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  1. #66
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Claude,

    Since you are involved with NHICC would you care to comment on what your body would define as visual inspection in so much as what tools if any would be required for a minimum? Keep in mind that for discussion what do you a court would say?

    Do you agree there is a minimal standard for visual? i.e. screw driver, ladder... and is still visual in nature?

    NHIE Practice Exam

  2. #67
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Raymond,

    A visual inspection is just that - visual.

    As soon as you use ANY tool ... you have gone beyond a visual inspection.

    Your 'visual in nature' would be a good term as the inspection is mostly visual in nature, with the use of some tools.

    The amount of tools and the types of tools vary from inspector to inspector.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  3. #68
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Jerry, no offence but if you suggest that using a binocular to inspect a roof is going beyond visual, or a ladder at the edge of roof, is some how is no longer a visual inspection - is beyond what I think I have demonstrated with case law.

    If I put on my glasses to carry out an inspection am I no longer conducting a visual inspection? After all if I can't see I should use common sense. Same as I might need a flashlight on occasion because experience has taught me that you can't see visually unless you have the light (common sense) .... look into the light Jerry

    Jerry all I have to go on is what you keep repeating, and no offence intended (again) all I am reading is an opinion, but can you provide some document(s) that will change my mind? I know you think I am pig headed but work with me... . ha, ha..


  4. #69
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    I believe part of the issue is the lack of clear meaning, versus referring or using a Standard of Practice that indicates what we are required to do. A quick search on the web inquiring about the definition of "visual inspection" provides a number of different meanings.

    Here's one from a British Institute - "Visual inspection, with or without optical aids, is the original method of NDT (Non-destructive Testing). Many defects are surface-breaking and can be detected by careful direct visual inspection."

    Even the lack of specific terms in a Standard of Practice, can leave the referenced term open to gray areas of interpretation.

    In today's work environment if we look at what home inspectors do beyond the SOP such Thermal Imaging, is it still visual in nature or is now entering the realm of a form of testing? Simply does the use of tools to perform such in depth analysis reach beyond the "defined" norm? In my opinion in this case YES, but once you test an electrical receptacle, we have gone beyond "careful direct observation skills".


  5. #70
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Good points, perhaps the phrase visual is outdated terminology since standards evolve and are updated periodically. No doubt it is open to the courts to tell us that but the only direction they keep referring to goes back to visual as per sop. The better terminology may be 'non-invasive/non-destructive' inspection.


  6. #71
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Ignore this post as I was replying to what I thought was the last and most current post, then realized that, as usual, page 2 was showing up instead of page 1 and I was replying to an old post on the thread.

    I don't know about the rest of you, but when there are two pages, most of the time it defaults to the old page first, then I have to remember to click the new page ... instead of defaulting to the new page first as I has my setting set (newest posts on top).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  7. #72
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Jerry btw,

    You wrote in your post above,
    Your 'visual in nature' would be a good term as the inspection is mostly visual in nature, with the use of some tools.
    Yes I agree!


  8. #73
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    What is a visual inspection? Are you suggesting that an inspector who uses a flashlight, ladder, screwdriver is going beyond a visual inspection?

    We know that the minimum for a visual inspection is, and that involves the use of unsophisticated equipment. That's the minimum equipment for a home inspector. The uses of such tools is an expected standard. It falls into the realm of visual. The courts and associations tend to agree with the logic and the standard.

    Its no different than an municipal inspector who goes into a home and takes a long a flashlight, step ladder, notebook/computer and does a visual examination. What am I missing?
    Part of the problem (in the original post) MAY have been that the judge was not sufficiently educated by the attorney and/or expert witness(es) about what the standards are in a home inspection. Or, maybe the judge got a bad home inspection on a recent purchase and was taking it out on this particular inspector. No way to really know.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    Mike Holmes on the other hand could be viewed as 'more than a visual inspection' , at least on his home inspection TV show.
    All hail Mike Holmes and his limitless knowledge.

    Department of Redundancy Department
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  9. #74
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Garry Sorrells View Post
    Also if the Realtor had not made the sale contingent on accepting the Inspection Report there may have been some wiggle room.
    I have not seen a sale which was not contingent upon an inspection - that is the buyers only way out once the contract to purchase has been signed, that and/or contingent upon financing and/or the appraisal meeting the sale price.

    I think "visual" has been equated with "non-destructive" rather than "non-touched" or "non-operated" during the inspection for most intent an purposes.
    By many home inspectors who try to get around not having done something because 'I do a visual inspection' ... after having used their outlet tester on a receptacle out ... that is not a visual inspection.

    Using an outlet tester is not a 'visual' inspection, neither is it a 'technically exhaustive' inspection, it is the 'standard of care', but that does not make it a 'visual' inspection.

    Claude stated it well with his post of:
    Here's another POV from a lawyer, offered by a colleague.

