Under Florida Statute 468.8311, home inspection services are defined as “a limited visual examination of the following readily accessible installed systems and components of a home” performed by a licensed home inspector. Those items include:
- The Structure of The Home
- Electrical System
- HVAC System
- Roof Covering
- Plumbing System
- Interior Components
- Exterior Components and Site Conditions that affect the Structure.
Anyone buying a home or condo in Florida should get a thorough inspection before their closing. In fact, every standard residential real contract in Florida has a provision giving the buyer an inspection period to determine if the property is acceptable to the buyer. The inclusion of this provision in every standard contract is invaluable to a buyer, but is only helpful if the buyer exercises his or her rights in a prudent manner.
The most common complaint we hear in our office from buyers about sellers after a closing is with regards to non-disclosure of an item which materially affects the value of the property (i.e. roof, plumbing, mold, etc.). The unfortunate part about a large amount of these complaints is that we are unable to help these buyers simply because they either failed to conduct an inspection, they used a questionable inspection company, or they did not get a property disclosure form from the seller at the time their real estate contract was signed (or their realtor failed to tell them they should require a seller to provide a seller disclosure form as part of the real estate contract).
Below are 10 reasons why a Florida home buyer, especially a buyer who is new to the area, should get a home inspection before purchasing a new home:
1. Written Opinion
Under Florida law, a home inspector must provide his or her written professional opinion of the condition of the home they are inspecting. All of the systems and components of the property (as listed above) are examined and the condition of each of these items is discussed, including an estimate of the cost to repair an item, in the written report. This written inspection report is important to a buyer not only for purposes of learning the condition of these systems and components but also to negotiate repairs, or repair credits, with the seller.
2. Hidden Defects
Sellers, and their real estate agents, are legally required to disclose any issues with the home that they knew or should have known about, but this does not mean that the seller will comply with his or her legal duty to reveal hidden defects to the buyer. Having a written home inspection is the best way to verify any information they buyer provides about the condition of the property and it helps the buyer to discover defects that the seller may not even be aware of at the time of contract.
3. Home Inspections Are Not Expensive
Many buyers are concerned with keeping closing costs as low as possible. Being financially prudent in a home purchase is smart. So, potential buyers should know that hiring a professional home inspector here in Florida is not that expensive.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all cost for a valid home inspection. Buyers should be wary of any inspection service that offers a uniform price and buyers should ask the inspection company, before the inspection, what the inspection will cover and the limitations of their inspection services (ask to see a sample inspection report ahead of time).
The actual cost of the inspection will depend upon several factors. The cost of an inspection can be based upon the age of the home, its location, and its size. Improvements like docks, pools and pilings will likely increase the complexity of the inspection and its price.
In Florida, a basic home inspection, one which only inspects those items in Florida Statute 468.8311, should range between $200 and $500. When balancing the cost against the information it verifies and can provide to a buyer about a home’s condition, a home inspection is worth its price.
4. Repairs Double-Checked
Prudent buyers can include provisions in their sales contract that mandate the seller make certain repairs on the property before the closing. A home inspection not only confirms that the repairs are necessary, it can verify, upon reinspection (this service should be written into the contract with the inspection company) if the contracted repairs have been performed in an acceptable manner.
5. Professional Eyes
In Florida, home inspectors must be licensed by the State of Florida. Under Florida law, they must
- Complete a department approved 120-hour course of study;
- Pass a department approved examination; and
- Pass a criminal background check.
Florida inspections must be done by someone who has taken an exam and proved their knowledge of common home related issues, including moisture intrusion, insulation and ventilation issues, electrical systems, septic systems, energy efficiency, etc.
6. Mold Inspection
Mold is a real concern for homeowners in Florida because it can not only destroy the structure of the building, it can also bring many health issues to the people around it. Mold can cause various health issues including respiratory infections, skin irritation, eye irritation, as well as worsening a preexisting condition such as asthma. This is why it is extremely important for a buyer to ask their inspection company about having a mold inspection.
In Florida, there are specific licenses issued to professionals who inspect for mold and mold damage in residential property. They are called “Mold Assessors” and they are educated in sampling for mold in the home or condo, as well as giving a written opinion on (1) whether or not any mold is present in the property; (2) the type of mold discovered; and (3) the level of mold existing there.
Florida home inspectors should not present themselves as being qualified to inspect for mold unless they are duly qualified under the Florida mold licensing law. See, Florida Statute 468.8413.
7. Termite Inspection
Homeowners in Florida should be mindful of the destruction that termites can bring to a property, and be sure to ask their inspection company if they are qualified to inspect for termites. It is important to find a company that will diligently examine the property, and rid the property of the pests if needed, to avoid further damage to the structure of the home.
