How much can you rely upon a building and pest inspector

Buyers often believe by doing a pest and building inspection they are guaranteeing everything will be okay with the property. While engaging an inspector is important, they won’t guarantee everything is okay and there will be limitations to their report.

The case of Garrett v Elim House Pty Ltd (2018) VAT is a useful reminder on what to expect from building and pest inspectors.

The inspector who was a registered builder, but not a licensed pest inspector (this was disclosed) did an inspection of the house. The report made the following points:

  1. The house was heavily furnished, and no furniture was moved
  2. Access to the subfloors was not available and he was only reporting on what he could see.
  3. The floors were sloping and out of alignment.

The inspector missed termite eaten joists, bearers, corner posts and current termites in the dado paneling in the third bedroom under the window.

A further inspection by a carpenter found the stumps needed replacing and the floor realigned.
The court held that the inspector was not responsible for finding the termites because they were hidden by furniture and the problems with the floor had been adequately brought to the Buyer’s attention.
It didn’t help that the Buyers were self-represented, and when their inspectors looked at the property it was vacant.
The lessons to take away from the case are:
  1. If the building inspector says there is a problem that needs more investigation, then undertake further investigation.
  2. Only use a licensed pest inspector who has extensive experience with detecting termites.