Author Archives: Tim Hance

Video: Remove vent caps above roof

Plumbing vent caps are installed during construction to pressure test the drain-waste-vent plumbing system before it’s filled with water and used regularly. Once the test is passed (e.g., the pipes hold pressure and don’t leak), these caps are supposed to be removed to ensure proper drainage within the home. This vent cap was discovered at a 1999 home on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. Surprisingly, I call this out all the time. If the vent has been abandoned, the cap is appropriate; but this usually isn’t the case. Usually, the plumbing contractor forgets to get back on the roof to remove caps. So, if you see caps, I’d remove them if the pipes aren’t abandoned.

Asset Protection for Inspectors

by Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko, InterNACHI

An asset is anything of value in your name, such as a house, a vehicle, your business, and even your bank account.  Unfortunately, if you are successfully sued by someone who is unhappy with the results of home inspection that you performed — regardless of whether the lawsuit has merit — attempts will likely be made to tap some of your assets as compensation if you wind up on the losing side.  In order to protect your home and personal property from being exposed to such liability, along with your business assets beyond your E&O insurance, it’s important to safeguard all your assets through a collection of techniques known as asset protection. Taking some of these urgent precautions will ensure that, in the event that you lose a lawsuit brought against you and your inspection business, your home, personal vehicle and other personal property will be exempt from garnishment, repossession or seizure.  It will also provide you with the opportunity to rebuild your business.

Approximately 50,000 lawsuits are filed daily in the United States, which equals one lawsuit for every 17 Americans, annually. In professions that are predisposed to litigation, such as home inspection, medicine, law and business, the chances of being sued are considerably higher, although unscrupulous opportunists may target anyone who they perceive as having deep pockets. And there are plenty of ways besides litigation that unprotected assets can be taken away, such as through identity theft, divorce, death, healthcare costs, probate, auto accidents, home fires, floods and bankruptcy, to name a few. Any of these events can ruin someone’s finances if they lack proper asset protection.

The first things every new small business owner should consider include the following:

  • Incorporate. Incorporating a business limits the owner’s personal liability in lawsuits filed against the business because a corporation or LLC is considered under the law to be a separate legal entity from its owners. However, the “corporate veil” can be pierced in certain circumstances, such as when it can be proven that the business owners did not obey corporate formalities.
  • Use a family limited partnership (FLP). Family limited partnerships are specially designed partnerships that consist of general and limited partners. The FLP allows an individual to maintain full control and enjoyment of their property while separating themselves from actual legal ownership. A creditor of a single partner cannot reach the assets owned by the partnership because the partnership, as an entity, owns the asset.  This does not prevent the partnership from being sued, but it will keep certain assets separate and unexposed to legal liability or claim.
  • Purchase professional liability insurance (E&O). The costs of insurance premiums are generally small compared to defending a lawsuit.
  • Keep major assets encumbered.  If you own property free and clear, you can imagine how attractive that is to a judgment creditor.  Many home inspectors lease their company vehicles to prevent them from becoming a target.
  • Check your state’s homestead exemption. Homestead property protection laws help protect your home from creditors (as well as help provide survivors with a home after the death of the primary wage earner).

To be effective, asset protection should be performed years before you find yourself in financial trouble. Any transfer of ownership of property after the emergence of a significant claim may be deemed fraudulent, which can result not only in seizure of the asset anyway, but significant civil penalties. After a claim arises, you need debtor and possibly pre-bankruptcy planning, as asset protection becomes more difficult as legal proceedings progress. Most importantly, have an attorney and an accountant guide you through the process of asset protection. You need these experts to make sure that asset protection planning is performed competently and, even more importantly, within the parameters of the law. Professionals will make sure that you use appropriate legal structures to safeguard your assets without deliberately defrauding creditors.

In summary, inspectors should invest in legal asset protection strategies to keep their business assets separate from their personal assets, and also to ensure that, should they face a tough legal battle, they will be able to re-establish themselves when the dust settles.  CLICK HERE to read about ways to avoid lawsuits altogether.

