Can you sue a home inspector for negligence?
The simple answer to whether or not you can sue a home inspector for negligence is yes. If they failed to find something that caused you or another resident harm, legal action is an option.
However, many cases are more complicated. Whether or not you have a viable case against the inspector depends on what they did or did not do and how it harmed you.
If you purchased a home with a defect that you were unaware of and it was not listed in the inspection report, keep reading to learn your legal options.
Scope of Home Inspection
Home inspectors serve a vital role because they are aware of many things that homebuyers are not. Even though many homebuyers might be handy with tools, they don’t necessarily know the telltale signs of a defect or problem.
For example, Maryland Building Code requires inspectors to examine ground fault circuit interrupters (GCFIs) in wet areas. That might not be something a homebuyer is aware of, but it’s important.
Home inspectors do not conduct “intrusive” inspections, meaning they don’t poke holes in walls or move boxes or furniture. Instead, they do a visual inspection of what they can see.
These are the main areas that home inspectors focus on:
- Structure of the home
- Doors and windows
- Attic and roof
- Heating and air conditioning
Home inspectors are licensed by the State of Maryland. Most write reports on fairly standardized formats provided to them by their trade associations, but like in every other profession, there are good home inspectors and there are bad home inspectors.
Now we’ll go into some more detail to answer the question “Can you sue a home inspector for negligence?”
Home Inspections and Negligence
Most home inspection contracts include what’s called a “Limitation of Liability Clause.” That language states that no matter what the home inspector missed – no matter how badly they messed up – they are not liable for any damages in excess of the fee that you pay for the inspection.
Those fees vary, but they’re usually somewhere between $300 and $500. For the right inspector, that fee is probably well worth the money. It’s important to remember that even if the home inspector missed something and is legally negligent, their liability is going to be limited by that language in their contract. Unfortunately, it is common that the consequences of that mistake will be much more costly than the fee paid to the home inspector.
In short, although the home inspector is liable for their negligence, the language of the Limitation of Liability Clause will cap that liability to the fee that was paid. That language really prevents any meaningful claim against the home inspector for negligence.
In the same vein as home inspector negligence is homebuilder negligence. Keep reading to learn more about this type and to discover your legal options.
Can the buyer sue a homebuilder for negligence?
There’s not a straightforward answer to this question, because it depends upon the unique facts of the case. Most claims against homebuilders are brought by frustrated buyers after the house is built and after they take occupancy.
It is difficult to sue a builder for negligence whether they made a mistake in the construction of the house, failed to properly supervise subcontractors, or just failed to follow building codes.
Instead, a situation like that could bring forth a breach of contract claim.
Breach means that the builder had a duty to build the house or property correctly. They contracted with you to do it correctly, but they didn’t. Because they didn’t do it correctly, they breached the contract, meaning they are responsible for the damages related to that breach.
Homebuyers may also be able to sue the builder for breach of warranty. This is similar to a breach of contract, but instead of a contract being broken or not followed, a warranty has not been honored. For example, a breach of warranty may arise when a contractor does not follow the homebuyer’s plans in preparing a fixed price bid for the project.
Negligence is similar, but it is not a legal concept that buyers can typically recover against a contracting party. Negligence does not arise out of the contract when it comes to builders.
In short, buyers have recourse against builders who don’t fulfill their obligations or don’t meet their duties to the buyers, but their legal claim will likely not be through a negligence action. Instead, these will generally be taken through a breach of contract action.
Learn More From an Experienced Maryland Real Estate Lawyer
If you discovered a defect your inspector didn’t detect, Coover Law Firm, LLC can take a closer look at your case. We have 30 years of experience in assessing situations just like yours and can help you ascertain whether or not you have a case against an inspector, builder, or another party.
Let’s make a plan. Call us today at (410) 553-5042 to schedule an initial consultation with experienced Howard County real estate lawyer, Fred L. Coover, Esquire.