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  1. #1
    Dan Malin's Avatar
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    Default First Post

    I am a new member to Inspection News. I've been licensed and Incorporated in IL. for the past 5.5 yrs. I have been working too many hours (as a Supt.) up until recently, to get the business off the ground. So, just starting to get things together.
    I have a couple of questions,

    1 - When I took my license class the instructor made it very clear to stay away from photos. He said in case of legal action, a picture may contain a defect not mentioned in the report. So, to CYA, no photos.
    I do not want to be lacking in my reports however, any thoughts?

    2 - IL. does not require insurance, but, I want to protect myself and my family. The thing is I am not sure how much I need. I will be starting out on a part time basis and hopefully building up to full time and quitting my construction job. Also any suggestions for insureance companies would be appreciated

    Thanks in advance,
    Dan Malin

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: First Post

    Welcome Dan.

    If certain pictures can be helpful in the description of a problem, I think they should be included. I use pictures in my reports and most inspectors these days do.

    The best CYA is do a thorough job. Spend as much time as it takes to do it. If you're doing your job right, pictures should not hurt you.

    I disagree with your instructor for telling you not to use pictures.


  3. #3
    Dan Malin's Avatar
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    John,

    Thanks, for the input. I don't want to be behind he curve. I thought they would add to the report as well. I just didn't want to open a can of worms. I thought most software enabled pictures into the reports.

    Thanks again,
    Dan


  4. #4
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    Default Re: First Post

    Take alot of pics. Every side of the house. the roof, everything. When you get back to your computer you will be able to view areas of the home and see things you may have missed during the inspection.
    They don't all have to go into the report, but as far as I have seen. The customer understands the report much better and appreciates the time and effort.
    My report looks like a comic book, but generally not as funny


  5. #5
    Dan Malin's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Post

    Thanks for the info. Any thoughts on the insurance coverage needed?


  6. #6
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    Default Re: First Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Malin View Post
    Thanks for the info. Any thoughts on the insurance coverage needed?

    Yeah, all you can afford!

    rick


  7. #7
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    Default Re: First Post

    Hi Dan, did you take the class at Oakton with the big shot from Oak Park? He also hammered away at not taking pictures. On the one hand there is some validity to that theory, on the other hand it's nonsense. Take pictures and include them in the report. Dealing with pictures takes extra time but you have to do it. Clients don't understand a lot of stuff without seeing it. I think many of us take many more pictures than we include in the report. I might take 6 for the AC or furnaces but only put the 2 most important ones in the report.
    Get incorporated, S Corp or LLC. Guys are split on which is better or worse. Talk to an attorney about your particular situation. In IL the renewal cost for an LLC is much higher than an S Corp.
    You can PM or call me if you want.
    Markus

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    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  8. #8
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    Default Re: First Post

    Yeah, going LLC is a good suggestion.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: First Post

    Thanks for the help! I can see this is a good resource to have. I look forward to checking back.

    Dan


  10. #10
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    Default Re: First Post

    Mentored under a fella who was the state investigator for the licensing board. He loved when there were photos in the report. He says he almost always found additional issues in the photos that were not reported. He recommended against photos in the report for that reason.

    If you are including photos in the report, crop the photo as much as possible to only include the specific defect.

    For instance, you see a faulty wiring condition inside the electrical panel. I have a photo of the wall where the panel lives for reference. I have photos of the door open, the dead front cover off, the main feed, the top and bottom of the panel showing knockouts, bushings, etc, and then I have closeup shots of specific defects. The close up shots only show the defect and hopefully nothing else. The other photos are my "notes". The photo in the report hopefully only contains the 1 defect and there is nothing else lurking in the background I overlooked.

    Wide angle photos from across the room are the ones that contain mulitple issues and have the potential for getting you into trouble.

    Clients love photos. Hard for the seller to argue the problem does not exist when there is a photo. Easier for the buyer and seller to understand the problem and its location if they can see a photo.

    Learn to take close up photos during the inspection to reduce the time you are cropping and edting photos during report writing. I take between 100-150 photos for most inspections. 20-30 make it into the report.

    Which photo is a better representation of the problem? The first picture shows a wide angle photo. There is warping of the siding. The porch roof is not level, the power mast is in direct contact with the metal carport roof, the cable tv feed is dragging across the roof, there is a broken shingle, the flashing is suspect, paint is worn, etc. I would rather have 6 specific photos each showing 1 issue rather than 1 photo with lots of arrows pointing out multiple issues. I could easily overlook some additional issue in the wide angle photo.

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  11. #11
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    Bruce, great info. Much appreciated!

    Thanks to all you guys that have responded. Very comforting to no I am getting to a business with such a brotherhood.

