Certified home inspectors are required to uphold a code of ethics in the course of their work. According to the National Association of Home Inspectors, these professionals have a duty to the homeowner to alert them to any "immediate threats to health or safety [that] are observed during the course of the inspection."
This clause in the home inspector's code of ethics ensures that any serious danger discovered during a home inspection is brought to the owner's attention right away. Depending on the exact issue at hand, this could end up saving lives. However, the line between imminent threat and minor issue can be blurred at times. Inspectors and homeowners should be aware of what dangers require a prompt warning. This is one of the many benefits of a professional home inspection.
What buyers need to know
Many states have laws that require sellers to notify potential homebuyers of certain dangers or attributes of the property before they sign on the dotted line. The home inspection plays a crucial role in many of these.
General repairs: This is the most common and most broad disclosure. NACHI noted that as a rule of thumb, sellers must disclose a repair if they feel they would want to know about it if they were in the buyer's shoes. This often covers repairs for damage to the home's essential systems, but could span a wide range of fixes.
Lead paint: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of lead paint in homes in 1978. However, there is still a chance that homes built prior to this date contain some lead paint. The EPA noted that lead paint that remains untouched doesn't pose much health risk, but sellers are still required to acknowledge it. They must also give buyers 10 days to conduct their own testing for lead if they so choose.
Mold and moisture: Not only is mold a nuisance for its smell, it can be potentially hazardous to one's health. NACHI wrote that mold or water intrusion is the most common reason for post-sale lawsuits from new homeowners, since it can be very costly to fix, if not impossible.
Termite infestation: According to NACHI, a termite infestation is not always obvious, even to the trained eye. Termites can wreak havoc on a home's skeleton without any notice from the outside, until the damage becomes so severe that it threatens structural integrity. Anyone selling a home is required to disclose an infestation or prior treatment for an issue, although in some areas where these insects are common, this may not ruin a deal.
Natural danger: An increased risk of natural disaster must be disclosed to buyers. If a home resides in a floodplain, along a fault line or is susceptible to another natural disaster, the buyer needs to know.
Infamous or notorious past: This is the least common disclosure sellers are required to make, but it is nonetheless important. A buyer must be told if a home has an infamous past that may make it difficult to be sold in the future. This includes homes where serious crimes such as murder were committed, or homes that gained public notoriety for being haunted. A more common issue in this category is homes that have been used to manufacture the drug methamphetamine, which can leave lasting, hazardous effects.
Many of these dangers may be discovered during a home inspection if they were not already disclosed to the buyer. This is just another reason why a home inspection makes for a safe, smart investment.