Works when printed off my computer but doesn't yet when printed off of Homegauge where my reports get uploaded to. I've posted a question over on Homegauge and hopefully this can be accommodated in the software.

    This report is prepared exclusively for *client.fullname* distribution to any other buyer is prohibited.

    Thus far I've operated under the assumption that circulating reports are good marketing. The more people that see my good work the better off I am. I'm just not sure I want to sit back and let multiple buyers use my report without setting up a few impediments.

    Building a home inspecting business is a whole lot tougher than it appears. I want to provide the most complete and well documented report I can for my clients, but that is in conflict with the realtors who want an easy sale. I've quickly gained a reputation for being "too thorough" and making realtors jobs difficult so they are not using me. A few houses have committed suicide on my watch , but those clients have been effusive in their appreciation of my services and have already or say they are going to use me again.

    The difficulty of building my business is exacerbated because I'm in a rural area where the housing stock is old and municipal code enforcement has only recently been taken seriously. There are a lot of deficiencies cited in my reports. Additionally, IMO the inspectors serving my area have leaned more towards deal facilitating than protecting their clients so the realtors are having a tough time adjusting to me.


  29. #29
    mike huntzinger's Avatar
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    some times i get word of my inspection report being used elsewere, and i have the reporthost system which allows me to turn OFF the link, but if it has been printed up , i have no control, and i have turned off several reports to date.


  30. #30
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    The best is when an agent that you don't know calls and *asks* for a copy of the report.

    It's *not* the agent that you dealt with when the inspection was done.

    "Hi Tim, it's so and so... I've used your reports before and the *buyer walked 3 months ago* and I have a new buyer for the home, but CAN'T FIND YOUR REPORT" they will *associate* themselves in a sneaky way... but hey!

    I've learned that the following works, if only sometimes: "I can't send you a report for that home as it's expired (or something) BUT... I'll give your buyer a *discount* for the report as I've already been to the home... what's their phone number?"

    Sometimes you'll get "That sounds great, I'll call you right back" and they just go back to asking the other agent or searching through emails etc..

    &

    Sometimes it works.. I try to be friendly and benefit from my *advertising* as it were... we can't stop this practice, but if reports are good enough to steal, they are good enough to pay for too.

    And without a doubt... if there is a report posted on a service like inspectvue.com or fetchreport.com ... I will remove it immediately. They are looking for the details to retrieve the report as you are talking to them.


  31. #31

    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    I rarely get word that my report is being passed around. Most times the seller and their agent don't want to see the report lest they have to disclose it in the future. Be nit-picky enough and people don't want to see that report again!
    Jim,

    Agree!

    I never got word that my report is being passed around...


  32. #32
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce King View Post

    One other thing to remember is that the sellers and agents are obligated to disclose the information from the inspection so what better way to make sure it is all disclosed than to just simply hand over the report. The buyer should be savvy enough to know it is old information. If the agent suggests they skip an inspection then they just set themselves up for trouble.
    This is exactly how I see this. There is nothing that can or should be done. Now, if this was the buyers agent, sharing it with another client, there would be hell to pay!


  33. #33
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    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Here's a first for me, earlier this week I got a call from some mortgage company rep that wanted me to change my client's name on the report to the name of the mortgage company. I told her I had never had such a request in the past 8 years and that I would not change a thing and I am under no obligation to do so. Then the agent called the next day and made the same request. I told him I wasn't going to set myself up for additional 3rd party liability. 2 days later, the buyer's wife called and made the same request. I asked her why the mortgage company needed the report in their name. She said it had to do with the house being flipped recently and the FHA financing/underwriting. I told her she could cross her name off her copy of the report and do whatever she wanted to do with it, but I was not going to defraud the Federal Government. Hope she/they saw the light, if not, hope they go to jail along with the mortgage rep.


  34. #34
    Mike Truss Guy's Avatar
    Mike Truss Guy Guest

    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Just a hypothetical question about ethics here.

    Let's say that your report contains evidence that a building has severe structural defects and is in imminent danger of major collapse. You've been paid for the report. Now somebody else uses your report to identify what needs fixing. Ethically as a fellow human being if your report prevented somebody from receiving bodily harm because your report helped fix the problem isn't that a good thing?


  35. #35
    Russel Ray's Avatar
    Russel Ray Guest

    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Klampfer View Post
    I have heard of inspectors in California being dragged into lawsuits from 3rd party buyers in the exact situation you describe.
    That's because the Leko Decision of January 31, 2001, basically made home inspection reports public property.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Bibler View Post
    The agent can be sued and get into some deep stuff from the board of Realtors over this kind of stuff. because they did not inform the buyer that this report is not the buyers and they have no recourse back to the inspector.
    Actually, the Leko Decision of January 31, 2001, provides recourse back to the inspector for third parties relying on the report.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marc M View Post
    I just had a buyer call me to ask me questions about a report that was given to them by the listing agent. I just called the broker and let them know what was going on and soon after the "new" agent called me to apologize. It happens to me all the time out here in the CA.
    The listing agent was probably using the report as disclosure. See the Leko Decision of January 31, 2001, for the reason why it happens to you all the time. It also happens to me all the time as well.

    Obviously you don't have to answer questions from someone for whom you did not do the report, but I've found it more useful to explain to the new buyer why relying on an old report is not in their best interests and doesn't fully protect their investment in the property. Then, since I've already been to the property, I'll offer the new buyer a 25% discount to "update" the old report.

    It's all about confidence in one's reports and one's marketing skills. So far I have never failed to convert a new buyer calling to ask questions into a new inspection report at the discounted price.


  36. #36
    mathew stouffer's Avatar
    mathew stouffer Guest

    Default Re: My first stolen report...help

    Happens all the time. Wait until one day someone calls you up and says you inspected my house and a few things were not in the report. So you ask their name to access your records and low and behold they are not in there. I don't really have to keep explaining how this goes


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