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  1. #1
    Brian E Kelly's Avatar
    Brian E Kelly Guest

    Cool I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    I just got "the call" from a past upset customer. She just had an HVAC company service her furnace and they found a cracked heat exchanger. She wanted me to pay for a new furnace.
    I had stated to her that I was not responsiable for this as I had stated in the report that the furnace was existing beyond it's normal life span, flame roll out wast noted and that she should have a qualified HVAC contractor service the furnace.
    She told me that I was hired to inspect this and I missed it. I then told her that I am a generalist and not a HVAC technician. I refered her bact to my report again mentioning the report ststed she should have HVAC tech check out furnacce. But that went on deaf ears. She told me that she was calling her realtor and going to see what to do next. Her realtor was a new sales person so this should be good.
    I know that I did my job correctly and she has no leg to stand on but it is going to be interesting as this realtor is one of my best refering customer.
    Oh well.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    You might want to add something like this to your report if you do not have it already. Helps out with those types of complaints.

    Full evaluation of the integrity of a heater exchanger (if present) requires dismantling of the furnace which requires an HVAC license (does here in Texas) and is beyond the scope of this inspection.

    rick


  3. #3
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    Default Re: I finally got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian E Kelly View Post
    I had stated in the report that the furnace was existing beyond it's normal life span,
    In the future, when you say something like that, you should go ahead and tell them to *replace it* ... you've already told them it was beyond it's normal life, and what that means is 'it is living on borrowed time', so tell them that and add 'replace it'.

    That would have solved *your* problem.

    Instead, all you did was tell her

    that she should have a qualified HVAC contractor service the furnace.
    There is a big difference between "beyond it's normal life span" and something which simply needs "service".

    I suspect that between those two is where your phone call came in 'Hey, you said I needed to service it, so I am now servicing it, and they are telling me to replace it.'

    Selective reading and memory on their part, caused by your two totally different calls 'it's shot' and 'service it'.

    If it's shot, don't bother servicing it, replace it.

    Your wording has gotten you into a sticky wicket.

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

  4. #4
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    I have had that call before, except it was supposedly 4 cracked heat exchangers out of 5 condos. Not good. If you are licensed and you have standards of practice, I am sure there is verbage in there about what a visual inspection is. I would go out there and show her how you inspected it and let her see for her self how it most times would not be possible to see a cracked exchanger. Of course there are signs that might have led you to believe there was a crack if there really is one and it is significant enough to show signs.

    And then there is the fact that the HVAC guy might be trying to sell a system, not as uncommon as you might think. If she still thinks you should pay for it, tell her to call the state board and see what they tell her. They will likely tell her that a heat exchanger cannot be fully inspected without disassembly.

    If it weren't for lawyers, we would never need them.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    If and when I find a unit with a standing pilot light, I tell my clients that it is old and needs replacing as it will most likely have cracks in the heat exchanger. Might be overkill, but I have yet to be proven wrong or had anyone get really upset with me. If I recall, standing pilot lights went out of production in the early 1990's.

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

  6. #6
    Scott Dana's Avatar
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    I think I would have handled it the same way. You noticed there was a possible issue and called it out for the expert to come check it out.

    Beyond that, as the others have stated, it's a visual inspection and the heat exchanger is not fully visible. If your signed contract says something about the inspection only being a visible one, than I would feel safe in my position.


  7. #7
    Joe Griffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Hi Brian, I have never had a call about Heat Exchangers in old furnaces and here's why: Feel free to use it in your reports.


    This furnace is antiquated and poses carbon monoxide hazards due to it's age, and overall condition as viewed from the exterior of the unit.
    It is strongly recommended that that this furnace be replaced, or at the very least, an invasive inspection including (but not limited) to the heat exchanger be undertaken to determine the integrity of any and all interior components, PRIOR TO CLOSING. This is beyond the scope of the home inspection.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Hello Brian,

    It may not be right, but the fact is... this person can cause you a lot of heartache and money.

    In my opinion, the best thing you can do is to head this off before it progresses. I would first copy and paste the standards of practice under which you operate and provide the section stating that this is the inspector "bible" that you are legally bound to operate under. Then, provide the section and verse where your SOP states you are providing an inspection based on items that are visible and accessible, which includes the heat exchanger.

