If you are in the market for a house, you might consider hiring a home inspector to look over and report to you the condition of the home you are intending to buy.
His home inspection report is likely to be published on a computer software program that he owns or leases that provides him with the means to record his observations and provide you with the information in a convenient format. This report is useful in determining whether or not to purchase the home and it also provides you with information that can be useful in negotiating a better price or improvements to defects before purchase … but who else is getting this information about your home, the names of its occupants, and their contact information? Who controls where this information is distributed and how are some of the ways that this information can be used?
At least one home insurance company, through its holding company, has purchased a home inspection reporting software program that is leased to home inspectors all over the country for their use in recording information about homebuyers and their properties. The inspectors using this software are required to add language to their contracts allowing this information to be stored and accessed by unnamed entities for unspecified purposes.
The insurance company that owns this software program that compiles this data about the homes that are being inspected also includes certain exclusions in their home insurance policies that allow them to deny coverage for certain conditions that can be described in these reports … after a claim has been filed.
For example, a home inspector using this particular software might record that he observed minor hail strikes on a certain section of the roof that, upon a later and closer examination, was found to be minor and of no concern to you. A year after you move in, a hail storm of significant force could cause heavy damage to your roof and when you file an insurance claim to recover for this damage, the insurer could have access to information of the previous damage upon which they could incorrectly base a full or partial denial of coverage.
Who else is getting access to this information about your home and its occupants? Are local contractors and their employees learning the names and contact information for new homeowners as well as (1) the location and type of installed alarm systems, (2) the type and quality of installed appliances, (3) photographs of the home containing points of entry, landscaping, and accessibility?
Will this information be sold and resold to various telemarketing/robocall companies to offer you “upgrades” to your current home systems? Will they be able to misrepresent themselves as “consultants” or vendors for systems that were reported to be in your home? Will solicitors with your name and address be able to call upon you in person?
Before hiring a home inspector – and while checking on his qualifications and background – consider ALSO determining exactly who (other than you) will be receiving information about you and your dwelling.
Will anyone other than you or your real estate agent be able to access the inspection report? Does the home inspector offer special “add-on” services provided by third parties who will have access to your private information in exchange for providing him with the additional services he offers?
Insist on obtaining something in writing from the home inspector that his software program is owned completely by him and not accessible by any third parties. Further, consider obtaining a written assurance that no information about your new home and/or its occupants will be provided to any third party under any circumstances. If the inspector you are interviewing cannot provide you with this assurance, consider hiring one who will.