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  1. #1
    flyguy26's Avatar
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    Default Turning on systems in vacant home?

    What is the best way to handle a situation where the house is vacant and some of the systems have been turned off (ie. water main is shut off, the hot water heater pilot is out, the main breaker is off, etc)?

    I just had an inspection of a home that that a branch after the water main - one to the hose plumbing, the other to a fire/sprinkler system. After some hesitation, I opened both valves and was relieved that nothing happened - until the realtor said he heard some water running upstairs!

    Sure enough, one of the sprinkler heads in the kitchen ceiling was broken and water was pouring down the attic and down the sliding glass doors.

    Luckily, I was able to shut off the water before any real damage occurred. I'm just glad that I carry several towels in my van!

    How does everyone handle this? The client wants to ensure that these systems are in working order and there's no way to get info from the current owner/bank.

    Thanks,

    Mitch

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Two threads with the same question are not necessary. One thread is usually sufficient.

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    I personally do not turn on any system that is off. You don't know why it was turned off. By turning it on you are assuming liability. I have in the past allowed the realtor to turn on a valve or breaker but I also inform them that "they" are assuming liability. I usually inform them that I will not turn on the system. They need to arrange for the system to be turned on and I will gladly reinspect. Recently I started marketing a free reinspection to my clients and realtors for this reason. I think it keeps me in their good graces. If the client has to pay an additional fee for me to come out and re inspect the plumbing system because their realtor dropped the ball on ensuring that all systems were on, they are gonna be upset with their realtor. In turn the realtor will be upset with the inspector for charging a fee and making them look like an idiot. You may never get a referral from that realtor again.


  4. #4

    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    So be it.
    It is the sellers responsibility to have the utilities on & the buyers should recoup the fee from the sellers.
    What if you go back the 2nd time & the utilities are still not on, do you still go back a 3rd time for free, & then they want you to reinspect after repairs, is that free to? Where does it end?

    Clarksville Home Inspection
    JW Goad
    TN License #307 | KY License #2402

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Mitch,

    I don't touch any valve or breaker if they are in the off position, except for "point of use faucets", showers, switches etc.

    Our state standard of practice Prohibits us from operating any system or component or turn on any electrical or fuel supply that is shut down.

    I ask the Realtor if it is operable and if possible to turn it on. Many times I've refused to turn on the water, requesting that the Realtor turn it on and then see major leaks and damage occur, usually from dishwasher connections or re-frig ice makers.

    What happened to you was a good lesson and one that many of us have experienced in the past. You're lucky you didn't do more damage.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Thats your opinion John and you are entitled to it. Run your business how you like. I choose to make customer service a priority and find this a good way of showing it. I inform the client and realtor that I will reinspect 1 time at no charge. After that, there is a fee. They can use the free reinspect for anything they want. I've had clients request that I be present for there final walk thru. If they have not already used the free reinspect, then it is free of charge.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Quote Originally Posted by flyguy26 View Post
    What is the best way to handle a situation where the house is vacant and some of the systems have been turned off (ie. water main is shut off, the hot water heater pilot is out, the main breaker is off, etc)?

    How does everyone handle this?
    By doing what you have now learned to do ... NOT turning the water on ... NOT turning ANYTHING on which is off.

    The client wants to ensure that these systems are in working order and there's no way to get info from the current owner/bank.

    And you would not believe anything the bank said anyway, so SOMEONE (which means *NOT YOU*) turns the utilities on ... ALL of the utilities.

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

  8. #8
    flyguy26's Avatar
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Well, I just had this happen again. This was the first time I worked with this Realtor (top seller at my local Keller Williams) and he couldn't believe that I wasn't willing to turn on the water main, light the pilot on the gas water heater, and flip on the 4 breakers that were underneath blue masking tape. He said that the other inspectors he has used routinely do it and, had he knew my reluctance, he wouldn't have used me.

    I took a deep breath, turned on/lit all of the above and the inspection went fine, but I doubt he'll use me again. I even thought I'd impressed him by being early and shoveling the front stoop!

