1. Ask a friend who knows nothing about a home inspection to read your pre-inspection agreement and tell you what they think you will be inspecting. You may find your pre-inspection agreement needs to be revised so your clients clearly understand what a home inspection really covers.
2. Be sure your report clearly and prominently calls out any serious problems which may be a threat to health and/or safety as well as those which will cost a lot of money to resolve. If your report doesn’t adequately alert the client to the severity of these items, you can almost bet a claim is coming your way.
3. If you don’t inspect for certain things (like mold, termites, code compliance, etc.) be sure your pre-inspection agreement and your inspection report both say so, up front, clearly, and in bold letters. You may even want the client to initial this section showing they read and understood it.
4. If there are areas which are not accessible, be sure your report says so and states why an area was not accessible. You should take a photo of any inaccessible area and include it in your report. Six months from now, you need to be able to show the crawl space was filled with boxes and this prevented you from seeing the damaged footers.
5. Take and save photos of areas where you see nothing wrong. These photos don’t go into your report. Instead, they go into your work file and 6 months from now they may save you from a claim when your client says you missed evidence of a leak and you can show him/her the area in question was clean with no visible stains on the day of the inspection.
6. In both your pre-inspection agreement and your report, use clear, direct statements. Don’t beat around the bush; say what you mean. Look at the difference between these statements.
a. The roof shows some evidence of shingles curling and separating indicating there maybe some prior storm damage or that the roof might be nearing the end of its useful life. You may want to have a licensed roofer look at the issue (Vague and unclear with no call to action).
b. There are shingles on the roof curling up and separating. This indicates the roof is damaged and might need immediate repair or replacement. Call a licensed roofer prior to closing for further evaluation (Clear and concise with direction to take action).
Nothing can make you entirely immune from having to deal with a client who wants to file a bogus claim, but if you follow these tips it will be much easier to make a bogus claim go away.