Who pays for damage caused during a home inspection?

Sellers may end up having to pay for damage

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Q: Recently, a couple signed an agreement to buy our townhouse and one of the conditions was a home inspection. During this inspection a three-inch superficial window crack was made significantly worse when someone tried to crank open the locked window. Now the crack is about 24 inches long and travels straight across the window. What recourse do we have? Are we responsible for paying for this repair? — Feeling disrespected, North York, Ont.


Answer No. 1: That’s an awkward one. If it had been my house or my listing, I would have placed a note on the window telling people not to touch it. Better yet, I would’ve arranged to repair the window before listing it.

Now, if you were planning on repairing it anyway then it makes sense to just go ahead and do it. If you didn’t plan on fixing the window, then you need to wait to see what the buyer says and does. If the buyer goes through with the deal, then they are assume the damage and the cost of repair. They might, however, ask you to either repair the window before the deal is complete, or compensate them for having to pay for this repair. If you choose not to accept this condition of sale, the buyer can legitimately walk away from the deal.

Regardless of what happens, you should be sure to mention what happened, in writing, to the buyer’s agent and the inspection company. Since the window was already broken, you cannot ask either the buyer, inspector or agent to pay for a replacement or repair, but, you can ask for them to pay 50% of the cost to repair the damage. If they agree, excellent. If not, then you have a choice. Let the deal die pay to repair and eat the cost. While I’m not a legal professional, I’m sure the cost to pursue anyone just wouldn’t make financial sense (and probably cost more than the repair would). It’s just one of those things that we sometimes have to suck up and deal with.


RE Expert - Laurin JeffreyLaurin Jeffrey
 
is a realtor, history geek and photographer. He specializes in lofts and unique properties.


Answer No. 2:  It will be hard to prove who caused the damage to the window and unless you can definitely prove who caused the damage, you will probably be fighting a lost cause. Do you have a security camera in the area of the window? Does your listing agreement have a clause that states that your agent is responsible for any damage incurred during the time of the listing as a result of visits, open houses, etc? Save your time, cost and effort and fix it at your expense.


RE Expert - Martin RumackMartin Rumack
is a Toronto lawyer that specializes in residential real estate, commercial financing, estate planning, family law and civil litigation. He actively teaches credit courses at the Toronto and Brampton Real Estate Boards, and at realtor associations throughout southern Ontario.  


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7 comments on “Who pays for damage caused during a home inspection?

  1. Interesting topic. As owner of a professional inspection company I have two points of view. As an average citizen and fellow home owner,I would say if I was the seller, this was my fault for not repairing the window prior to listing/showing the home. Afterall the superficial crack, as it’s described, is still a crack; and the repair is not costed by the length of the crack. Now as a company owner I do still feel the same way, however the issue must be weighted differently. I’ve had a few items items fail during normal testing and most were brutally coincidental. However in times where there was no witness to my innocence or where I realized I couldn’t convince myself of lack of fault if I were the seller, I took responsibility and went out of my way to make all parties aware I was happy and willing to take care of the issue. Beside the fact that reputation is everything, my actions could taint the reputation of my clients and their representative. In the end most people are reasonable and understand. Of course there will always be those that lack the desire or ability to be reasonable.

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  2. Answer No. 3: Everyone makes mistakes, and one quality of being a good person is one that accepts the consequences when mistakes happen. This means the unethical and uncaring homeowner that is offing a deficient product for sale, which leads to what else is wrong with the house.

    “You cannot ask either the buyer, inspector or agent to pay for a replacement or repair, but, you can ask for them to pay 50% of the cost to repair the damage.” This kind of answer is similar to the attitude of the homeowner. It’s just poor and dodgy advice. The seller is offing a house with a broken window for sale. The window can’t be a little bit broken, or somewhat broken. It’s a broken window. Pretty slimy answer.

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  3. The window was already broken and therefore is a safety concern. The fact that you locked the windows shows you were aware of the damage. It is the home owners responsibility to check wi does work. If because this one didn’t the window cracked even further you as the vendor should fix it as otherwise you are deliberately selling faulty goods. If the inspector had not reported the cracked window regardless of testing it he would be hauled over the coals.

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  4. As a owner of an inspection company, I at times refrain from opening windows if there is a crack and let the clients know my limitations and put it in my report. At the same time, how do we know it was the inspector and not the clients that broke the window. I have seen where my clients go off on there own and start messing with things while I’m an area. I’m not a babysitter so I take a quick picture for my CYA. With that said, it should be on homeowner since it was already an issue that would’ve most likely been called out by an appraiser as a lender required repair. Which I have seen it done.

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  5. I am dismayed that this is a topic??? Compensation for a damaged window, LOL

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    • Failed under testing. Windows can be cracked and still function. Let the vendor and purchaser decide how they wish to handle it. This sort of issue should not become a stumbling block to a purchase decision and its a nickle dime issue.

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  6. When we listed our house we saw the buyer’s home inspector cause damage. He poked holes in the shutters with a ‘ski pole’ and forcibly yanked the railing back and forth to loosen it. He climbed on top of the granite counter on the island to see if the overhang supported his weight. We (and our agent) saw all 3 and the buyers, and their agent (who did not go through the house with him but sat the entire 3 hours in the kitchen) saw the third. We made it clear any damage caused by their inspector would be passed on to them Our agent took photos.

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