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Thread: Utilities off

  1. #1
    Ryan Busch's Avatar
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    Default Utilities off

    Hello, I have been inspecting for 3 years now but new to this post. I have a question. I am sure its been discused here before. 50% of my inspections are vacant and or winterized. the utilities are back on for me but gas still shut off to h2o heater and furnace. I usually fire these up for
    hi and then shut them back off when done. Whats your take on this practice. Thanx I love this forum wish i found it a long time ago.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Ryan,

    How can you fire up a water heater or furnace if the gas is off? I'm confused.

    Personally, I will not inspect any homes that have been winterized. I don't de-winterize either and don't want the responsibility in doing so.

    I don't turn on water at the service meter or do I light pilots.

    If I show up and the house is winterized, I tell my client to contact the listing agent and ask that all utilities be on for inspection. I tell them this on the phone when I book the appt. but am always told yeah all the utilities are on but find out otherwise when I show up.

    I don't do any part of the inspection whatsoever, till all the utilities are on. I go ahead and collect my fees for my time and ask them to call me when the utilites are on.

    rick


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Welcome Ryan,

    I do pretty much as Rick does.

    Do not turn the gas on and light an appliance! I will add this so it will give you something to think about the next time you have the urge to light anything in a home: An Arizona home inspector was severely burned late last year lighting I belive a water heater. He is alive, but undergoing skin grafts and therapy out in Texas.

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

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    To be fair, I think it was his own house, and I'm not sure he was in the act of lighting it.

    However, I got burned pretty bad when I tried to light a water heater. That was the last time, and the first day of the new policy NOT to light them,


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    It has always been my policy not to light pilots on gas appliances. That is the responsibility of the seller.

    I once had a listing agent give me a hard time about not lighting an old gas furnace. It was at least 40 years old and there was no way I was going to light it. So I told him "I'll go across the street and you light it. Call me when the pilot light is on."

    I think I got the point across. He got the furnace guy to come out the next day and light it.


  6. #6
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    I know a lot of folks absolutely disagree on this but I turn every thing on.

    I ask three times to the buyer. A couple times to the buyers agent. At least a few times to the listing agent.

    ARE THE UTILITIES ON.

    If the answer is a resounding yes then I'll go and dewinterize.

    I always have. I do not rewinterize . I I did not dewinterize then I would not do half the inspections. There would be several inspectors that the buyer could call that would.

    I have never had a problem with it. I usually will Waite for the termite folks to get there to turn the water on in case of gushers.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    .
    I know a lot of folks absolutely disagree on this
    but I turn every thing on.
    .
    Including Me.
    .

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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    I don't turn on systems anymore. I never had a problem when I used to but at some point came to realize that it wasn't worth the risk. A component may 'look' OK until you turn it on and then ....
    Ryan, if 50% of your inspections are vacant/winterized are you actually doing HI on these or a 'Building Assessment Report' (BAR)?
    If doing a BAR, you should be able to manage not turning things on and still provide an informative report for your (commercial) client.
    Consider changing your ways for your own good. Turning things on will likely eventually bite you in the a**.
    If you have a rep of turning things on, Mr scumbag seller could make the case that 'he broke it', even when you didn't. It could end up being one of those horror stories HI talk about where you write a check just to get rid of it.
    Good luck

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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Stephens View Post
    .
    Including Me.
    .

    Billy

    You got a light??????

    The inspector world is running scared.

    I would like to say that I have never been afraid of anything in my life (true but I won't say it)

    Come on. Lets do this dance


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post

    Billy

    You got a light??????
    .
    As You wish.
    .
    * but you are already doing the lighting yourself.


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  11. #11
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Do you turn on the dish washer? Ever have one leak all over the kitchen?

    Same thing. I don't have a problem with turning on the water as long as some one is in the home at that time. In Calif its a big NO NO To mess with the gas...You can get in a big mess FINES and everything...Can't do that...
    The city of Cloverdale has a $ 500.00 Fine for turning on the water at the curb... Can't do that one...

    If i show up to do an inspection and the Water is off. I still do the inspection. If the Electricity is off I still do the inspection.
    And the fee is the same. if they want me to come back thats another Inspection fee.

