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  1. #1
    John Murray's Avatar
    John Murray Guest

    Default Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Hello all! This is my first (non-introduction) post and I just wanted to get the opinions of some fellow inspectors on what they would do in this situation:

    I had a client call me do perform an inspection on a bank-owned house in which he arranged for the water and electric to be turned on. Once he was able to successfully call and arrange that with the utility companies, he requested (via the water co) that I turn on the water meter shut off in order to perform the inspection.

    To my question:

    Would you turn on the water meter shut off and potentially the main house shut off valve to get his business?

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  2. #2
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    Fredericksburg, VA
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Foreclosures only, I do it all the time because foreclosures have been THE primary market here for over a year. Make sure the house supply is shut off before street source is opened. If there is any indication of water flow, sound or meter movement, SHUT IT OFF! Don't mind asking the client and/or agent to help listen and look for leaks. EDIT: I do this only as a last resort. Don't start volunteering just to be a nice guy.
    Suggestion for operating valves inside or out: If one is difficult to turn, don't try to muscle it, if it looks corroded or damaged, don't turn it.

    I have run into and heard of local cases where the "Winterization" people removed part of the meter connection or in the case of wells, cut out a section of supply pipe to prevent agents or inspectors turning on the water without having the house dewinterized by them.

    Last edited by Stuart Brooks; 06-15-2009 at 09:14 AM.
    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    I you have either E&O or liability insurance, the first thing I would do is determine if you are covered at all if you turn on the water.

    In any case, there is no way I'm going to be turning on water and a property based on a purported a request from the utility company or property owner verbally relayed by someone else, at an absolute minimum I would want written authorization ( for example , a forward e-mail ) from both utility company and the property owner authorizing me to do so.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Quote Originally Posted by John Murray View Post
    Hello all! This is my first (non-introduction) post and I just wanted to get the opinions of some fellow inspectors on what they would do in this situation:

    I had a client call me do perform an inspection on a bank-owned house in which he arranged for the water and electric to be turned on. Once he was able to successfully call and arrange that with the utility companies, he requested (via the water co) that I turn on the water meter shut off in order to perform the inspection.

    To my question:

    Would you turn on the water meter shut off and potentially the main house shut off valve to get his business?
    Your question should be:

    Would you turn on the water meter shut off and potentially FLOOD the main house to get his business?

    My answers to both questions would be a NO!

    rick


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Quote Originally Posted by John Murray View Post
    Hello all! This is my first (non-introduction) post and I just wanted to get the opinions of some fellow inspectors on what they would do in this situation:

    I had a client call me do perform an inspection on a bank-owned house in which he arranged for the water and electric to be turned on. Once he was able to successfully call and arrange that with the utility companies, he requested (via the water co) that I turn on the water meter shut off in order to perform the inspection.

    To my question:

    Would you turn on the water meter shut off and potentially the main house shut off valve to get his business?
    I can't think of any good outcome by you turning on the water. I can think of many bad ones, but not a single good one.

    I do carry a water key (long section of rebar with a handle and a "U" on the end to turn the valve), to turn the water off if I have a problem while inspecting.

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

  6. #6
    Danny Armstrong's Avatar
    Danny Armstrong Guest

    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    I do this quite often. I am doing a lot of forclosures as well and the banks don't communicate well with the utility companies or the utility companies are overwhelmed with the demand.

    I check first to see that all valves in the house are closed. Then turn on slowly at the meter while the agent listens for any water pouring from anywhere. The meter will spin fast and immediately start slowing down. This is the toilet tanks filling and the water heater. If there are no leaks, the meter will stop turning in a minute or so once the water heater fills and the toilet tanks fill.

    No one likes to do this, but if I didn't, I would be missing maybe a third of my business.

    There are risks in every business.

    I did have one go wrong when I worked for another inspection company. Turned the water on and there was a leak in the living room ceiling (polybutylene of course). The ceiling was already damaged but got a bit worse. We were told it was repaired and given the go-ahead to turn it on.


  7. #7
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    All I have to say is fooey. And along with that I will say fooey again. I have been there, done that, will do it.

    Enough said. Like Stuart said. Wait till someone else is there, shut off everything in the home, have them stand inside listening and watching, turn the meter on slowly, listen for a scream, if not go inside and turn everything back on......No Schtinking problem.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    All I have to say is fooey. And along with that I will say fooey again. I have been there, done that, will do it.

    Enough said. Like Stuart said. Wait till someone else is there, shut off everything in the home, have them stand inside listening and watching, turn the meter on slowly, listen for a scream, if not go inside and turn everything back on......No Schtinking problem.

    I do water intrusion diagnosis in addition to home inspections, and it's not uncommon to encountered leaks - most commonly from shower pans, but from other sources as well - that do not produce visible changes at finish surfaces for a period of hours after the water has been run.

    Also, in climates like mine, if you are turning on the water, you need to be prepared to re-winterize the plumbing, including blowing the lines dry again, otherwise you have the potential for freezing pipes as result of water collected in low spots - which in my experience are common in both old and new construction.

    Nothing wrong with doing that provided it's a business you want to be in and you're prepared to accept the liability and/or insure over it, but it's something I know some inspectors aren't thinking through before they start turning on water.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 06-16-2009 at 07:08 AM.
    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Turning the water on to test it during an inspection is like taking the electric meter out and re-inserting it to get power for the inspection ... BOTH are STEALING and are subject to large fines if you get caught.

    I know, some of you are going to rely on that *IF* you get caught part, so be it, that is your business to run as you choose, but I would not do that. I did when I first started, never got caught, then, when talking to other inspectors, I began to realize all the "what ifs" if there were a water leak (always did it with the agents presents), what if there was an electrical short, what if ... , NOT WORTH IT guys.

    Inspect the house with whatever utilities are not on, report all the evidence you see which could lead to problems, report that the power/water/gas was not on and the electrical/plumbing/gas systems and equipment could not be operated and inspected under operating conditions.

    Water heater: DO NOT KNOW IF IT WORKS - electric/water/gas was turned off.
    - Then list everything you see in, on, and around it as evidence of potential deficiencies.
    - MAY NEED TO BE REPLACED.

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

  10. #10
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Most City have a fine if you do that...

    don't mess with the meters

    Best

    Ron


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Our company will de-winterize for a fee providing the water is on at the street but turned off on the homeowers side of the meter. City turns the water on and we charge the system .
    We also winterize for a fee. It's an additional service provided-for a fee.

    Fire at will.

    If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest
    Benjamin Franklin

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Bibler View Post
    Most City have a fine if you do that...

    don't mess with the meters

    Best

    Ron
    Spring Hill, TN has a $300 fine if you are caught turning on a meter that has been turned off by the city.

    Nashville, TN has a $250 fine for the same.

    I'm sure many other towns in TN and across the country have fines as well. I just don't understand why some folks want to take unnecessary risk when they do not have to do it.

    A question for those that turn the water on at the meter: After you are done with your inspection do you also drain the water heater and empty all of the toilets? If not, this might be a problem if they decided to start leaking. Would you not agree?

    If the water was turned on for you then this would not be an issue......

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

  13. #13

    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Last week I called the water company to turn on the water (last minute while inspecting). I was lucky in that there was a red tag on it giving me their number. The tag astated that it was illegal for me to turn it on. I told the water guy that showed up that I was sorry he had to drive all the way out just to turn it on for the inspection. His reply was "we really wouldn't mind if you did it yourself for an inspection"


  14. #14
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    Spring Hill, TN has a $300 fine if you are caught turning on a meter that has been turned off by the city.

    Nashville, TN has a $250 fine for the same.

    I'm sure many other towns in TN and across the country have fines as well. I just don't understand why some folks want to take unnecessary risk when they do not have to do it.

    A question for those that turn the water on at the meter: After you are done with your inspection do you also drain the water heater and empty all of the toilets? If not, this might be a problem if they decided to start leaking. Would you not agree?

    If the water was turned on for you then this would not be an issue......

    If the city turns it off they will have a lock on it. Of course you can not turn it on in that instance. I am not sure but I do not think anyone is talking about breaking laws.

    I am pretty sure the ones speaking of turning it on are talking about the home being shut down by a company, not buy the utility companies.