    This statement is from the TREC (Texas Real Estate Commission) Standards of Practice RULE 535.229, item #4:
    (t) Heating systems. The inspector shall:
    (4) in gas units, inspect the burner, and report as in need of repair deficiencies in the burner compartment, type, condition, draft and termination of the vent pipe, or proximity to combustibles; the lack of combustion and draft air or inappropriate location, or the lack of forced air in the burner compartment (full evaluation of the integrity of a heat exchanger requires dismantling of the furnace and is beyond the scope of a visual inspection);

    I would bet that your state has similar verbage somewhere in there. Just look it up and provide it to the client and this will usually satisify their thoughts that your actions were of the "error or omission" type.

    Rich



  9. #9
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Brian,

    I have meet Realtors who have said"I have used this Guy past 20-30 years because he paid for some thing back then.

    I'm not saying you missed something or did any thing wrong.

    It's a business decision. Depending on the age the heat exchanger may be under warranty.

    If it had a standing Pilot Light I'd put it's age is about 1985 or before.

    Heating and Air Conditioning for Denver by Sheridan Mechanical Services

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: I finally got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Dana View Post
    You noticed there was a possible issue and called it out for the expert to come check it out.
    Scott,

    Your wording is only slightly, if any, better than Brian's wording.

    You, and Brian, reported a "serviceable defect", and stated that it be (Brian) "serviced" or (you) "check it out", HOWEVER, *neither* of those are referring to anything other than your "serviceable defect", certainly not relating to anything remotely suggesting that the heat exchanger be checked for cracks.

    Others here have provided good wording and guidance on how this issue should be addressed.

    This is one of those hard lessons learned in life and business which makes one better at inspecting and better at report writing.

    At least is was not a roof which was reported as being 'past the end of its life' and then 'found a leak here, fix it'. THAT would have been a real hard lesson learned.

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

  11. #11
    Tom Munds's Avatar
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    Default Re: I finally got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    In the future, when you say something like that, you should go ahead and tell them to *replace it* ... you've already told them it was beyond it's normal life, and what that means is 'it is living on borrowed time', so tell them that and add 'replace it'.

    That would have solved *your* problem.

    Instead, all you did was tell her



    There is a big difference between "beyond it's normal life span" and something which simply needs "service".

    I suspect that between those two is where your phone call came in 'Hey, you said I needed to service it, so I am now servicing it, and they are telling me to replace it.'

    Selective reading and memory on their part, caused by your two totally different calls 'it's shot' and 'service it'.

    If it's shot, don't bother servicing it, replace it.

    Your wording has gotten you into a sticky wicket.
    aren't in some associations SOP we are not to tell the client in that type of verbage? I was told, "past it'd useful life" and to have it evaluated by a licenced or qualified contractor would be correct.Any suggestions?


  12. #12
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Brian,

    What's the problem? Obviously she paid attention to the part of the report that said servicing was necessary on an old furnace. Just because she waited until she owned it is not your fault. The agent should have been stepping up to the plate on this one prior to settlement. It's not your job to hand hold after the inspection.

    Basically you tell her that you're very sorry but you gave information that indicated problems and need for repair and there's not much else you can do for her. BTW, for inspecting heat exchangers, the American Gas Association only recognizes pulling the exchanger out of the furnace.

    If anything, these situations will make you re-evaluate the info that you're giving the client. Sometimes I come away thinking that I ran an issue into the ground. But I'd rather have that than have the client think that a condition is not too important and can wait till after closing. I use to have clients call me after closing when they found out how much a chimney repair can cost. Now I tend to put chimney problems towards the front of the "list", ahead of gas leaks, overfusing etc. The idea being, what are the worst case repairs going to cost. This approach has great reduced nasty call backs.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  13. #13
    Richard Rushing's Avatar
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Tom,

    To state that it is past it's useful life then tell them to have it evaluated is just asking someone else to tell the client the bad news.

    The 'past it's useful life' is reason enough to state the unit is in need of replacement whether it's working or not. If it's past it's life, you can bet that you are going to get a call REAL SOON asking why in the heck you didn't tell them they needed a new one. In stead, you relied on someone else to tell them what you already knew... they need a new one.

    rr


  14. #14
    Tom Munds's Avatar
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    Question Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rushing View Post
    Tom,

    To state that it is past it's useful life then tell them to have it evaluated is just asking someone else to tell the client the bad news.