Two Vapor Barriers and Standing Water in Crawl Space

Tim Hance of All Islands Home Inspections discovered two (2) or more vapor barriers in a crawl space filled with water at a recent Anacortes, WA home inspection. The reason that two (2) or more vapor barriers is frowned upon is because water, if it enters the crawl space, can become entrapped between vapor barriers, prolonging evaporation time and leading to stagnant water conditions. Here in the Pacific NW, water intrusion into a crawl space or basement should be dealt with promptly as it can lead to structural damage/settling and insect activity (e.g., carpenter ants, anobiid beetles and Pacific Dampwood termites are attracted to moist areas). In this particular case, the installation of a perimeter curtain drain was recommended to the clients by a licensed contractor.

Barbecue safety tips

This information was provided courtesy of the ICC Foundation and has some great tips, information, and advice about grilling safety. Enjoy!

  1. Place the barbecue grill away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. It is also unsafe to use grills in a garage, porch or enclosed area that could trap carbon monoxide. Never grill on top of anything that can catch on fire.
  2. When grilling, have a fire extinguisher, a garden hose or at least 4 gallons of water close by in case of a fire.
  3.  Keep children away from fires and grills. Establish a safety zone around the grill and instruct the children to remain outside of the zone. A chalk line works great for this purpose. Never leave the grill unattended.

Wild animal at San Juan Island home inspection!

Inspecting a home in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island today, I happened upon this “friendly” raccoon! So friendly, in fact, that I had some difficulty getting around the exterior inspection without having to whisk the creature away from time to time. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to animals, so never a dull moment inspecting that’s for sure!

Fun Facts Friday!

In Switzerland, it is illegal to own just one guinea pig. This is because guinea pigs are social animals, and they are considered victims of abuse if they are alone.

In 2015, more people were killed from injuries caused by taking a selfie than by shark attacks.

King Henry VIII slept with a gigantic axe beside him.

Ketchup was sold in the 1830s as medicine.

Water stains on ceiling

Water stains were noted at a wood ceiling, immediately adjacent a skylight, at a recent home inspection in Roche Harbor on San Juan Island.  Probed with a moisture meter, the underlying ceiling cavity was dry at the time of inspection, but there obviously was water intrusion at some point in time.  The skylight flashing detail appeared to be in excellent condition, suggesting the water intrusion could have been from wind-driven rain, or that it predated the skylight installation when the roof was replaced a decade ago.  In any event, I recommended the client monitor for recurrence into the future and repair if noted.  It’s important to monitor all roof penetrations (e.g., skylights, stove flues, vent pipes, solar tubes, etc.) for water intrusion and repair immediately when/if noted.

CUT TRUSSES in Garage!

Tim Hance with All Islands Home Inspections recently discovered unconventionally constructed trusses in a garage that have been cut at a home inspection on Orcas Island. Cutting trusses is expressly NOT ALLOWED as it can, and likely will, lead to structural settling and failure over time. In this case, the roof plane showed clear evidence of settling/sagging when viewed from the exterior; when I went inside, it was clear why the roof was settling. With an appropriate snow load, or with time, some of these trusses will likely crack and fail. In this particular situation, repair was difficult because the trusses were cut to accommodate large garage doors; the recommended interim solution was to install intermediate posts and beams, in the middle of the garage, to properly support the roof and allow for vehicle access and egress.

“Fogged” windows

“Fogged” windows, or windows with condensation between glass panes, are commonly discovered at home inspections.  From my perspective, it’s a cosmetic issue because the condensation between panes isn’t a water intrusion issue for the home’s health itself.  Sure, you’ll lose some thermal efficiency when the window panes lose their seals, but it’s somewhat negligible in the grand scheme of things.  In my experience, Realtors are about 50% successful in negotiating replacement of “fogged” windows in real estate transactions. The Seller typically takes the stance that the “fogged” windows were obvious when the offer was made.  The Buyer, on the other hand, may take the position that (a) they didn’t notice the “fogged” windows or (b) they had no idea what it would cost to replace.  If you have a significant number of fogged windows, replacement adds up quickly. Standard “fogged” windows typically cost $300-$500 each to replace; contractors can usually pop-out the old glass pane and install a new one, without having to encumber trim and siding elements.  These pictures were taken at a recent home inspection on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands.

DETERIORATED Eave Sheathing

Tim Hance with All Islands Home Inspections discovered completely deteriorated OSB eave sheathing at a recent home inspection in Anacortes, WA. If your soffit sheathing is discolored, particularly adjacent the gutters, you may very well have water and insect damage requiring your attention and repair. Left unchecked, deterioration will continue and become more expensive with time. Keeping gutters clean and installing a metal drip-edge flashing detail will help prevent recurrence into the future.