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  1. #1
    Reggie Russell's Avatar
    Reggie Russell Guest

    Unhappy Client Not Happy

    Hey Guys,

    I inspected a home for a couple about 6 weeks ago now. They just moved in about 2 weeks ago and much to their chagrin their heat pump did not work in the cooling mode, HVAC guy they called said it was shot and needed to be replaced. They called the Realtor to complain and of course the Realtor then called me to complain. The temperature that day was 55 degrees and the home had been vacant for over a year so I did not test it in the cooling mode due to outside temp as well as the temp inside the house being too cool. The unit was also 22 years old but worked fine in heat mode. I stated both of those in my report and would like some input on if my wording was right or not or if there was something else I should have done at the inspection. BTW - the guy's home warranty decided to pay for a new unit due to them not being able to prove whether it was a pre-existing condition or not. At the beginning of my reports I always list the ages and life expectancy of all major appliances and systems of a house I inspect and here is what I wrote in that part of my report:

    Air Conditioner Unit: 22 years. The average life expectancy of AC Units is 12 to 15 years. AC Unit is old and nearing, or is at the end of, its useful lifespan. Older systems are less efficient and subject to failure. Determining the future performance of these systems is beyond the scope of this inspection. Systems could require repairs and/or replacement at any time.

    This is then what I said in my Heating and Cooling section of my report regarding the system:

    Condition: REPAIRS RECOMMENDED
    Visually the unit appeared operable. However, I was unable to verify the operation of unit while in the cooling mode. Most manufacturers agree that it is unsafe to operate unit in the cooling mode when the outside temperature is below 65 degrees. Recommend having a licensed HVAC person be called to service unit when the need for cooling arises again to verify its operation.


    The Realtor took my wording to mean I said they could wait until the spring weather rolls around again to get it checked but that is not what I said, I said when the need for cooling arises again, which could be any day in November or December down here in Alabama! So what do you guys think? If it had gone any further would I be on solid ground or do I need to change something? I really don't want this to happen again so what steps can I take to help guard against this?

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  2. #2
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Seriously

    22 years needed very little explanation at all once they were told of the norm lifespan.

    I think I may have wording things in the cooling section differently but there goes the Realtor adding her 2 cents in instead of telling the clients to call you for clarification.

    When systems are that old I nip it in the but right of the bat and tell them whether it is working or not but proceed to end it there with an HVAC company should inspect and evaluate for longevity as the unit is well beyond its life expectancy and will fail sooner than later. At that time he can price a new system out for you.

    Some say it is not the home inspectors job to tell them whether or not something needs replacing. I say that they are my clients and they need to know that in a short or even an immediate time down the road they will be replacing the system at a substantial cost to them. More than one (many) Realtors have gotten a little ticked at such a direct statement but ,oh well.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by Reggie Russell View Post
    Air Conditioner Unit: 22 years. The average life expectancy of AC Units is 12 to 15 years. AC Unit is old and nearing, or is at the end of, its useful lifespan.


    Reggie,

    Let me get this straight, and see if you see where I am headed before I get there:

    "Air Conditioner Unit: 22 years."
    "The average life expectancy of AC Units is 12 to 15 years."
    "AC Unit is old and nearing, or is at the end of, its useful lifespan"

    My reading that tells me that you think the unit is 22 years old, that it should normally last 12 to 15 years, and that, because you did not say it needed to be replaced, than, hey, while the unit should have been replaced 10 years ago, *I* *STILL* *HAVE* *A* *GOOD* *UNIT*.

    Besides, you only said it is old and nearing ... or is at the end of ... its useful life ... not that IT WAS LONG PAST ITS USEFUL LIFE ... which says to me that IT STILL HAS USEFUL LIFE left in it.

    This is then what I said in my Heating and Cooling section of my report regarding the system:

    Condition: REPAIRS RECOMMENDED
    Visually the unit appeared operable. However, I was unable to verify the operation of unit while in the cooling mode. Most manufacturers agree that it is unsafe to operate unit in the cooling mode when the outside temperature is below 65 degrees. Recommend having a licensed HVAC person be called to service unit when the need for cooling arises again to verify its operation.

    The Realtor took my wording to mean I said they could wait until the spring weather rolls around again to get it checked but that is not what I said, I said when the need for cooling arises again, which could be any day in November or December down here in Alabama! So what do you guys think?
    "The Realtor took my wording to mean I said they could wait until the spring weather rolls around again to get it checked"

    That is how I read it too.