    The 'past it's useful life' is reason enough to state the unit is in need of replacement whether it's working or not. If it's past it's life, you can bet that you are going to get a call REAL SOON asking why in the heck you didn't tell them they needed a new one. In stead, you relied on someone else to tell them what you already knew... they need a new one.

    rr
    I guess I am a little confused. Under the ASHI SOP I interpreted that sec.13.2 A 2 and 6 meant that I shouldn't tell them to replace it but that it to give it a condition of Poor, marginal or satisfactory. Then it would be up to them to determine if they needed to replace it. I call it the deferred list in a summary page and identify that it will need to be budgeted. Thoughts?


  15. #15
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Munds View Post
    I guess I am a little confused. Under the ASHI SOP I interpreted that sec.13.2 A 2 and 6 meant that I shouldn't tell them to replace it but that it to give it a condition of Poor, marginal or satisfactory. Then it would be up to them to determine if they needed to replace it. I call it the deferred list in a summary page and identify that it will need to be budgeted. Thoughts?
    From the ASHI SOP:

    13.2 General exclusions:
    A. Inspectors are NOT required to determine:

    1. conditions of systems or components that
    are not readily accessible.
    2. remaining life expectancy of any system or
    component.
    3. strength, adequacy, effectiveness, or
    efficiency of any system or component.
    4. the causes of any condition or deficiency.
    5. methods, materials, or costs of corrections.
    6. future conditions including but not limited to
    failure of systems and components.


    It says nothing about reporting, poor, marginal or satisfactory.

    Bottom line is if the unit is old and you think it needs replacing, you need to say that it needs replacing. What is the worst that could happen? You as a home inspector should be able to tell if the unit is toast and at the end of its life. Don't be passive by saying that it needs to be evaluated or budgeted for future replacement. This is how inspectors get into trouble.

    Last edited by Scott Patterson; 11-01-2007 at 04:11 PM.
    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  16. #16
    Tom Munds's Avatar
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    From the ASHI SOP:

    13.2 General exclusions:
    A. Inspectors are NOT required to determine:
    1. conditions of systems or components that
    are not readily accessible.
    2. remaining life expectancy of any system or
    component.
    3. strength, adequacy, effectiveness, or
    efficiency of any system or component.
    4. the causes of any condition or deficiency.
    5. methods, materials, or costs of corrections.
    6. future conditions including but not limited to
    failure of systems and components.

    It says nothing about reporting, poor, marginal or satisfactory.

    Bottom line is if the unit is old and you think it needs replacing, you need to say that it needs replacing. What is the worst that could happen? You as a home inspector should be able to tell if the unit is toast and at the end of its life. Don't be passive by saying that it needs to be evaluated or budgeted for future replacement. This is how inspectors get into trouble.
    Thankk you Scott! I will! I am not much of a guy that likes to pussy-foot around anyway so It is way better for me to call it exactly as I see it. This whole "be careful how you say it" thing is kind of dificult for me. I am glad I have this forum in which to be educated and thank you for taking time to give me a response( and keep me out of trouble!)


  17. #17
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    It doesn't matter how you word something.... somebody will try and hold you responsible. If you grab a 1000 people at random (several year's worth of clients), you're going to grab a nut or two. The OP basically did what he was supposed to and won't be in any trouble. I agree about the business decision thing... I've paid for stuff just to apease someone knowing full well I didn't do anything wrong.

    These calls often take the following tone from the client.... "Oh no, I loved your inspection and thought you did a fantastic job. It's just that this has to be somebody's fault" - Usually from an attorney.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: I finally got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    It doesn't matter how you word something....
    Oh, but it does matter. It matters greatly on how you get out of ...

    somebody will try and hold you responsible. If you grab a 1000 people at random (several year's worth of clients), you're going to grab a nut or two.
    ... those nut case calls. Especially when their attorney calls (writes a letter).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    www.AskCodeMan.com

  19. #19
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    Default Re: I finally got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Oh, but it does matter. It matters greatly on how you get out of ...



    ... those nut case calls. Especially when their attorney calls (writes a letter).

    Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.... You're twisting around what I said.... In the context that I wrote that it means REGARDLESS of how you write something somebody will always try to hold you accountable.... I didn't say how you write it isn't important.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: I finally got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.... You're twisting around what I said....
    Not twisting it. You said it did not matter and I said it did.

    In the context that I wrote that it means REGARDLESS of how you write something somebody will always try to hold you accountable.... I didn't say how you write it isn't important.
    All I can say is I did home inspections for 16 years and never had anyone try to hold me accountable for things beyond my control and my WRITTEN report.

    And, look who is taking it out of context - go back and re-read my last post, including my quotes of yours between what I wrote, the "context" is what I wrote in relation to what I quoted you as having written - and in that "context" you will see what I was saying.