    Best

    Ron


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    Default Re: Utilities off

    TED AND BILLY

    WHATS UP guys--billy again wher do u get those videos--does your e&o insurance, or would your e&o cover you if something went wrong with you turning on all that you say--mine says DONT DO IT. i'm a tough guy but that sounds like a liability. if my buyer agent says can you, i say ok, but make them sign a waver that the listing agent says ok and they take the liabilty. other wise you can do 100 of those and nothing happens, but that fearful 101st can take you to the poor house. i do some but i'm very cautious

    charlie


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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by CHARLIE VAN FLEET View Post
    TED AND BILLY

    WHATS UP guys--billy again wher do u get those videos--does your e&o insurance, or would your e&o cover you if something went wrong with you turning on all that you say--mine says DONT DO IT. i'm a tough guy but that sounds like a liability. if my buyer agent says can you, i say ok, but make them sign a waver that the listing agent says ok and they take the liabilty. other wise you can do 100 of those and nothing happens, but that fearful 101st can take you to the poor house. i do some but i'm very cautious

    charlie
    It would not be your E&O that would cover you, it would be your general liability coverage.


    Why not charge for activating systems if a home is winterized? Charge an additional $100 to activate the systems? I would not do it, but it is a thought for those of you that do.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by CHARLIE VAN FLEET View Post

    billy again wher do u get those videos--

    charlie
    .
    Charlie,

    I have a collection of animated Avatars and pictures I snagged off the web stored in a folder.

    There are many sites to download Animated Avatars ( check the properties to keep the file size under the upload restrictions on this site ) like Here Avatar downloads, free icons, free avatars for message boards, forums, blogs

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  15. #15
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    I won't turn on any utilities that are off. I'll still do the inspection but I'll explain that my ability to be complete with the utilities off will be limited. No reduction in fee.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by John Dirks Jr View Post
    I won't turn on any utilities that are off. I'll still do the inspection but I'll explain that my ability to be complete with the utilities off will be limited. No reduction in fee.
    Pretty much same here..... I've already scheduled my time and expect to collect the fee for doing the inspection. All the SOPs and contracts basically state to inspect what's there at the time of the inspection.

    I'm a bit more aggresive about asking on the phone beforehand if everything is on. Of course, I'm always told it is or will be. After that, not my problem.

    I also stronly encourage my client to recover the re-inspect fee from the bank or listing agent that promised everything would be on.

    In today's trying times I refuse to suffer financially because of lameness of others.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Not sure I undestand all this but everyone must do what they feel comfortable with.

    If the water heater isn't lit when the plumber gets there.....He lites it.

    If the HVAC folks get there and the heater is not lit.....He lites

    If the main breaker is not on when the electrician gets there.....He lites it

    If the water is off at the stree when the plumber gets there....he turns it on.

    So are you folks saying that when you get there and the breaker/switch/disconnect whatever is off at the AC condenser...........You do not turn/switch it on.

    If the thermostat is in the off position....you don't turn it to the heat position to check the heat out.

    If the dishwasher is not on when you get there.........you don't turn it on....after all there could be a serious leak underneath that you won't see until you turn it on.

    Auto light fireplace with a switch on the wall......................do you not hit the switch..................man, there could be a delay or something go wrong and the firebox fill with gas before it ignites..............BLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM MMMMMMMMM

    Like I said to each his own.

    If your water heater or home gas heater goes out say for what ever reason..............................Do you ever go in and lite the unit or do you spend a hundred bucks for the HVAC or plumber folks to come out and do so..

    Oh well. Certainly not trying to sway anyones thinking by any means. I feel comfotable with it and as I see, most don't.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Ted,

    In your examples, REPAIR people came to a preperty with tools and parts to perform repair or installation work in a single specific trade. In most cases you mentioned the tradesperson may also hold a license in that specific trade implying a depth of knowledge as well as experience in making repairs.

    As an HI, I do not have a truck full of parts and tools to fix every possible plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and appliance malfunction.

    My task is to inspect the home, not repair the home. Often utilities are turned off in an effort to save on bills. Occasionally, they are turned off because something is broken. As someone just walking on the property, I do not know the reason why they are off. I am not willing to take on the responsibility of potentially causing damage to the property.

    Do I lit my own pilots lights at home? Sure. I also perform electrical, plumbing, HVAC and applicance repair at home. BUT... I have access to tools and plan to make multiple trips to the store for parts and more tools. I am not doing repair work for pay, but rather to say pay.

    I have a $12 alarm I bought at the big box stores that I place in front of dishwashers during the test. Plastic box about 1.25"x3"x5". Uses a 9 volt battery. Has two metal protrusions from the bottom. When the puddle under the dishwasher reaches both leads, the alarm sounds. Did the dishwasher leak? Yes, but hopefully the alarm will alert me early in the leak so I can stop the dishwasher from causing excessive damage. I showed good faith to limit damage to the sellers property.
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Foreclosures have changed a number of issues. I believe the "Don't light it, don't turn it on" rules came from and are still applicable to a standard buyer-seller transaction when the home is inhabited and some things are OFF for a reason.

