Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: When we purchased our home, the home inspection report listed the furnace as “serviceable.” After moving in, we had problems with heating, so we called a heating contractor. He said we have a Premier furnace that was recalled because of major safety problems. So now we have to buy a new furnace. Our Realtor says the home inspector is responsible. But the home inspector says he can’t be expected to know about every product that’s been recalled. Is the home inspector liable for having approved the furnace, or are we stuck with the expense ourselves? Jessica

Dear Jessica: Home inspectors, in most cases, are not liable for product recall notices. But the Premier furnace matter is not a typical recall. It is probably the most widely publicized, most well known recall to occur in many years. It has been a frequent subject of discussion among home inspectors, and even among Realtors, since 1999, the topic of seminars, trade journals, even newspaper articles.

It would be difficult for a home inspector to have missed the issue, unless he were new to the inspection business. For a qualified home inspector, failure to recognize a Premier furnace as a potential safety hazard constitutes professional negligence.

It should be noted, however, that not all Premier furnaces are subject to the recall. This only applies to models equipped with nox rods in the burner chambers. These fixtures can be identified by the “x” at the end of the model number. On the other hand, Premier models that are not subject to the recall often have problems with the venting of combustion exhaust. A home inspector who carefully examines furnaces while they are in operation would notice this.

Your home inspector should reconsider the matter of his liability and let this be a professional learning experience.