As a home inspector, a lot of your attention is focused on the document you produce at the end of a job—the home inspection report. It makes sense, since this is the report your clients need to make decisions about their homes. However, another document you hand clients early in the process can be just as important—pre-inspection agreements.
The importance of pre-inspection agreements is often overlooked, but it can make all the difference when you are trying to ensure that every inspection goes smoothly and ends with a satisfied client. A good pre-inspection agreement can help protect you and your business from complaints and claims, set realistic expectations for clients and generally make life easier for home inspectors.
How Pre-Inspection Agreements Protect You
A carefully crafted pre-inspection agreement is one of your best tools for minimizing the risk of complaints or claims from clients dissatisfied with an inspection. Pre-inspection agreements give you an opportunity to lay out the specifics of how your home inspection business operates, including:
- How and when you will be paid
- What to expect during and after the inspection process
- What is and is not included in the inspection
- What to do if they have questions about the report
The pre-inspection agreement is also the time and place to introduce any legal disclaimers, such as:
- Limitations of an inspection
- Disclaimers of liability
- Provisions for an arbitration clause
The pre-inspection agreement can function as a binding contract in the event of a dispute over fees, inspection findings, claims of an error or liability and more, giving overall peace of mind to both parties. Your clients will know exactly what to expect from the inspection, including what it can show and what it can’t.
If there is a problem, the client’s signed pre-inspection agreement is the go-to document to arrive at a resolution. A good document can help your insurance and legal teams defend you in the event of a claim.
How to Use a Pre-Inspection Agreement
Having a process is important as an inspector, since it helps organize jobs into a repeatable pattern where it’s less likely for something to fall through the cracks. Starting things off with a pre-inspection agreement is a good way to get your workflow settled into a comfortable rhythm and help avoid headaches, surprises and confusion later.
Timing is important when it comes to a pre-inspection agreement. Waiting until the date of the inspection has arrived to provide the document to the client defeats the purpose, since the client won’t have time to read the document and may have already formed mistaken assumptions and expectations about what will be included in the inspection.
The best time to introduce the pre-inspection agreement is at the time of your initial consultation or scheduling of the inspection. Go over the key points of the document together, answer initial questions and provide a digital or hard copy the client can read in full at home. Get a signature to confirm receipt and acknowledgement of the form.
How to Draft a Pre-Inspection Agreement Template
Drafting a template for your pre-inspection agreement that you can use with all clients will save a lot of time. Examples of pre-inspection agreement boilerplate forms are available from many trade industry associations, licensing organizations and franchisee programs. Use these resources to draft a form suited to the specific inspection services you provide.
Generally, your pre-inspection agreement should include these key sections:
- Property address
- Date of agreement
- Home inspection client
- Description of the scope of inspection
- Limits of the inspection
- Exclusions of the inspection
- Disclaimer of liability
- Terms and conditions
- Arbitration clause
- Descriptions of fees and services
- Signature of inspection client
When you have an idea of what items you need to include on your pre-inspection agreement, get a legal professional to look it over. It’s worth the money you’ll spend to ensure your document is well written and will cover you legally in case of a problem. It’s also a good idea to talk with your insurance company to make sure your document includes any verbiage they recommend or expect.
Pre-Inspection Agreements and Your Business
You’ll find pre-inspection agreements really make a difference for your process. Clients will get more of their questions answered upfront, understand what to expect from the inspection process and understand the scope and limitations of the home inspection.
While using a pre-inspection agreement with clients will give you greater peace of mind, some risk of client complaints and claims will always exist. Claims happen to even the best inspectors, so it’s important you protect yourself with the proper insurance coverage. Contact your insurance representative to learn more the coverage you need for your business.