Q. My Inspector Couldn’t Access the Attic

Q: I am purchasing a home, and I just had a home inspection done. The sellers still live there, and they had some belongings in the closet that were blocking access to the attic. My inspector said that he was unable to look in the attic because it was blocked. It was only a couple of boxes, shouldn’t he have simply moved them? It just seems lazy to me. I mean, for the money I was paying him, I think he could move a box or two.

A: I understand your frustration with the situation you encountered. Unfortunately, this is a common misunderstanding; so let me address it. This probably is not an issue of laziness on the part of your inspector. Most, if not all, major home inspection organization’s Standards of Practice state that the home inspector is NOT required to move personal belongings in order to gain access to any portion of the home. In addition, the professional inspector organizations and insurance carriers strongly advise inspectors against moving any belongings that belong to the homeowner.

First, the recommendation stems from the fact that the belongings do not belong to the inspector, and he has absolutely no right to move them. Secondly, the inspector does not know what is in the box, whether it is fragile, if it is valuable, or if it is already broken. Unfortunately, there are plenty of horror stories in the home inspection industry about inspectors moving things and damaging them. Even if the inspector was careful and was positive that he didn’t damage anything, the seller could later open that box, discover the priceless Ming vase, or irreplaceable family heirloom inside is now broken, and assume the home inspector is responsible simply because he did move the box. Additionally, if an inspector moves one item, then he might be expected to move others as well. The smart inspector does not do this because he risks damaging belongings, as well as raises his liability risk.

Unfortunately, all you can do now is request that the sellers make the attic accessible and ask your inspector to return to inspect it. (There may be a return fee for this service.)

Informing the seller of the need to prepare their home for the inspection may prevent these kinds of situations. Agents can use my FREE downloadable checklist titled “How to Prepare for Your Property Inspection” which will help homeowners understand what kinds of preparations should be made to ensure full access to the property. Homeowners might also want to download a second checklist titled, “How to Improve the Results of Your Inspection”. This list will help the homeowner address some maintenance and minor repair issues ahead of time, improving the results of the inspection.

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