    "A visual inspection is where we walk into a room and touch nothing just simply look around, we donít do that. What our contracts and SOPís should state is; the inspection and report are primarily visual, but not technically exhaustive and addresses the readily and visually observable features of the home at the time of the inspection."


    That is a very correct assessment and description of what a home inspection is ... and it is not a "visual inspection".

    "Primarily visual, but not technically exhaustive" - very good description of it as it is 'primarily visual' as most is from 'looking around' and noting what you see, but the rest of it is from what you check using tools, yet none of it is technically exhaustive as no home inspector lifts every shingle to verify proper nails, nor do they use a meggar to verify electrical insulation, nor do they use a rebar finder to locate and document steel reinforcing, nor do they ... (the list is endless) ... the inspection is not "technically exhaustive" ... nor is the inspection a "visual inspection".

    All that is left is recognizing that a "visual inspection" is like many things in this profession ... 'old home inspector lore' - once one recognizes that, admitting that they do not do a "visual inspection" is the last step in becoming a 'professional home inspector'.


    This discussion reminds me of the little kid being punished for coloring on the walls, telling his mother 'But white and black are not colors, so I didn't color on the wall.'

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  10. #75
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    It might be a good idea to look at our respective association or state standards of practice and the contracts that we use. I just re-read the CREIA SOP and contract and it is not referred to as a visual inspection. Both the CREIA and ASHI SOPs clearly define the scope, limit items to "readily accessible" and describe the inspection as "not technically exhaustive".

    Department of Redundancy Department
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  11. #76
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    Good points, perhaps the phrase visual is outdated terminology since standards evolve and are updated periodically. No doubt it is open to the courts to tell us that but the only direction they keep referring to goes back to visual as per sop. The better terminology may be 'non-invasive/non-destructive' inspection.
    Raymond, by the time I arrived at NACHI after PHII, a home inspection was described as, "a limited , non-invasive non-destructive examination of the condition of a home."
    The word visual was excluded. I only started hearing reference to a visual only from chatter on MB's.


    Robert Young's Montreal Home Inspection Services Inc.
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  12. #77
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    All hail Mike Holmes and his limitless knowledge.
    We're Not Worthy

    Robert Young's Montreal Home Inspection Services Inc.
    Call (514) 489-1887 or (514) 441-3732
    Our Motto; Putting information where you need it most, "In your hands.Ē

  13. #78
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Robert 'visual' is used often.

    I see it's even used by Quebec Association Of Building Inspectors.

    From their glossary - Look at- to make a visual examination.

    Thanks to all who participated in the dialogue. Great discussion and certainly food for thought.


  14. #79
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    I am looking to this thread to learn how I want to approach fireplace chimneys. I am not wanting to split hairs over visual vs non-exhaustive.

    "An inspector walk into a home and finds a chimney with a cap on it. His determination is that he will not put a ladder against the chimney and climb to the top and remove the cap for an inspection. From the firebox he is able to open the damper and look up the flue. From his vantage point he sees evidence that the fireplace has been used for burning wood and there appears to be soot and/or creosote on the inside wall of the flue."
    What does the inspector write about this flue? How does he communicate that he sees something, but has not done an exhaustive inspection of this critical safety component. And, if he creates the perfect verbiage to use in his report for this situation, is he then required to create perfect verbiage for every other item he inspects? (I am not sure we want our courts determining what perfect verbiage is.)

    I see boiler plate verbiage that implies that if a check box is marked inspected, and there is no comment that notes a defect, then one can presume there is no noteworthy issue for that component or system.

    What have other inspectors written about fireplace flues when they did not remove the chimney cap? What are you comfortable writing in your comments? It seems that all chimneys need to be cleaned and inspected if they have ever been used for even a half cord of wood.

    I have heard inspectors say they do not turn on frost proof hose bibs (sillcocks) for fear they will not get it to turn off. What is the perfect verbiage for sillcocks that you do not inspect? Do you simply check the box that says "not inspected"? Is there a valid reason for not turning it on when it is accessible and the air temperature is above 50 deg F ? Back to the fireplace flue... do you simply put this into your contract as an exclusion if it has a cap?

    By the way, I have determined how I will handle the chimney flue at the beginning of my career, but I am curious about the more experienced professionals out there. What say you?