Under Florida law, a specific license is required for those who inspect for termites or “wood-destroying organisms.” These are WDO Inspectors licensed under Florida Statute 468.83.
The WDO inspector is qualified to search for a variety of things that can destroy the lumber and wood within the structure of the home. They look for insects and fungi.
The inspector of the home’s structure is not legally required to look for termites. Moreover, he is not qualified to do so.
WDO Inspectors must work for a licensed pest control company. They should have a valid Florida identification card, with a state license number, stating they are certified as “a pest control operator.” See, Florida Statute 482.021.
8. Radon Inspection
Radon is invisible, and humans cannot smell or taste it. However, it is deadly: radon is classified as a Class A carcinogen, and it is recognized as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
Radon is a tremendous health concern in Florida. The Department of Health reports that 20% of Florida homes have radon levels above the EPA safety level, and that elevated radon is a danger not only in single family homes but in high-rise condo towers and other types of Florida residential buildings.
This is because radium is naturally part of Florida’s soil. As it breaks down, radon is released. It seeps into foundations and flooring, and becomes trapped inside dwellings where its concentration levels escalate.
Radon must be addressed as part of any Florida residential closing, but there is no legal duty placed upon the seller to do more than notify the buyer that it may be a concern.
Under Florida Statute 404.056(5), an inspection of the residence should be made for radon gas. Often, it is only during the closing process that there will be testing for this toxin that is so common in Florida homes.
However, only a written notice or warning must be included in any residential real estate transaction “at time of, or prior to, contract for sale and purchase of any building.” The notice must include the following language as mandated by Florida law:
“RADON GAS: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that, when it has accumulated in a building in sufficient quantities, may present health risks to persons who are exposed to it over time. Levels of radon that exceed federal and state guidelines have been found in buildings in Florida. Additional information regarding radon and radon testing may be obtained from your county health department.”
It is up to the buyer to make sure that radon testing is done. This may require an additional inspection. Not all Florida home inspectors are qualified to inspect for radon. Under both federal and state law, there are professionals who are “radon certified” to provide inspections for the toxin.
It is widely recommended that Florida home buyers pay for a radon inspection. In some instances it may be a legal requirement under federal laws or regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the Federal Housing Administration (FHA); or the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In some parts of South Florida, there is a high risk of flooding due to the characteristics of the land itself. For instance, Broward County is known for the danger of flooding especially during hurricanes or heavy storms.
Under Florida law, a flood elevation certificate can be prepared by a surveyor, engineer, or architect but not by a home inspector. However, an inspector can uncover common signs of flooding like stains on the interior walls of a garage.
An elevation Certificate identifies the elevation level of the lot and the home and it is needed in order to obtain flood insurance. The rate of your flood insurance premium will depend upon the home’s flood elevation.
10. Added Protection From Professional Insurance
Florida law requires the licensed home inspector to maintain a $300,000.00 commercial general liability insurance policy. This policy covers property damage caused by the home inspector.
However, many home inspection companies will also carry “error and omissions” coverage. This is an insurance policy that covers a buyer from harm in the event the inspector fails to disclose or discover a major defect in the home which should have been reasonably detected by him or her during the inspection.
What is the importance in getting the added buyer protection of a home inspection if the home inspection company does not have professional malpractice insurance (E&O)? Knowing that the inspection company has this insurance in place can give a buyer piece of mind if he or she discovers a serious problem with the property after closing.
**Please note, as stated above, a buyer should be familiar with the limitation language in an inspection company’s contract. Most inspection companies limit their liability to the cost of the inspection or some other nominal amount. A buyer should ask to review this information before hiring an inspector.
Mold Assessors in Florida must carry $1,000,000.00 in Errors & Omissions insurance under Florida law (it is a condition of their license).
A Florida Real Estate Lawyer Can Help With Inspection Issues
Before buying a home in South Florida, it is important to understand how unique residential real estate is in our part of the country as well as the risks associated with owning a home.
Buyers need to know that real estate agents and brokers, as well as general home inspectors, are often more interested in making a profit than in making sure the buyer is aware of a home’s issues. Sellers may not know or they may not reveal issues like mold, flooding, or termites.
Having an experienced Florida Real Estate Lawyer to help with closing can be essential for a home buyer, particularly if they have already begun negotiations on the new purchase. Without having an advocate on their side, the buyer runs a risk of being deceived or worse during the transaction.
Most Florida real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, will offer a free initial consultation to answer your questions.
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