    Sounds to me like you did not want to "scare" the real estate agent or buyer off so you "soft sold" the need to replace that unit by saying that it was still good and okie dokie.

    And you ended up making them both mad, or at least disappointed, anyway.

    Tell it like it is.

    It if it 22 years old and you say it has a useful life or 12 to 15 years, they you are saying that it is no longer useful and needs to be replaced ... SO SAY THAT AND MEAN IT.

    Don't wishy-washy yourself back off that by then saying not to worry about it until you warms up ... NEVER TO THAT!

    If you think something needs to be checked out, tell them to CHECK IT OUT BEFORE CLOSING ... while the seller STILL OWNS IT.

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

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by Reggie Russell View Post
    Condition: REPAIRS RECOMMENDED
    Visually the unit appeared operable. However, I was unable to verify the operation of unit while in the cooling mode. Most manufacturers agree that it is unsafe to operate unit in the cooling mode when the outside temperature is below 65 degrees. Recommend having a licensed HVAC person be called to service unit when the need for cooling arises again to verify its operation.


    The Realtor took my wording to mean I said they could wait until the spring weather rolls around again to get it checked but that is not what I said,
    Recommend having a licensed HVAC person be called to service unit when the need for cooling arises again to verify its operation.
    Sorry, but I agree with your realtor, you inferred it could wait. Don't soft sell. Tell them to plan on a new unit. Inspector speak will get you into trouble.

    By the way, heat pumps tend to be much more resilient than straight A/C units. I tend to check them at much colder temps; after all the way most defrost is to slam into cooling mode with the reversing valve when frost gets on the coil. The potential for damage is from liquid entering the compressor which would happen every time it goes into defrost if the manufacturer did not make provision to prevent it.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Condition: REPAIRS RECOMMENDED
    Visually the unit appeared operable. However, I was unable to verify the operation of unit while in the cooling mode. Most manufacturers agree that it is unsafe to operate unit in the cooling mode when the outside temperature is below 65 degrees. Recommend having a licensed HVAC person be called to service unit when the need for cooling arises again to verify its operation.

    You did explain that you could not test it , so that is good enough.
    In the future you may wish to leave out the Spring part of it.

    I always add.....I recommend a certified HVAC Tech examine. or I recommend a certified HVAC Tech examine and perform routine maintenance before closing.




  6. #6
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Recommend having a licensed HVAC person be called to service unit when the need for cooling arises again to verify its operation.

    This is the only part of your disclaimer I would avoid/change for future inspections.


  7. #7
    A.D. Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    RR: "Recommend" is a term I do not use in my inspection reports unless it is wording already used in a code or manufacturer's installation instruction citation. That particular term is (wrongly) understood by most people to mean something along the lines of a suggestion and not a requirement. Since HIs cannot require or command that something be done, I like to use the term "strongly urge".

    My comment on the unit would have read:

    This unit is an old unit that is well beyond its expected lifespan. It will require a much higher degree of maintenance and be more prone to component breakdown than a newer unit. Prediciting the timeframe for mechanical repairs of any mechanical device is not practically feasible. You are strongly urged to have this unit inspected and serviced by a licensed HVAC technician prior to the end of your option period and closing escrow on this home. Additionally, you should budget for the imminent replacement of this unit.

    SPECIFIC LIMITATIONS: This unit could not safely be operated in cooling mode at an outside temperature of 55 F. as per industry standards. You are strongly urged to have this unit inspected in cooling mode by a licensed HVAC technician prior to the end of your option period and closing escrow on this home.


  8. #8
    A.D. Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Hann: I resent having a link inserted in my forum comment that leads to Homegauge. How much will it cost me to purchase an automatic link insertion at each instance of the word $hit? How about fuuck?


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    I think I would have said that the unit was well past its expected life span, not near. Telling them to have it check out in the Spring was probably now the best idea.

    I also leave the "at close of escrow" type phrases out of my reports. I want no part of giving them real estate advice. Instead I use "as soon as possible".

    As a side note, I make it a point during my pre-inspection talk with the clients, that when/IF they have questions, to call ME. Do not call their Realtor, do not call Uncle Wally, do not call This Old House Hot Line, CALL ME. I'm the guy that wrote the report. While I kind of make a joke of it with the Uncle Wally, I make my point. I will say this in front of the Realtor, or anyone else that may be standing there, even Uncle Wally.

