Property Inspections: Who Has to Be There?

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Real Estate

By: Meredith Caruso 

There are fewer rules about who should or should not attend a property inspection than many Realtors think. To determine who needs to be present, look at a combination of factors, including the parties’ wishes and the buyers’ and sellers’ rights under the contract.
ORLANDO, Fla. – There’s a fair amount of confusion over who has to be present at a property when an inspector is conducting an inspection for a buyer under contract with a seller. Some of the statements I’ve heard on the Legal Hotline are:

“The buyer’s agent has to be there. It’s required by law!”
“The seller isn’t allowed to be there. He/she must leave.”
“The listing agent doesn’t have to be there – It isn’t the seller’s inspection, it’s the buyer’s!”
“A buyer can’t inspect the property on his/her own. Only a professional inspector can do an inspection.”
To be clear: None of the above statements are, on their own, true or accurate.

Determining who needs to be present during an inspection involves a combination of factors, including the parties’ wishes and the parties’ rights under the contract. Let’s walk through the above statements and break down what isn’t right about each one:

The buyer’s agent has to be there as it is required by law. Nope. There is no Florida law that states a buyer’s Realtor must be present during an inspection. So under what circumstances, might a buyer’s Realtor be present? For starters, if the buyer – that Realtor’s customer – would like their agent to be there. Sometimes buyers themselves aren’t able to be present for the inspection – maybe due to work or being out of town. In those cases, buyers may request their agent to attend and report back on any findings before getting the official report from the inspector.
The seller must leave and cannot be present during the inspection. There is no requirement under any of the Florida Realtors’ contracts or the law that states sellers cannot be at their home when an inspection takes place. Many choose to leave; some decide to stay. The point: It’s entirely up to the sellers whether they’re home or not.
Since it’s a buyers’ inspection, the listing agent doesn’t have to be there. Well, and here is everyone’s favorite answer, it depends. If the sellers want their agent to be present while an inspection is conducted, then the listing agent likely needs to be there. Sellers who aren’t familiar with the buyers’ agent or inspector could feel better knowing their agent was at the property.
The buyers can’t do their own property inspection – only a professional inspector can inspect. This isn’t necessarily true. The answer primarily depends on the contract. For example, in reviewing the ASIS Florida Realtors/Florida Bar Contract, which does not require any seller repairs, buyers have a certain amount of days after the effective date to have “such inspections of the property as buyer shall desire during the inspection period.” If the buyer desires a professional inspection, that’s fine. If the buyer only desires a quick run through the property on his or her own, that’s fine too (although not recommended in most cases). However, with the Contract for Residential Sale and Purchase (CRSP) and the standard Florida Realtors/Florida Bar contract, in which sellers are obligated to make repairs, most of the inspections contemplated by the contracts require a professional inspector or person specializing in the area and holding a license (if required by law) should buyers want contractually required repairs made.
The takeaway here: Blanket statements regarding who must do what and when usually don’t fit each and every situation. In most cases, the language of the contract and buyers and sellers’ wishes need to be taken into account before getting your “answer” – again, by having discussions with your customers about what they expect during a transaction will make you better prepared in the long run.

Meredith Caruso is Associate General Counsel for Florida Realtors

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Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved.