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  1. #1
    Richard Thacker's Avatar
    Richard Thacker Guest

    Default Do I own what's in my head?

    40 days ago I was paid to inspected an occupied property and found a gas powered pump removing water that flowing out from under its foundation, a continuously running sump pump and a 4" gravity drain line running to an unknown location off property and a septic tank that was taking on water like the titanic.

    Today I found myself at a vacant property with a continuously running sump pump and a 4" gravity drain line running to an unknown location off property and a septic tank that was taking on water like the titanic.

    What am I allow to disclose? The same listing agent and owners did not disclose any information from the previous inspection. By law am I allowed to disclose information discovered on a previous inspection when that information was paid for by another client? Or must I blindly re-inspect and charge again for something that I should not be doing? I am not so concerned about the moral stance, that I am well convicted of...I am instead curious to know if I own the knowledge in my head.

    Home Rite Home Inspector, York, Pa - Real Estate Inspection in PA and Maryland

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Thacker View Post
    40 days ago I was paid to inspected an occupied property and found a gas powered pump removing water that flowing out from under its foundation, a continuously running sump pump and a 4" gravity drain line running to an unknown location off property and a septic tank that was taking on water like the titanic.

    Today I found myself at a vacant property with a continuously running sump pump and a 4" gravity drain line running to an unknown location off property and a septic tank that was taking on water like the titanic.

    What am I allow to disclose? The same listing agent and owners did not disclose any information from the previous inspection. By law am I allowed to disclose information discovered on a previous inspection when that information was paid for by another client? Or must I blindly re-inspect and charge again for something that I should not be doing? I am not so concerned about the moral stance, that I am well convicted of...I am instead curious to know if I own the knowledge in my head.

    Home Rite Home Inspector, York, Pa - Real Estate Inspection in PA and Maryland
    If it was me, I would tell my client that I have previously inspected the property and it had several problems. I would then state that I made the owner and listing agent aware of the problems and it looks like the home still has those same issues.

    Most likely under the sales contract the new client will need an inspection report if they want to get out of the sale.

    I would not discount my price, your liability and time has not changed any so I see no reason to offer a discount.

    Not an easy answer with somthing like this.

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

  3. #3
    Richard Thacker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    If it was me, I would tell my client that I have previously inspected the property and it had several problems. I would then state that I made the owner and listing agent aware of the problems and it looks like the home still has those same issues.
    I did all that and got paid, but the question is still this. If the client owns the report...do they in turn own that specific knowledge? Who owns what we know? If I can talk about intimate knowledge with the new client...what is to prevent me from discussing it with anyone?

    -Richard Thacker
    Home Rite Home Inspector, York, Pa - Real Estate Inspection in PA and Maryland


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    The client gets a copy. That's his. I keep a copy. That's mine. Nobody can buy your brain cells while you're still using them.
    But that's a good question, and like Scott said, there's no easy answer.

    You can use your prior knowledge tactfully by simply pointing out the volume of water now, and stating that it was even worse the last time you saw this place. No real specifics needed.

    You could call your first client and ask for permission to disclose the info.
    .

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    In Texas we are legally prohibited from discussing the inspection with anyone our client has not authorized us to talk with except in certain instances of life and safety (think gas leak, etc.)
    Once I have a new client, they enjoy the same privilege. Like Scott, I would disclose up front that I had inspected the property previously and might ask if the new client had been given an updated disclosure statement.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Seems to me that most home inspectors will eventually inspect the same homes over and over again over time ... in this case the 'over time' was only 40 days.

    Would you have discovered the same defects again by inspecting the same house again? I would hope so ... unless the defects had been correct ... and you would also likely find ones you missed at the first inspection.

    Nonetheless, though, follow what Scott said and disclose to your client that ... "Whoa Nelly ... deja vu ... been here, done that already ... this is what I remember from the last time, I wonder what has been corrected?"

    The buyer will take it from there, say no problem, inspect the entire house or just the big thing you remember and let me know if they have been corrected. You do as your client directs and it is up to your client to say "Richard, you know, I think I'll pass on this, just wrap up the inspection now and I'll pay for the entire inspection and call you for the next house."

    I years past I have inspected the same houses several times, years apart, and the buyer took the money from the seller, bought something, and never fixed anything, so they got to pass the money on down to their buyer.

    I used to explain that to my client's: "If you take the money you get from the seller and use it as a down payment on a new BMW instead of fixing things, in a few years you need to be prepared to pass that money to your buyer when you sell."

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

  7. #7
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    I do not care What you inspect and for who. You write everything up. If you inspected a property before, tell them . If you find the same thing, tell them. There is never a reason not to disclose what you already know or found on any property to the next person in line, no matter who it is, period. Is that direct enough?


  8. #8
    James Khan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Hmm, that's a tough a question! It's probably best to inform the client you have previously inspected the property and that it had the same issues back then as it did now. Make it clear that the owner was aware of the problem you highlighted but no action was taken.

    I would also charge as if it were any other job. No need for discounts.


  9. #9
    wchandler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    I never mention I have previously inspected a property and I do my level best to forget it during the new inspection. There is no correlation between the two inspections with different clients. Each deserves your very best analysis of the current condition of the property on the day of the inspection. Should you offer the new client a discount because "I just inspected this house 40 days ago"? Should you offer to "only inspect for the issues noted in the last inspection"? Should you throw the listing agent under the bus for not disclosing these items were not corrected? I believe the answer to all is NO and you approach the home as you have never seen it before. Just MHO.


  10. #10
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Quote Originally Posted by wchandler View Post
    I never mention I have previously inspected a property and I do my level best to forget it during the new inspection. There is no correlation between the two inspections with different clients. Each deserves your very best analysis of the current condition of the property on the day of the inspection. Should you offer the new client a discount because "I just inspected this house 40 days ago"? Should you offer to "only inspect for the issues noted in the last inspection"? Should you throw the listing agent under the bus for not disclosing these items were not corrected? I believe the answer to all is NO and you approach the home as you have never seen it before. Just MHO.
    So, you are not in the practice of looking out for you clients interests in the home sale. There are certain leagalities and ethics in place here even if you feel no moral obligation to your clients.

    The business of business should be taken seriously and morality and legality should always be in play. Real Estate disclosure acts , I believe, are in place around the country. For some reason you are concerned about if a listing agent does not do what they are legally bound to and that agent is willing to deceive your client in not disclosing por/damgerous/costly concerns in the home that they have already found out about and are trying to hide to make the sale. What if you did not inspect the home. What if the inspector after you gets repeatedly interrupted while doing his inspection and somehow misses something that should have been disclosed by the listing agent that already knew about it. It does happen. I guess that is OK with you. Even the best inspector can get interupted enough with a house full of people and may actually miss something.

    I think the last concern you should have would be whether the listing agent that new of several concerns in the home and should have disclosed them gets not only thrown under the bus but make sure everything above the shoulders goes under the wheels.

    If you know of something or some items in a home that were not disclosed in the home sale by the listing agent that is going about their business fraudulently and criminally, why would you not say "Last time I was here all these same foundation concerns existed and the foundation company that came out wrote up a repair of a dozen piers and it appears that no repairs were made. If you know that repair orders were written up for that foundation, you would not say anything to your client about it and let them go ahead and pay for an engineer or foundation company to come out to only possibly write it up again?

    It may very well be "their choice" to hire a new engineer.

    It may be your choice to contribute to the criminal acts of another.

    Slightly different, no?

    You do not and are probably bound in someway not have to hand the client the old report (even though in Texas, Realtors can) but if someone is trying to blindside your client, that you are hired to find concerns for, throw them under the bus. Who cares or should care what happens to them.


  11. #11
    Michael Avis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    You are absolutely ethically bound to disclose whatever you find wrong to your client. That's why people hire us. You should TELL your client that these conditions existed during your previous inspection because this fulfills the spirit of the home inspector/client relationship i.e. protecting the client, (in this case against apparent fraud). I would not however put it in the report as it exposes you to litigation.

    If litigation is started you are protected by having noted the defect in both reports.

    The buyer can determine for themselves whether they want to do business with a realtor and owner who both neglect to disclose a significant flaw they have known about for at least 40 days. In Pennsylvania this can cost a realtor their license. None of the realtors I know are willing to risk their entire livelihood on the proceeds of one dirty sale.

    Last edited by Michael Avis; 07-22-2011 at 08:37 AM.

  12. #12
    Michael Avis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    And...
    There's no such thing as home inspector/client privilege. Your initial obligation was to the initial client. Your obligation shifted to the second client once your
    obligation to the first was satisfied and were engaged by a new party.

    You are not betraying the first client by re-disclosing the defects to the new client. The first guy chose both to not act on the recommendations of your report AND to hide it (this is a lie of omission).

    The owner and realtor can't be very bright. Once they learned that you were doing the second inspection they should have realized their deceipt would be exposed and called the buyer IMMEDIATELY to say..."Oh I'm so sorry, we forgot to mention there's this problem with..."


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    I own what is in my head.

    As to what you inspect is what you see. if it hasn't changed then report what you currently see. I would let them know YES i have been here before and this is what I currently see. thing you said have changed report that. Be honest and let who you are currently working for know what they are paying for, AN INSPECTION. you were honest the first time no reason to lie now. they did not pay you not to disclose to new clients the findings, and if it is a new inspection then you are there to see if things have changed and to what dregree. for the better or worse your there to report what you see. An identical report would not be acceptable , but see if you can find more to report on a second look might reveal more. also have you learned more about solutions that you can suggest to resolve the problem? share them as well.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    This is always a good question and the replys are always all over the place.
    I feel that my obligation is to reveal all the info that I know about the property. If I inspected a home in the past, I disclose.
    If I know a problem was reported and not serviced, I report it as such.
    Our loyalty should aways be to the person paying our fees.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Richard,
    Disclosing that you had inspected the property before should not be an issue. You should disclose as general mater of fact.

    Performing an inspection of the property as it is found today is what you have been contracted to perform. Given you have a head start in areas to look at, just makes it easier.

    Finding something that you will describe in your report today that you have personal knowledge existed at some time in the past is valid and stating so in your report is just informative as long as it is factual. Example.... "Condition X exists on date of inspection and condition X was seen on --- date --- in the past." The bell can not be unrung. You know what you know. The truth will set you free.

    The Seller and Agent's failure to disclose something is not an issue that is your concern. Unless you were their lawyer or priest. And I would have second thoughts on the latter.

    I do not see where is the dilemma. It is not about sharing a report from a previous inspection, which would be wrong. It is about sharing facts, knowledge and experience in your possession. Writing a report that exceeds the minimum SOP of your State is what you should be doing.

    Let the buyer figure how to take the Seller and Agent to the cleaners over non disclosure. You may pick up some extra change as a court witness in the law suite.


  16. #16
    Richard Thacker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Just to update...the selling agent is the sellers sister.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Stupidity must run in the family. If they are not disclosing prior and existing problems.

    So... Did you include your prior experience (knowledge) with the property in your current report?

    Did you see the disclosure statement on the property?


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Seems to me that most of the Standards of Practice that guide our inspections make it clear that we are reporting on the conditions found at the home at the time of inspection. What difference does it make how long that condition existed prior to you doing the inspection for that (second) client? If you've disclosed what was found at the time of inspection, you have done your job. Let the clients and agents argue over whether or not what you found was a condition that the seller should have disclosed.


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

    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    What I get paid for is what I know and not what I do. My knowledge is what people seek and they don't care how it got there. If you disclose you have previous and recent knowledge of a structure it does not need to be disclosed, unless you want to have discussions of discounting your yourself.

    There was factory owner whose boiler quit one day. He called a repair company that sent over a very old man with a very small tool box. The factory owner takes the old man to the boiler and says "I need this up and running, I'm losing lot's of money when it's down", So the old man opens his tool box and takes out a tiny hammer. He walks right over to a particular pipe and gently taps it. WHOOSH. The boiler starts. The factory owner is amazed and quite thankful until he gets the bill. "Why so much! You only hit a pipe" screams the factory owner.

    The old man quietly and confidently exclaims, " Yeah, but I knew which one to hit"

    p.s. There are about 10 really bad agents in my area, but they sure do get around.

    Home Rite Home Inspector, York, Pa - Real Estate Inspection in PA and Maryland


  20. #20
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    It is very clear that you report everything you observe during the second inspection, including the uncorrected items from the prior inspection. However, if you mention the existence of a specific item in the prior inspection, why would you not be required to mention every item in the prior inspection?

    I would mention only that I did the prior inspection for another client and then I would do a great inspection for the second client. I would only address the content of the first report in response to a direct question from the second client. JMHO.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    The question is irrelevant.

    It's a new inspection, new client, even if you have inspected it before, you are obligated to report previous issues.

    And if agents are aware of the findings previously or with the new inspection they are now obligated to disclose.

    Once you write the report that is protected to some degree, but thoughts and ideas are not copyright protected.


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Hello all. I am new to the forum but 25 years in the business. I have had the opportunity to inspect the same home for different clients. In one such case, within a two week span. So let me jump out on a limb.

    I believe it is my responsibility to inform my client of the previous inspection. After that, this is a new inspection and treated as such. Every inspection is different, even on the same home. The clients are different, the weather different, the tag alongs different, the questions different, the Realtors different.

    Because the conditions are different, it is possible that something mentioned on the first report might be overlooked or reported differently on the second report. The last thing I would want is for the client to get a copy of the first report and find a descrepancy between the two reports. Consequently I share the first report with the client but make sure that he receives his own new report. But I also make sure that everything on the first report is covered in the second, unless repairs have been made.

    As to disclosure, it is up to the client to decide what he wants to do about it. If there is a major issue that the listing agent and seller failed to disclose, I would think that he should be entitled to a reimbursement of the inspection fee.



  23. #23
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    The previous client did not buy the home. Or, in some cases bought the home and is now moving. No longer any reason for the top secret issues everyone seems to think there is.

    I guess that about says it all. Any confidentiality about the home or the previous clients inspection you did for him needs no further thought. An inspection is an inspection is an inspection. Anything you knew from the past or find now has absolutely nothing to do with the past client. There are know ifs ands or buts about it. Know all, see all, disclose all. Other than the previous clients name or personal info everything you know goes into the report if needed. You have no other course.

    If there is nothing wrong with an item there is no need to discuss it. If there is now a new item then there is a new item. If there is a new hvac system then there is absolutely no reason to discuss anything else. If there is still damage from leaky condensation lines from the past then there is a reason to say that the damage was from the old system. And still exists now. You certainly do not tell them that you didn't know what the damage was from.

    Just not sure how much mote straight forward it can be

    Last edited by Ted Menelly; 10-28-2011 at 09:45 PM.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Do I own what's in my head?

    Richard,
    Is your question, if you can/should disclose that a gas pump has been replaced by an electric sump pump as part of your report ?

    "...found a gas powered pump removing water that flowing out from under its foundation, a continuously running sump pump..."


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