    A lot of foreclosure buyers don't have the extra cash laying around to pay for unexpected fees and charges that may be required to get everything up and running. Also, they may have a short time to get an inspection and decide to take or leave the house. Agents for mortgage holders can vary in their responsiveness to requests to have things turned on.

    Yes - Try to make sure to try to get across the point that all utilities are on and at least the pilot lights for water heaters, furnaces, and gas log fireplaces are on. I very seldom have everything on and running. I personally don't think it's anymore dangerous, to me, to light a gas water heater that looks in good condition on the outside and in the burner area and doesn't emit a gas stink THAN to climb up on a 2 story pitched roof

    One has to use a little common sense also. If it looks bad, smells bad, or feels bad, don't do it.

    Oh yeah, don't throw a temper tantrum, throw a brief case and papers across the room, grab everything up and burn rubber out of the driveway when you find out the utilities aren't ALL turned on. Yes - I understand that actually happened in this area by a guy who advertises himself as "The most experienced inspector in the area"

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Hi Bruce

    As I say I am certainly not trying to sways any ones opinion. The thread was about winterizing not about problematic issues of a disaster home with lots of issues. Is there a home I won't hit the main breaker or turn something on, sure. As far as the home being winterized it is a completely different story. The goodies were all working and the plumbing was functional etc, etc, before being winterized. The likelyhood of mass concerns is about nill.

    I inspected a home yesterday where the folks have been stealing electricity. No meter in the meter box and basically a throw switch sticking out of the meter box. No cover to protect anyone from anything. Would I have messed with anything at that point, of course not.

    Again this whole thread is based on a home where a company came in and winterized the home shutting everything down (which means it was all running and working before they performed this task). This is not about a home that everything was just shut off by a home owner or utility company because of issues with the home.

    Again I respect your vue point and I am not trying to change it or sway it. Just a winterized home where the goodies were shut down for winterizing. And then there is me that understands this and with caution turns everything back on.

    Just making a living and find no concern with this situation.


  21. #21
    Ken Bates's Avatar
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    On occasion I have turned things on after careful deliberation.

    Been lucky so far.

    will no longer push my luck.

    I was assured that everything was A-OK on todays 3 family. I predicted it would not be so. I was right.

    I tell my clients that I have lots of stories gleaned from Inspector bulletin boards (stories with bad outcomes)

    Continue messing with shut-downs and you will have to choose between the embarrassment of bagging groceries at the checkout line or having to comply with your McDonald's boss and asking, "Do you want cheese on your burger?"

    And this applies to states that allow limitations of liability on your contracts.

    Forclosures are as is and you will be the one to subsidize "deferred maintenance" on these disgusting dumps.


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Ted,

    I used to turn on the water valve at the service meter but after adding up the number of wet-vacs I have accumulated over the years due to something leaking I decided to quit doing so.

    The biggest problem is those laundry room washer faucets. You'd think you got it off, flip on the valve at the service meter and your washing the walls in the laundry room. I run down to the big box store and pick up another wet vac as I don't carrying one in my truck. Duh!

    I'm sure someone else has done it and if you haven't you will someday.

    Rick


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Bates View Post
    On occasion I have turned things on after careful deliberation.

    Been lucky so far.

    will no longer push my luck.

    I was assured that everything was A-OK on todays 3 family. I predicted it would not be so. I was right.

    I tell my clients that I have lots of stories gleaned from Inspector bulletin boards (stories with bad outcomes)

    Continue messing with shut-downs and you will have to choose between the embarrassment of bagging groceries at the checkout line or having to comply with your McDonald's boss and asking, "Do you want cheese on your burger?"

    And this applies to states that allow limitations of liability on your contracts.

    Forclosures are as is and you will be the one to subsidize "deferred maintenance" on these disgusting dumps.
    Can't say anything about the condition of foreclosures in your area, but here I've not run into a real disgusting dump. Close, mostly due to owner ignorance, DIY messes, and idiot builders. I've have had a number of real cream puffs that were clean, neat, and well taken care of. The owners had some pride when they had to leave.

    The "AS IS" is exactly why people are paying me to inspect the house (not multi-family). They want to have a good idea of what they might get stuck with. Most expect the clean up, fix-its, carpeting, and painting but it's a matter of how much of it and are there any apparent major problems like a $5000 heat pump, a $6000 roof, major electrical/plumbing issues or structural problems.