    Make sure you don't miss this part and your quote between them:

    It matters greatly on how you get out of ...


    Quote:

    somebody will try and hold you responsible. If you grab a 1000 people at random (several year's worth of clients), you're going to grab a nut or two.


    ... those nut case calls.

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

  21. #21
    Fred Herndon's Avatar
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    Cool Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Brian,
    If you are even slighty suspicous of the HE, call for "thorough evaluation of the heating system by a licensed HVAC contractor with particular attention to the heat exchanger". If you simply call for service it does not have the immediacy to really get their attention. Then you have to field calls like this.
    Meanwhile, start mending fences with the client and realtor. Even if you could not have found it, sometimes offering to split the cost will go a long ways. Facing a problem and dealing with it fairly generates referrals down the road. In this slow market you will need all the customer referrals you can get. Right now that is about 50% of my business.


  22. #22
    Brian E Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    What I did learn from all the postings, is that I should have stated in bold type have HVAC tech check PRIOR TO CLOSING. I do not necessarily see the pay back of splitting the cost of a new furnace as I did state "the furnace was existing beyond normal life span." This alone should show any potential buyer that the furnace will have to be replaced in the very near future. As it is from now on I will be putting in my report when there is at all a slight risk the furnace might be shot that "Have a qualified HVAC tech. service PRIOR TO CLOSING"
    Thanks for all the responses and different points of view.


  23. #23
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    Default Re: I finally got "the call" !!!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian E Kelly View Post
    What I did learn from all the postings, is that I should have stated in bold type have HVAC tech check PRIOR TO CLOSING.

    As it is from now on I will be putting in my report when there is at all a slight risk the furnace might be shot that "Have a qualified HVAC tech. service PRIOR TO CLOSING"
    Brian,

    No, you missed what was said ...

    Recommending an HVAC tech to "check" or "service" *WILL NOT* cover your butt.

    Go back through and re-read the posts and key in on the term "heat exchanger" and what was stated about specifying "heat exchanger" in them.

    An HVAC "check" or "service" *does not include* dismantling to 'inspect/check the heat exchanger'.

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

  24. #24
    Chad Fabry's Avatar
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    the furnace was existing beyond normal life span.
    It's not enough. The phrase actually endorses the furnace as being a funcional, but old unit.

    I'm sorry Brian, but that line doesn't let you off the hook. Combine the weak verbiage and the fact that you are an HVAC specialist and have made your living selling, installing and repairing furnaces and other heating equipment and it adds up to a loss in court or arbitration.

    I'd offer half before a judge tells you to pay the whole.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    Brian,

    I hope that you're not giving in on this one. It's widely regarded as the home inspector's responsibility to specify course of action, which is correct, have HVAC tech evaluate. It's also widely held that the inspector should specify what the HVAC tech is to do - WRONG!

    How do you know what the tech saw or what he did to make his evaluation. Is he pulling a fast one, did he pull the blower to see the heat exchanger?

    I never write that a furnace must be replaced - ever. Regardless of the conditions that I note, I recommend evaluation by HVAC and let the tech do his job and decide course of action. Now if the client ignores my advice that's fine. If they wait till they own the home, that's fine too. What do I care if the condition is repaired? I was not hired to hand hold the client after the inspection and I certainly was not hired to involve myself with the R.E. transaction by telling the client what to have done prior to closing.

    Last edited by Eric Barker; 11-12-2007 at 04:40 PM. Reason: typo correction
    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  26. #26
    Brian E Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: I finnaly got "the call" !!!!!!

    For the record I was never a HVAC repair man and or a installer. I only sold and designed HVAC systems and ran a service department for a plumbing and HVAC company for many years. I have never inspected HVAC equipment or serviced (not even my own system). My quote of have serviced prior to the closing will only be used when the existing equipment is older than 10 years for a mobile home furnace, as the manufacturers only warranty the heat exchangers for 7 to 10 years. Or if there is a sure sign of premature failure of any kind.
    And around here a HVAC service check DOES include a qualified HVAC tech checking the condition of the heat exchanger and the safety controls of the furnace. But that might be regional.
    No question that my verbiage might have been a little weak and I will be changing that but I have asked over 20 people(homeowners) that know nothing about the HVAC trade if someone stated what I did in my report what does it mean to them. And all but 2 have come to the same conclusion that the furnace should have been checked by a HVAC tech. The people I asked did not know that I was in the HVAC trade, so that could not sway their opinion. Any way thanks for the input.


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