    Thanks again,
    Dan


  12. #12
    Vincent Haller Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Malin View Post
    I am a new member to Inspection News. I've been licensed and Incorporated in IL. for the past 5.5 yrs. I have been working too many hours (as a Supt.) up until recently, to get the business off the ground. So, just starting to get things together.
    I have a couple of questions,

    1 - When I took my license class the instructor made it very clear to stay away from photos. He said in case of legal action, a picture may contain a defect not mentioned in the report. So, to CYA, no photos.
    I do not want to be lacking in my reports however, any thoughts?

    2 - IL. does not require insurance, but, I want to protect myself and my family. The thing is I am not sure how much I need. I will be starting out on a part time basis and hopefully building up to full time and quitting my construction job. Also any suggestions for insureance companies would be appreciated

    Thanks in advance,
    Dan Malin
    Dan:

    Very good question. I have 40 years in this business and a law degree because I got burnt a couple of times and swore it would never happen again. I post legal education for inspectors from time to time. OK, lets go through your questions:

    1. Submit photos to your client. Makes for a nice report. Take many, many photos. Helps you remember when doing the report. BUT, only send your client those photos that agree with your report. Keep all other photos in your personal file for reference. Photos are worth a thousand words in court but can give the wrong impression. YOU MUST CONTROL THE PHOTOS.

    2. Most states do not require insurance but likely your client will. Having insurance is a plus in your favor in presentations to agents and clients. You should carry what is called E & O insurance (errors and ommisions). The usual minimum most client require is one million dollars. Part time, you do not need this amount. Just advertise you are insured and carry $250K - much cheaper and your clients only have to know you are insured.

    For instance, you may purchase this insurance from St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co. for well less than $100 a month. You will be fully insured and you can always raise the limits as you grow.

    You might want to contact "Michael J. Hall & Company", located in the State of Washington. They provide financing - no questions asked. Ask for Cari Frederiskson. Their phone number is 360-626-2005. They can place you with one of many companies and will finance you for really cheap rates.

    Hope the info helps,

    Vince


  13. #13
    Vincent Haller Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Keller View Post
    Get incorporated, S Corp or LLC. Guys are split on which is better or worse. Talk to an attorney about your particular situation. In IL the renewal cost for an LLC is much higher than an S Corp.
    Markus
    Markus:

    Your points are well taken as to incorporating. A good accountant will likely provide better information than an attorney (I have a law degree).

    Generally, the default business which most people start out with is a Partnership. This usually involves a Husband and Wife as partners. Under the law, each is a general partner and totally/personally liable. Not a good way to go but the cheapest. There is no paperwork involved. Just get a business license and you are AUTOMATICALLY a partnership.

    A "C" corp. has the advantage of deferring personal liability (unlike a partnership) but there is a bunch of paperwork and in some states a bunch on money involved - see your accountant.

    An LLC is nice and you can go both ways. That is, you can operate as a proprietorship or operate as a corporation (limited liability).

    There are other means such as an LLP. If you have no employees, you might want to look into an LLC.

    The bottom line is to check with your accountant or attorney (should have an undergaduate accounting degree or dump the attorney) and tell them your particular situation.

    Vince


  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Ramsey View Post
    Mentored under a fella who was the state investigator for the licensing board. He loved when there were photos in the report. He says he almost always found additional issues in the photos that were not reported. He recommended against photos in the report for that reason.

    If you are including photos in the report, crop the photo as much as possible to only include the specific defect.

    For instance, you see a faulty wiring condition inside the electrical panel. I have a photo of the wall where the panel lives for reference. I have photos of the door open, the dead front cover off, the main feed, the top and bottom of the panel showing knockouts, bushings, etc, and then I have closeup shots of specific defects. The close up shots only show the defect and hopefully nothing else. The other photos are my "notes". The photo in the report hopefully only contains the 1 defect and there is nothing else lurking in the background I overlooked.

    Wide angle photos from across the room are the ones that contain mulitple issues and have the potential for getting you into trouble.

    Clients love photos. Hard for the seller to argue the problem does not exist when there is a photo. Easier for the buyer and seller to understand the problem and its location if they can see a photo.

    Learn to take close up photos during the inspection to reduce the time you are cropping and edting photos during report writing. I take between 100-150 photos for most inspections. 20-30 make it into the report.

