A home is a substantial investment, so it makes sense if you, like most other homebuyers, invest in a professional home inspection. Though a home inspection is costly, it can be well worth the extra expense if it means identifying costly issues before you close.
What if, however, the inspector failed to detect something as major as a termite infestation? Can you sue the inspector for a negligent inspection or breach of contract? The answer depends.
Suing for negligence
Unless the infestation was relatively new at the time of the inspection, it can be difficult for a thorough inspector to miss it. If you discover signs of an infestation after you move in, SmartAsset says you may be able to claim that the inspector failed to take reasonable necessary steps to detect all problems within the home. However, proving the inspector was negligent may not be easy.
Most home inspectors require home buyers or sellers to sign off on inspection reports. If you signed off on the report, you may have to hire a second inspector to assess the damage. The second inspector must determine whether it was reasonable for the first inspector to miss the issue, or if he or she should have easily discovered it.
Suing for breach of contract
If your case does not have the foundation for negligence, you may be able to recover compensation through a breach of contract suit. This may be the best course of action if you can prove that the inspector violated the contract in some way. For instance, if the contract promised a full-house inspection, but if the inspector did not investigate your attic or crawl spaces, you could claim that this failure caused him or her to miss a large issue, such as a termite infestation.
Before you sue for either negligence or breach of contract, beware of the exculpatory clause. Many inspectors include clauses that limit their liability to just the cost of the inspection. If such a clause exists, the inspector would only have to reimburse you a couple of hundreds of dollars in inspection fees as opposed to the, say, tens of thousands of dollars in termite damage. In this case, pursuing a claim would not make smart financial sense.