    At the end of the inspection, the last thing I say to them is to BE SURE TO CALL ME IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    I also leave the "at close of escrow" type phrases out of my reports. I want no part of giving them real estate advice. Instead I use "as soon as possible".
    I don't think that advising someone to do something prior to closing is giving real estate advice. Seems like common sense advice to me.

    I let them know that they should talk to their attorney about putting money into escrow to cover a possible problem in the spring. That's not uncommon around here. (An attorney is always used for closings in NJ).

    I also tell them to buy a homeowners warranty from the realtor. Some realtors throw them in as a housewarming gift. They don't want to hear complaints either.


  11. #11
    A.D. Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    I also leave the "at close of escrow" type phrases out of my reports. I want no part of giving them real estate advice.
    JF: Learn to differentiate between giving advice on real property (which is your job) from giving real estate sales advice (the agent's job).


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    JF: Learn to differentiate between giving advice on real property (which is your job) from giving real estate sales advice (the agent's job).
    Hit the deck boys. The Feldman cruise missle should be passing through shortly.


  13. #13
    A.D. Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    Hit the deck boys. The Feldman cruise missle should be passing through shortly.
    NO: JF would do well to keep that tiny thing out of sight.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    I pretty much agree with what has been said by the majority of the posters. You kind of messed up by telling them to wait till they needed the A/C. But you also told them it was old and could fail at anytime.

    If it is a heat pump and you said it was I have a question? Is the unit producing heat in the heat pump mode?

    If it is and it is not cooling in the A/C mode then it would be logical to think that the reversing valve is not working, and if it was replaced that the unit should then cool.

    In my report and in the agreement I tell my client not to assume anything, and if they have a question to call me first.

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

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Paying for a HVAC system at Christmas has to suck.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    Paying for a HVAC system at Christmas has to suck.
    It sucks OK, it just won't blow!

    What Scott said, it may just need a simple valve repair, although you can't repair the "old" part.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    I just saw the part about the Warranty company paying for it! Good for you! You had someone looking out for you on this one!

    Change your verbiage and you should be fine for the next one.

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

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    What I hate is when you tell your client that the heating / cooling system is completely worn out, beyond its useful life and should be replaced. The realtor perks up with "Wait till you get moved in and the homeowner warranty will replace the whole thing!"


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    They called the Realtor to complain and of course the Realtor then called me to complain.
    Why are they calling the Realtor to complain? They should have called you directly leaving the Realtor out of the picture.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    AD - Thanks for the sage(brush) advice. I expect no less from a Texan.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    Why are they calling the Realtor to complain? They should have called you directly leaving the Realtor out of the picture.

    Raymond,

    They always call the agent to get the pity party started up. The agent more than likely recommended the inspector and the homeowner is calling the agent to let them know that the inspector missed something.

    What they are really wanting is the agent to call the HI and do the complaining for them. Its the nature of the beast.

    rick


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    Raymond,

    They always call the agent to get the pity party started up. The agent more than likely recommended the inspector and the homeowner is calling the agent to let them know that the inspector missed something.

    What they are really wanting is the agent to call the HI and do the complaining for them. Its the nature of the beast.

    rick
    Yep, that's about the way it works!

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

  23. #23
    Reggie Russell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Thanks for all the responses. I have learned a valuable lesson in reporting verbiage to say the least!

    Jerry - I wasn't equating "average life expectancy" with "useful lifespan". I always thought of one being a guess and the other being another guess. I guess I know better now.

    A.D. - Thanks for the wording. Hope you don't mind me plagiarizing you in my reports!

    Scott - Yes, the unit worked fine in the heating mode, the day I was there at least.


  24. #24
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    What I hate is when you tell your client that the heating / cooling system is completely worn out, beyond its useful life and should be replaced. The realtor perks up with "Wait till you get moved in and the homeowner warranty will replace the whole thing!"
    All the time


  25. #25
    imported_John Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    The way you have it worded seemed reasonable to me, and I think if you get dragged into court, you would win. Live and learn. At some point in your career you will likely have someone else try to sue you for something different.


    I would have worded "Recommend having a licensed HVAC person be called to service unit when the need for cooling arises again to verify its operation." this much differently, but we shouldn't really be parsing words. This isnt Bill Clinton asking for a definition of sex.


    Its a home inspector saying the unit is 22 years old and "Repairs Recommended" and that you were "unable to verify the operation of the unit while in the cooling mode."


  26. #26
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    RR: "Recommend" is a term I do not use in my inspection reports
    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    Hann: I resent having a link inserted in my forum comment that leads to Homegauge.

    Aaron,

    Simply type it like this: in$pection report

    The software gimmick does not pick it up, and Brian still gets to make money and keep this available for free to us users.

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

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by A.D. Miller View Post
    Hann: I resent having a link inserted in my forum comment that leads to Homegauge.
    AD, I'm sure Brian would be happy to let you in on the bidding on a pay per click basis to sponsor his site.
    A little competition should help buy a little more storage or band width.
    Let the auction begin!

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  28. #28
    David Bell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Due to the low outdoor temp at inspection, it was imposible to evaluate cooling system,,Given it's age alone we would recommend replacement.


  29. #29
    Craig Ervin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    I thought I would comment here. Since a heat pump is a in fact an a/c unit in the summer and the heater in the winter. If the unit works in heat mode and is not just running off the electric heat strip, then it should work in cooling mode too. There is a valve called a reversing valve and it does just like you would think, it reverses the flow. So in the winter it's trying to cool the outdoors and rejecting the heat indoors. (make sense) Its possible the reversing valve is not working.
    Now if you operate an A/C unit that does not have a crank case heater in the winter it will suck all the oil out of the compressor and damage the unit.
    This can happen during the holidays when oven is going and lot of people come over and the house gets to warm and owner slides the t-stat down and it's set to auto and now the A/C kicks in.

    If I showed up, I would check it out. But once I figured out the reversing valve was stuck and its 22 years old. I would recommend replacement. I've tried to help people out as maybe its a rental or they just needed to get it running until they have more money to replace it later.
    In the end I look bad as I charged them a "bunch" of money and the dam thing is broke again.

    Even if you called me to check it out, there is no way to give a "life expectancy" of an HVAC system. That just opens the door to sell a new unit with a warranty In fact thats what you can state in your report the HVAC system is no longer covered under the manufactures warranty and should be replaced. With that said I can't even get my dad to replace his 50 years old furnace as its still in working order


  30. #30
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Ervin View Post
    I thought I would comment here. Since a heat pump is a in fact an a/c unit in the summer and the heater in the winter. If the unit works in heat mode and is not just running off the electric heat strip, then it should work in cooling mode too. There is a valve called a reversing valve and it does just like you would think, it reverses the flow. So in the winter it's trying to cool the outdoors and rejecting the heat indoors. (make sense) Its possible the reversing valve is not working.
    Now if you operate an A/C unit that does not have a crank case heater in the winter it will suck all the oil out of the compressor and damage the unit.
    This can happen during the holidays when oven is going and lot of people come over and the house gets to warm and owner slides the t-stat down and it's set to auto and now the A/C kicks in.

    If I showed up, I would check it out. But once I figured out the reversing valve was stuck and its 22 years old. I would recommend replacement. I've tried to help people out as maybe its a rental or they just needed to get it running until they have more money to replace it later.
    In the end I look bad as I charged them a "bunch" of money and the dam thing is broke again.

    Even if you called me to check it out, there is no way to give a "life expectancy" of an HVAC system. That just opens the door to sell a new unit with a warranty In fact thats what you can state in your report the HVAC system is no longer covered under the manufactures warranty and should be replaced. With that said I can't even get my dad to replace his 50 years old furnace as its still in working order

    Now that is funny. I tell them it is at (and maybe tomorrow) its life expectancy and replacement will cost them a good bit of green. But to follow that up because they know it is working (heat, and the condenser actually kicks on) sometimes they ignore it. I tell them that an HVAC company for furhter eval and cost of replacement is necessary. I know you folks will tell them the same thing. I do my job twice (once from me telling them it is junk and time for relacement and the second time when you tell them the same thing) and maybe make an AC guy some cash for a new system.


  31. #31
    A.D. Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Client Not Happy

    and maybe make an AC guy some cash for a new system.
    TM: Yes, usually the same AC guy who tells the seller and/or client that "your inspector doesn't know what he is talking about" . . .

    I had a condo inspection a month or so back where the water heater appeared to have been "installed" under the kitchen cabinet by a blind passing motorist driving at high speed. I noted in the report that it was 9 years old. The idiot wrench-slinger who was summoned from his hog farm to assuage the situation told the client that the unit was new. I asked her to have him give me a call.

    You might just imagine what took place in that conversation . . .


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