  15. #80
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    First off you repeatedly say 'checkbox'. That's your first problem. Keep thinking about a check box report and you are half way to getting a phone call from a lawyer.
    Don't become a suburban checkbox idiot.
    Next, what moron told you that you should or will be removing the chimney cap? You aren't removing a chimney cap or more likely a rain hat. Sounds like another one of those dumb ass class instructions.
    In terms of the fireplace flue, you aren't there to do an intrusive investigation as part of an HI. You look up the flue as much as you can from the inside and state "Based on what was visible from the fireplace the damper, flue etc. is XYZ". If there is no rain hat and you can look down the chimney from the top safely, once again "Based on what was visible from the roof level the flue appears to be XYZ.
    The only way to fully know the condition of the flue pipe is to have a chimney sweep run a camera through the length of it and fully assess as part of their typical intrusive investigation. You with your eyes can only see up a couple/few feet and down maybe 5' or so.
    You' re a smart guy you can figure out the verbiage.
    Now to day to day reality around here ...
    - You are not checking out a chimney if you have to put a step ladder on a roof to get to the top of the chimney. I do it if I'm very suspicious but I would hammer the crap out of a trainee doing something so stupid
    - If its a vintage house you can bet money the clay liner is shot so you are going to recommend a chimney sweep Level 1 evaluation anyway
    - If its a newer B-vent or call with no proper hat you are going to recommend a Level 1
    - if its a newer chimney with all the right components you are going to recommend a Level 1 if the client desires but not necessarily hammer the point (depending on how you feel about it)
    - On average, even with a crappy old clay flue liner around here, your bigger immediate issues that are likely to cause problems for your client are a lousy cement chimney cap letting water into the structure; a wide open joint between the clay and cap letting water in; or bad flashing to the roof
    - Getting to the top of the chimney is more about seeing potential water intrusion issues down into the structure rather than the flue.
    - Out by you its going to be mostly B-vent for regular homes and clay for the McMansions. Unless you see signs of excess heat in the firebox the flue probably isn't going to be your main issue
    - Given most people don't clean their fireplaces, if the fireplace has a good amount of use then you should be recommending a cleaning. Realistically its the last time it will get cleaned until the next sale happens
    Hope that helps.

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  16. #81
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Keller View Post
    - Given most people don't clean their fireplaces, if the fireplace has a good amount of use then you should be recommending a cleaning. Realistically its the last time it will get cleaned until the next sale happens.
    All good points Markus. Are the Listing Agents backing up the inspectors and telling their clients that they should clean their flue before the home inspector hired by the buyer does his inspection? Are the Buyers Agents telling them that the HI will recommend the Level 1 Inspection by a Chimney Sweep if he sees evidence that the fireplace was being used for wood fuel fires and "if the fireplace has a good amount of use"? Do the REAs tell buyers that what the HI writes in his report is good advice?
    And to your point regarding the person telling us to remove the rain hat and look down the chimney, it seems there is the inference from this thread that a judge in Indiana wants us to do this if we are going to write that a flue is acceptable based on a visual inspection. Otherwise we must say as you do.... "Based on what was visible from the fireplace the damper, flue etc. is XYZ". Will the judge say we should have looked at both ends of the flue as this judge did?
    And do the Real Estate Agents leave it to the HI to make the recommendations for all the additional inspections like chimneys and Radon? A two day home inspection contingency will turn into quite an affair.


  17. #82
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    Me thinks someone was controlling frustration and allowed their usual concise wording to be influenced ...

    "cement chimney cap"




    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  18. #83
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    In terms of what agents tell clients, who the hell knows. Most agents are good and give their clients good advice. However, there are also plenty of agents more than happy to throw their client under the bus to get a deal to close.
    You'll learn pretty quickly what kind of agents are at a particular inspection. Beyond that you don't really care what the agent tells the client. its your job to provide the client with the relevant information to protect them from what they don't know.
    Indiana? Who gives a crap, you are licensed in IL that's what you need to be concerned about.
    Agents who don't care are going to bawk at any inference that their Seller should do anything. Agents who care both on the buyers side and sellers side, from my experience, are generally pretty reasonable about fireplace cleaning when an inspector recommends it AND the fireplace actually needs it.
    As far as Radon, its a matter of knowing your market. There is probably a fair amount out by you. Radon detection specialists has listings on their website about radon in various parts of the chicagoland area. You can go check it out. Also if you have questions about it call Karen and ask her.
    If I do an OP or Glenview, I'll ask the Buyer if they know about Radon, if the house has a radon system or if they want a Radon test set up. If I'm doing a Condo in the City its kind of a dumb question. However, there are guys who use radon to jack up their receipts.
    Also any NC house should have a passive Radon system installed. If not, hammer the developer for it.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  19. #84
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    Default Re: Courts opinion on visual inspection

    This thread has been going for a while and I did not read every post in it. Anyway, here are my initial thoughts after reading the first post.

    The use of the words "visual inspection" are intended to provide protection to the inspector in the sense they seek to describe limitations. It's ironic how those words are what actually burned the inspector.

    I have never used those words. I do use "visible and accessible" to describe my ability to do things. There are many reasons why things may or may not be "visible or accessible".

    I always do my best the get whatever information about components that may be useful to my clients. When it comes to chimneys, whether I remove a cap or not, if its a masonry constructed chimney, I recommend a Level II by qualified chimney professional no matter how old or what condition the chimney is in. Those things can cost big money to fix and I'm not going to be paying for it......ever.


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