Home inspections reveal problems with work done by contractors working on your home, and you need the BBB to have the contractor’s work done right.
We all rely on them, but how do we know that we can trust them: the contractors who work on our home. You find your three quotes; you ask your questions; and you look for references from others. Yet you find that things go amiss. Here is a cautionary tale, where I wish that I could offer some moral in the end.
The background: a couple just after retirement decides to sell their home. They had been planning this for some time, and they had various service personnel come to check out and repair the air conditioning, water heater, and plumbing. It turns out that they settled upon a firm that is well known here in Houston, which has divisions to take care of all these areas. They did their homework when choosing them. They had a new water heater installed before the sale in fact.
The circumstances: the seller excepts a first offer, which leads to a home inspection. The inspector does not question the water heater too much, but he did find some problems. He mainly focuses a good deal of attention on the air conditioning system. The home inspector indicates a new one might be needed. The buyers want a vast discount, which the sellers refuse, so end of sale. Second buyers come along, and another home inspection ensues. This time many factors about the water heater come into play (but the home inspector made some mistakes here). Enter hapless me. The sellers are friends of friends who ask if I would come to speak with them about this report.
My advice: well there were several things discussed, but as for the air conditioner and the water heater I suggested speaking to the firms who had done work on the units. This is when I discover it was the same firm. For the valid issues with the water heater, I thought a warranty would come into play, so it could be fixed. In fact, I believed that the repairs would be simple. For the air conditioning unit, I thought that having it checked out by the firm which conducted the twice a year service, and then having them write a statement addressing the issues with the unit. In both reports, there was a good deal of “possible” issues mentioned with this system, and my check found that it worked fine, but some concern about the unit was indeed necessary.
The effort: I happened to be there at the time that the service man for the air conditioner was present. After he made his bad jokes about home inspectors ( personal aside, why is it that Realtors hate all home inspectors except the ones they work with, and service people hate all home inspectors except the ones who recommend their firm?), he stated that he had done various bits of maintenance work, and he found nothing wrong with the unit. He put that in his report. I did mention that I thought one water spot was unusual, but he claimed that there was nothing wrong with it.
The plumber who installed the water heater decided to give the client a real run around. The sellers described to him the issue. He responded that the TPR valve was where cold water went in, and that is why it needed cold water approved pvc pipe. He shrugged the other items on the list too, by saying they were not really needed. I went over to the house to be with the owners when they called again. A TPR (temperature, pressure relief) valve is a safety feature that allows hot water under great pressure to be released from a water heater, so all piping has to handle hot water. This pipe was clearly marked that it could not. When the plumber discovered that I was there, he changed his story. The TPR valve was no longer the water inlet, but the piping was mislabeled. It was the correct material; it just did not say so. As for the other items, yes maybe they were not done properly, but the building inspector approved the installation, so he did not have to correct anything (even if it was wrong). He followed with some choice words about home inspectors (I can feel the love :).
As it turns out: the seller did manage to go through with the sale, and the buyers happened to work at the same hospital as my wife. I come to discover from the buyers that they needed to have certain service work done on the air conditioning. This is a three weeks after the sale, one month after the last service. In fact, the service was much the same as the first one, because the technician discovered that it had not been done. The sellers found out from the buyers, because they had called with some other questions, and they had mentioned this to them.
The situation now: the sellers are quite angry with this firm, and they called me up to ask what they could do. The firm has already given them the run around, and I do not think that they could resolve anything by speaking to them again. The sellers are planning to contact the Better Business Bureau, just to warn others not to hire this firm. I am not sure if there will be much of a resolution. Maybe the moral to all of this is that you should also check the complaints against a firm with your local BBB before doing business with them.