Q. An Abandoned well…

Q. Hey Mark,

I am a real estate agent, and recently a buyer’s inspector said that the abandoned well on the property wasn’t capped. He said even though it wasn’t part of his inspection, he thought it was a safety concern and that it should be capped. What do you think about him commenting on something that wasn’t part of the inspection? And what would you recommend my sellers do about this well?

Heather H.

A. Heather,

As a property inspector myself, I understand completely the situation this inspector was in. On the one hand, the well has nothing to do with the home or the habitability of the home, especially since it is abandoned. On the other hand, he did observe a potentially hazardous condition on the property. One that I think most buyers would want to be made aware of.

It is my personal opinion that he did the right thing ethically in pointing it out. In Missouri, a real estate sales person has a legal responsibility to look out for the best interest of his or her client. While there is no legal requirement for home inspectors to do the same, it only makes sense that we should. After all, our clients are paying us to tell them the condition of their property. If we notice something, even if it is not part of what we are inspecting, I think we should point it out. (I probably would not have been looking for an abandoned well, but had I noticed one in the course of my inspection, I most likely would have done the same thing.)

In the state of Missouri, all abandoned wells are required by law to be capped. As a matter of fact, a home owner is supposed to attest to any public water supplier that all abandoned wells on the property will be capped within 90 days of connecting to and turning on the public water. (Ref. Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 256, Geology, Water Resources and Geodetic Survey Section 256.628 August 28, 2007) Only a lawyer could tell you who is responsible for the safe capping of the abandoned well, but it very well may be the responsibility of the current owners of the property.

So, did the inspector exceed his standards of practice? Yes he did. Should he have? Well, this is an ethics question that most inspectors have to tackle at one time or another. In this case, I would say yes. He did the right thing. He saw a safety concern of interest to his client, and he told them about it.

What should you and your sellers do about it? This should be decided between the buyers the sellers and their agents. The well certainly should be capped. Since this is a real estate transaction, who should pay for it is a negotiating point better left to the agents, rather than a home inspector. Our jobs are to observe and report.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

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