    Do you fill whirlpools (yeah, I know, a manufacturers name) and the turn the tub on to blow bubbles for a while. Do you flush toilets (you are turning the water on. Do you let showers and tubs and sinks run for a while, you are turning the water on. Etc etc etc etc etc.

    Do you flick the switch next to the fire place (gas log) to see if the auto light is functioning, you are turning the gas on. No I do not turn the homes gas on.

    Many times the main breaker gets turned of (all the time) when the home is winterized. Yes, I turn the main breaker on (after looking around and checking things out).

    You guys cannot be as serious as you sound. My God man. How many of you were in the building/remodeling trade for years or decades. Utilities on and off all the time.

    If one lives in a freezing climate I would suggest that they always have the home dewinterized before the inspection. Obvious reasoning there.

    No one is talking about abandoned homes here. I do believe everyone is talking about the water being shut off at the meter by a winterizing company. The main breaker being turned off, same thing. No one, I think, is talking about breaking laws.

    I have had many a water leak in homes that are not winterized and all the utilities on. I run the water for a while in all the sinks, tubs, showers etc to see if there is a back up or if there are leaks under the sinks/tubs/showers. I operate all tubs of every make and manufacturer, whirlpool, jacuzzi. Yes there are leaks found. Sometimes pretty bad.

    What is it Jerry always says.....failed while testing.

    Seriously folks. I think all the nay sayers are getting a little deep and paranoia has set to the bone. I for one have never paid for anything that failed under testing. Carpet gets wet, oh well. garage door falls on the floor even if I (and I always do) check it first. Oh well, failed under testing.You are being allowed to do a home inspection in the sellers home. You are there to find concerns for the new home buyer. Something springs a leak or the garage door falls down or you turn the electric heat on and the wiring burns up, oh well, failed while testing.

    Please folks you are making me give myself a headache....ooops, failed under testing....you are not responsible

    Now, if you turn the tub on and fill it up and forget about it and it overflows, well, that is another story. No, I have not done that either.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Ted, it is a given that if the meter is locked or even removed that the water is not going to be cut on by anyone. In many areas they do not lock the meters unless they have had trouble with the owner cutting it back on after it was cut off. In my area they just turn it off and attach a tag to the valve saying it was cut off and that it is illegal to cut it back on.

    Most of the time that I'm presented with a home that has no water it is an REO home. I would say that 75% of the time the meter is locked or has been removed.

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

  16. #16
    M.Pondo's Avatar
    M.Pondo Guest

    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Filling a toilet and filling a house is not the same make sure you have insurance and the knowledge to do this . We are not required to do this in our standards of practice. We also have to have a license to inspect in our state NC / SC . $ 200.00 fine here , yes I have a key too.


  17. #17
    Richard Moore's Avatar
    Richard Moore Guest

    Default Re: Water Meter Shut Offs vs More Business

    Quote Originally Posted by John Murray View Post
    Hello all! This is my first (non-introduction) post and I just wanted to get the opinions of some fellow inspectors on what they would do in this situation:

    I had a client call me do perform an inspection on a bank-owned house in which he arranged for the water and electric to be turned on. Once he was able to successfully call and arrange that with the utility companies, he requested (via the water co) that I turn on the water meter shut off in order to perform the inspection.

    To my question:

    Would you turn on the water meter shut off and potentially the main house shut off valve to get his business?
    Well...I would not just take a client's word for the "permissions", but I've never run across that.

    I first ask for and want assurance that the owner (the bank in this case) had OKed it (or made the arrangements) and also was aware that the home would not be re-winterized at the end of the inspection. Here, I would normally get that from the buyer's agent (verbally if I knew them well enough, otherwise in writing). Sometimes the agents will have to pay to have it re-winterized, but that's not my problem. And, of course, we are not talking about breaking any utility company seals or locks.

    Check all outlets are closed, especially those without drains or missing appliances (laundry, ice-maker, DW, water-heater drain(?) and, as others have mentioned, use the clients, agents, etc as eyes and ears as you slowly pressurize the system. I remove all winterized tape, signs, etc from all fixtures, scrunch them up and leave them nearby. Shut off the water again when you leave. THEN...document what you did, and with whose permission, in the report.

    With precautions such as above, then, yes.


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