    Most of the buyers are young couples who have a chance to get a foot in the door because of deflated real estate prices. The prices have fallen down to where they should be for size, location, age, condition. All housing in this commuting suburb of Washington DC was horribly inflated up until the latter half of 2007.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    Ted,

    I used to turn on the water valve at the service meter but after adding up the number of wet-vacs I have accumulated over the years due to something leaking I decided to quit doing so.

    The biggest problem is those laundry room washer faucets. You'd think you got it off, flip on the valve at the service meter and your washing the walls in the laundry room. I run down to the big box store and pick up another wet vac as I don't carrying one in my truck. Duh!

    I'm sure someone else has done it and if you haven't you will someday.

    Rick
    Mine was the ice maker connection. The "Winterization" people moved the refrigerator out, disconnected the water line from the wall and left the wall valve open. and pushed the fridge back in place. Took a while to realize where the water was coming from.

    Oh! Oh! Speaking of water, this weekend I learned not to remove the toilet tank top, lean over the tank and flush the toilet. I love giving the client a great laugh!

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    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Stuart,

    Thats a great picture.

    I seem to get soaked while leaning over and turning on the tub faucets. Seems some prankster must be running around and opening the shower control valves just to get me.

    rick


  26. #26
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    Ted,

    I used to turn on the water valve at the service meter but after adding up the number of wet-vacs I have accumulated over the years due to something leaking I decided to quit doing so.

    The biggest problem is those laundry room washer faucets. You'd think you got it off, flip on the valve at the service meter and your washing the walls in the laundry room. I run down to the big box store and pick up another wet vac as I don't carrying one in my truck. Duh!

    I'm sure someone else has done it and if you haven't you will someday.

    Rick
    Been there done that. A little wet carpet I sucked up with a few towels I had in the truck. Like I said I always wait to turn the water on when the termite folks are there. They almsot always come in the very beginning of the inspection. I just call them on the cell and have them listen and then turn it on. I do check throughout the home.

    37 years since I sarted working in construction and decades since the first inspection and have never paid for anything. Full time inspecting for a dozen years or so (almost 4 1/2 here). Well, this is 2009 so a little longer on the total. Time is slipping away to quick. I am starting to scare myself in the mirror in the morning.


  27. #27
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post

    Time is slipping away ----.
    .
    I am starting to scare myself in the mirror in the morning.
    .
    .....
    .

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  28. #28
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Stephens View Post
    .
    .....
    .

    Come on Billy. I think I might have at least one or two wrinkles less than that My God man is he living or is that a dug up corps


  29. #29
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post

    Come on Billy. I think I might have at least one or two wrinkles less than that My God man is he living or is that a dug up corps
    .
    Love to chat with you Old timer ( I mean Ted ) ----

    But Gotta take the Wife's cat to Vet.
    .

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  30. #30
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    I use to turn on breakers to check outlets, not any more after one started smoking and sparking. I don't turn on breakers now, I list it as nonoperational.


  31. #31
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Quote Originally Posted by Inspector 3500 View Post
    I list it as nonoperational.

    I wouldn't list it as "nonoperational" as it might be "operational", it is, however in the "off" position and therefore the circuit and everything on it was "off".

    Calling something "nonoperational" may lead to trouble for you one day.

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  32. #32
    Ryan Busch's Avatar
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    My inspection this morning is bank owened. when this was booked 4 days ago i called listing realator to confirm all will be on. So as i figured water and gas was still off. i really thought long and hard about turning on water to house. the main valve in basement just asking me to. As i started other
    areas of HI I saw bursted supply lines. This house was winterized to late.
    Thankful i didnot turn anything on. I called listing agent to inform her long story short i will be going back to finish inspection with a $100 charge coming her way. I wonder if gas will be on this time?


  33. #33
    Ken McConnell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Utilities off

    Well I am pretty much they same as others on having utilities on before performing the home inspection. I do turn on the main shut off valve only but even then I am very careful do to past experiences of having water running down from an upstairs bathroom thru the dinning room ceiling. That one cost me about $3,000 in repairs that the listing agent said was my liability due to I was the one that turned on the water.

    Now I don't turn anything utilities on without a wavier signed by the seller or listing agent. In the 12 years of performing inspections I have had too many unexpected things happen that can cost you for a long time.

    So I think it is always the professional thing to do is make sure all utilities on before scheduling the inspection, if they are not on when you arrive, I then ask the client if they want me to work around and return or just reschedule. And yes I do charge for the time I was there and to return.

    Safety is always the best policy for you, the client and everyone else involved.
    Ken
    Ohio


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