    It was his feeling that, since the seller/bank, consented to the inspection contingency, they assumed responsibility if anything went wrong. Is there an implicit agreement if the seller/bank agrees to a home inspection (in a legal sense)?

    What do you think?


  9. #9
    Charles Guinn's Avatar
    Charles Guinn Guest

    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Let's say for discussion purposes, that the main water shutoff for the home is a gate valve, and it was in the "OFF" position. Gate valves in Arizona are world famous for failing because of the hard water.

    Now let's say that you decide to turn the water on, and there is a gaping hole in a pipe, inside a wall, that you couldn't see before.

    Now, you (or the insurance that you should have) is going to buy a chunk of that home for repairs.

    I vote, IF IT'S OFF, LEAVE IT OFF!!


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Stick to your guns. If they insist that it be done, tell them THEY are welcome to do so. Also inform them that THEY will assume liability. I once had this very thing happen to me on a bank repo. I refused to turn the water main on at the street. The realtor agreed to do it and water was discovered coming from the insulated floor joists into the crawlspace. I asked the realtor if he understood now why I don't turn systems on that are off. He seen my point as he was paying to have the insulation replaced. It was also found that there were over a dozen breaks in the distribution system. DON'T DO IT!!! If you like to gamble go to the casino


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Quote Originally Posted by flyguy26 View Post
    I took a deep breath, turned on/lit all of the above ...

    What do you think?
    I think you were crazy ... but I guess it takes all kinds of people - those who learn from others and those who simply have to burn themselves before they learn ...

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

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Fly

    If you feel pressured to turn on something by someone, then you should have a form for them to sign. The form should say something like:

    I, _____(their name)____________,as the authorized agent for the seller and acting for the seller, request the inspector to operate any valve or switch, and do personally accept all responsibility and liability for any and all claims that occur as a result. I also agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the inspector from all claims resulting from the performance or nonperformance of this request.


    SIGN
    DATE:

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I think you were crazy ... but I guess it takes all kinds of people - those who learn from others and those who simply have to burn themselves before they learn ...
    jp,
    there you go making sense again.


  14. #14
    Michael Greenwalt's Avatar
    Michael Greenwalt Guest

    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Bill, I suspect if you stay around long enough, the practice of multiple trips or attending final walkthrough will change.

    A smart man learns from his mistakes, an intellegent man learns from others.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    I used to light pilots - until I was burned at a water heater.

    i HATE return trips. I do not give them away trying to gain business from Realtors.

    I HAVE turned water or power on after I got an e-mail from someone like the listing agent or the bank saying it was OK for me to do so.

    It is very common in my parts for the person doing the winterization to cut off the main breaker, and they usually leave a tag indicating what they did. I don't have a problem turning on a breaker in those cases.

    A lot of the foreclosures in my area have had the water meter removed anyway, so I can't turn it on even if I wanted.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    My opinion is that is something like a valve, pilot, breaker...., its off for a reason.

    I don't have to turn it on and investigate as to the reason as why it was off. Don't want that liability on my back or coming from my account.

    Plain and simple, if it is off I leave it off and note it on my report as such.

    No free trips either. Is the gas free for you nowadays? Not here.

    rick


  17. #17
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    Shoot

    Let it rip....turn it all on.

    Bunch of lily livered chicken hearts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    When the devil is having a tough week, and he wants to take the afternoon off to catch the game, he spends the morning whispering in the ears of home inspectors that they should turn on the utilities - it's sort of like a cop sitting in the driveway down the street from a stop sign that he knows a lot of people will roll through, when he's short two or three movers to make his quota for the month.

    At least in my market I feel it's sort of unsporting of him, tough as times have been - but it's his game, and you either decide to play a hand, or you don't.

    Myself, not.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Turning on systems in vacant home?

    MT,

    (With Kenny Rodgers in the background... "you got to know when to hold 'em")

    Well said.

    H.G.


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