    Which photo is a better representation of the problem? The first picture shows a wide angle photo. There is warping of the siding. The porch roof is not level, the power mast is in direct contact with the metal carport roof, the cable tv feed is dragging across the roof, there is a broken shingle, the flashing is suspect, paint is worn, etc. I would rather have 6 specific photos each showing 1 issue rather than 1 photo with lots of arrows pointing out multiple issues. I could easily overlook some additional issue in the wide angle photo.
    On a house like that I tell the buyer, the seller, the agent and the broker that it is a shack, ready to burn down or leak in a rain. I am not going to get up on that roof and I sure in heck are not crawling underneath such a structure. It should depend on how desperate is the buyer. The Banks might not go along with it, but there is Fannie Mae.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: First Post

    Best practice is to take no pictures but draw diagrams.
    Also use a checklist with tons of disclaimers and say nothing to anybody at the inspection so that it can not be used against you.

    Make sure to have tons of dis claimers on every issue .
    Defer all items in reports to experts.
    If water flow is low do to a blocked aerator screen on the faucet be sure to make it a serious problem that requires a Licensed and certified Plumber inspect and make any repairs needed to examine and repair.

    Always talk in double speak and add lots of codes.

    When clients call make sure to give them your Lawyers number and immediately hang up the phone before they trip you up.

    Be sure to do exactly what the Agents request so as to not get them mad at you and you will find the referrals rolling in for a high priced career in the field of Inspection.$100,000 a year is practically guaranteed so just quit that secure construction job right now and welcome aboard.


  16. #16
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    Bob....that is so very creative....and sadly indicative of many who are entering this Profession...and even more sadly indicative of some who have remained.

    BTW, I have been seeing the number of photos that I take increase from approx. 130 to 160 up to now taking between 200 and 320 photos for each inspection (most of them high quality, high resolution so I can zoom in should I need to). I don't usually find a need to include them in my report as I use easy to understand english for my clients and describe each condition thoroughly. But I will offer that my clients may request a photo of a given condition should they not understand what I was describing. Generally the requests will be regarding areas where I could not take the Client into (attic, crawlspace, roof, etc.). Sometimes I will see something that is an immediate hazard and will emphasize it in the Report with a photo to sink it home, along with notifying the Seller right away.

    I am always referring to my photos when I return to the office to do the Report...absolutely invaluable.

    Welcome to IN.


  17. #17
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    Bob,

    If you are for real, you scare me!

    If you are giving me a hard time, I appreciate the help!!!

    It is good to know that most of the people out there on I.N. have good intentions to help one another out. Unfortunaltely, you would not fall into that catagory.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: First Post

    I think photos belong in the report, especially to document adverse conditions.
    I do agree that some photos can give an indication on something that is missed, or does not agree with the written report. I saw a lot of that when I verified reports for ASHI.

    However, do we all not try to NOT leave stuff out, and write an accurate report?

    I think to not include photos in a report just because there might be something in them to trip you up is a very good reason to not get into this business. If you are so concerned that you are going to miss something, or report something wrong, then you are in the wrong line of work. You need to practice writing reports until you are comfortable with your skills, and confident enough to write an accurate report.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: First Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Malin View Post
    Bob,

    If you are for real, you scare me!

    If you are giving me a hard time, I appreciate the help!!!

    It is good to know that most of the people out there on I.N. have good intentions to help one another out. Unfortunaltely, you would not fall into that catagory.
    Dan the fact you are not sure "scares me"
    Feel free to call me anytime.

    "Now do I fit"?


  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philip View Post
    On a house like that I tell the buyer, the seller, the agent and the broker that it is a shack, ready to burn down or leak in a rain. I am not going to get up on that roof and I sure in heck are not crawling underneath such a structure. It should depend on how desperate is the buyer. The Banks might not go along with it, but there is Fannie Mae.
    Flipper bought this foreclosure. Put in $26K: New bath, kitchen, interior and exterior doors, paint, roof, fence, new siding, and screen porch. Refinished hardwood floors, trimmed plants and sold 45 days later for $50 over costs.

    Same flipper is trying to buy the house across the street visible in the first pic and do it all over again.

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell Toelle View Post
    Bob....that is so very creative....and sadly indicative of many who are entering this Profession...and even more sadly indicative of some who have remained.

    BTW, I have been seeing the number of photos that I take increase from approx. 130 to 160 up to now taking between 200 and 320 photos for each inspection (most of them high quality, high resolution so I can zoom in should I need to). I don't usually find a need to include them in my report as I use easy to understand english for my clients and describe each condition thoroughly. But I will offer that my clients may request a photo of a given condition should they not understand what I was describing. Generally the requests will be regarding areas where I could not take the Client into (attic, crawlspace, roof, etc.). Sometimes I will see something that is an immediate hazard and will emphasize it in the Report with a photo to sink it home, along with notifying the Seller right away.

    I am always referring to my photos when I return to the office to do the Report...absolutely invaluable.

    Welcome to IN.
    Same here as I take around 170 and do a HD video of the crime scene to freeze frame if needed.

