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

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: When we bought our house, the home inspector said we have copper water pipes. But when we installed a new dishwasher, we learned that the pipes are polybutylene plastic. Two plumbers have said these lines should be replaced to prevent leakage. Worse still, our insurance company got involved and will cancel our policy unless we repipe the house. The home inspector did not have us sign a contract, so there appears to be no limit to his liability. But we’ve heard that he is no longer in business. If we can track him down, how can we make him pay for the repairs? Stacey

Dear Stacey: You apparently hired a home inspector who is not a true professional. Therefore, you may not be able to make him pay for repairs. The fact that he missed such an obvious condition as polybutylene pipe, that he did not have a standard home inspection contract, and that he is no longer in business, indicates that he is a “fly-by-night” inspector.

Polybutylene is commonly recognized by home inspectors as substandard water pipe because the lines are prone to cracking, and the connections often leak.

Your first step is to locate the inspector, if possible, and to notify him of your concerns. Invite him to your home for a reinspection of the plumbing. You should also get some bids for repiping so that you can document the likely cost of repair. And be sure to get some advice from an attorney so that you will know what remedies are available to you by law.

If the inspector is still available but is unwilling to address the problem, you may be able to get a judgment against him in small claims court. That might not cover the entire cost of repiping, but it could pay a large part of it, assuming that the inspector has any assets to collect.

Finally, if the home inspector was recommended by your agent or broker, that person shares responsibility for the lack of competent disclosure and should be notified accordingly.