    I have observed many guys post to take few shots and make them close up as if we are wasting camera film or something

    I do a good through job and am proud of it so if I am missing issues in pictures then I am totally justified to take HD high res pics in order to catch what I missed at home.Duh!

    Better I catch missed issues in pictures than have the client catch them 1 month after moving in.

    The idea is to do a good job rather than hide my stupidity,but what do I know?

    Guess I should just pull out my Tiff and make cool noises to show off my tools for "Bells and whistles" (isn't that what it is about)?

    For the dense.....yes I was being sarcastic.

    Last edited by Bob Elliott; 09-03-2010 at 04:55 PM.

  22. #22
    Vincent Haller Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Post

    [quote=Jack Feldmann;143751]I think photos belong in the report, especially to document adverse conditions.

    I do agree that some photos can give an indication on something that is missed, or does not agree with the written report. I saw a lot of that when I verified reports for ASHI.

    Jack:
    Your points are well taken. I think there is a nice blend that comes with experience. Some photos may blow a marginally safe condition way out of proportion leading to unwarranted buyer-seller adversity. Two different photo angles on the same condition will reveal two "conditions" where the condition is marginal.

    On the other hand, if a photo reviewed during the report writing reveals a possible deficiency not recorded in the field, the inspector must go out and re-check for verification. This costs time/money but also acts as a learning tool. The inspector that does not verify the photo should not be in this business.

    Thanks for the post.


  23. #23
    Vincent Haller Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Elliott View Post
    Same here as I take around 170 and do a HD video of the crime scene to freeze frame if needed.

    For the dense.....yes I was being sarcastic.
    Bob: You sarcastically make more sense than you realize. Thanks for the post. In the real world, a suit can involve hundreds of photos taken by litigants and third parties in complicated cases.

    I have come upon some apartment buildings in deplorable condition where I have taken 50+ photos because others may not believe what is in my report (a pic is worth a thousand words). Of course, this is not the norm and is a commercial setting.

    It is of my opinion where in doubt, take a pic and file it for possible use in defense of your inspection report whether simply questioned or even sued. Such may seem superfluous until one's Ass is on the line by third party litigatants. Overkill is a judgment call that should be left to each inspector depending on his/her experience and the circumstances encountered. Just common sense Duh. Thanks again.


  24. #24
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    Default Re: First Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Vincent Haller Smith View Post
    Bob: You sarcastically make more sense than you realize. Thanks for the post. In the real world, a suit can involve hundreds of photos taken by litigants and third parties in complicated cases.

    I have come upon some apartment buildings in deplorable condition where I have taken 50+ photos because others may not believe what is in my report (a pic is worth a thousand words). Of course, this is not the norm and is a commercial setting.

    It is of my opinion where in doubt, take a pic and file it for possible use in defense of your inspection report whether simply questioned or even sued. Such may seem superfluous until one's Ass is on the line by third party litigatants. Overkill is a judgment call that should be left to each inspector depending on his/her experience and the circumstances encountered. Just common sense Duh. Thanks again.
    On the real side I make note of all material items and take a shot of all of them.
    Looking through the shots and commenting on materials forces me to concentrate and remember everything I saw.
    Never have taken a single note with pen or pencil and have no need to.

    Remember that you can always add broad shots of rooms and use only those if in a hurry so think of the extras as sub folders.

    It is surprising how much you miss while at an inspection due to distraction and simply clicking on a tablet or checking a box will never allow you to revisit the site unless you physically go back.

    Take as many pics and videos as you can.


  25. #25
    Vincent Haller Smith's Avatar
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    War Stories - No photos - No back up verification:

    When I first started in the inspectin business more years ago than I care to remember, I "inspected" the homeowner's electrical service and wiring. The service was fusestat and fuse protected with Knob and tube wiring. I reported same to my boss and client. I and my boss got sued.

    The homeowner presented pics in court showing a 100 amp breaker protected box with Romex wiring. I never took pictures. This cost my boss over 10K in legal fees. To this day, I know I was right. Seems the homeowner called in an electrician for some reason and revamped the entire visible electrical system apparently a day or two after my inspection. I still don't know for sure.

    Later in my career, I did commercial inspections for insurance companies. In this particular case, the risk was a junkyard. The distance to the nearest hydrant was 50', I measured it exactly. This time, I took a damn picture showing the hydrant with perspective to the building in question. I got sued again.

    As it turned out, there was no water supply in this area. The junkyard picked up a hydrant and properly secured it on their side of the street in front of the building. I assumed a public water supply and failed to look for a well cap etc. I assumed. My boss told me "when you Assume, you make an ASS out of you and me". Never assume!


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