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Report for Underwriter - They want specific language - CoercionHelpful Member!(7) 

siteturbo (Civil/Environmental) (OP)
27 Feb 13 9:13

I just did a structural report on a residential home stating whether or not a specific framing element was structurally sound or not. The lender/underwriter came back to me and said that they must have specific language stating this and that and the other.

How far can these underwriters go in stating what me report should say and tell me "how to say it". Is there any legal implication from them telling me what to say in my report. I mean, they're asking for my opinion and I gave it. Then they ask me to say it another way. How far can they legally go with this. Isn't this called coercion and isn't it illegal, or at least unethical, to say the least?

It's a little frustrating!
dik (Structural)
27 Feb 13 9:16
Do your report as you see fit. Apologise and explain that what he is requesting is improper and/or incorrect in your opinion.

ztengguy (Structural)
27 Feb 13 10:03
Yea, they want you to say it so they can get the loan out. they really dont care if it is sound or not.
frv (Structural)
27 Feb 13 10:43
And then, if something goes wrong, they'll come after you because you said such-and-such.
Helpful Member!  MikeHalloran (Mechanical)
27 Feb 13 10:47
Is your report subject to interpretation, or does it unequivocally say (yes|no}?

Does your report use words or technical phrases that a layperson would not understand?

I.e., it's not clear if your correspondent is actually asking you to change your conclusions, which you should of course refuse, or if (s)he is asking for clarity and/or plain language, which you might consider doing.

... or if you are actually dealing with a clerical person who has been ordered/trained to seek out specific words having specific meanings as defined by someone's lawyers, and they have been specifically trained/ordered to not interpret any words outside some defined subset as being responsive to the issue.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

woodman88 (Structural)
27 Feb 13 10:52
I agree with MikeHalloran.

The problem with bureaucracies (government especially and private) is that they create their own report format and language. Follow their format for the report and ask for their definition of the words (if they appear to mean other than what you stated) they want and see if you can include the words per their definition. Add the definitions, as an attachment, to your report. Your using words that mean the same as or are similar in meaning to the words they are looking for might/will confuse the person (a government worker or possibly a person in another country) checking the report.

The biggest example of this, that I know of, is medical insurance (in the USA). Most doctor offices need to have someone on staff to fill out the insurance forms (difference for each company/plan) for payment. As each company appears to want the same thing stated somewhat differently.

Though building departments (and the third party) plan checkers come out as a close second biggest.

But do not change your meaning in the report!

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

paddingtongreen (Structural)
27 Feb 13 13:52
I'm with MikeHalloran too. Are they asking you to lie or to clarify?

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

msquared48 (Structural)
27 Feb 13 14:11
If it does not change the engineering and legal based intent of my thinking, I have no problems with it.

As far as I am concerned, it is just trade specific language... most of the time.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

NS4U (Structural)
27 Feb 13 14:40
I wonder if their insurance policy has specific lanaguage and relies on the use of specific terms. They probably want your report to match their policy with their client so there is no ambiguity. I see it sometimes. Usually it's just word smiting, nothing devlish.

you don't have any examples so it's tough to say if they are trying to change the meaning of your report or just switch one term for another (without changing content). Obviously if they are trying to change the meaning of your report that is wrong.

Why not just ask them why they want you change the wording?
Helpful Member!  miningman (Mining)
27 Feb 13 17:10
Submit your invoice. Invite the client to wordsmith your report in exactly the format they would like to see and submit it to you. For an additional fee, ( to be mutually agreed) you will review the revised report, and either agree to sign it (obviously on the understanding there is zero difference in technical content) or provide an additional report ( for an additional fee) explaining why their proposed changes cannot be signed by yourself. That should escalate the matter high enough to get the matter reviewed by someone with authority AND common sense.
1gibson (Mechanical)
27 Feb 13 17:29


I just did a structural report on a residential home stating whether or not a specific framing element was structurally sound or not.

So was the answer yes or no? If it takes more than one word to compltely answer that question, then I can't say I blame the customer for wanting some clarification.
Helpful Member!  dik (Structural)
27 Feb 13 18:39
I hate to be the odd man out, but I can handle it! Although your intentions may be good, or possibly questionable (prostitute comes to mind), it is a very bad idea.

Once I've prepared a report it is legally, technically and gramatically correct... and very precise.

I do not want to learn the 'jargon' of some other entity and whatever other meanings some 'catchall' phrases may have that may differ from my grasp of the vernacular.

If my report is reviewed, it will be reviewed and/or challenged by others using the same technical language and not by general underwriters.

I do not want to have to explain to the Judge, why I modified my report to suit my client.

gte447f (Structural)
27 Feb 13 20:07
Agree with dik on this one.

You may respond to specific questions or inquiries about the content of your report. Asuming you have met your contractual obligations by delivering the final draft of your report ("final" based on your own internal process of report generation/review/revision, whatever that may be... not on their review and revision of your report), then if they need clarification let them ask, and place the onus on them to be specific about the information they need or want. Sort of like answering an RFI about a set of Construction Drawings.

Is the lender/underwriter your client?
dik (Structural)
27 Feb 13 21:16
I sometimes prepare an addendum to a report, but, the original report stands on its own merit.

woodman88 (Structural)
27 Feb 13 23:28
Must be nice to write reports for “others using the same technical language” and not having to worry about whether the client (or anybody else) can understand it.

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

GregLocock (Automotive)
28 Feb 13 5:16
So, you occasionally write reports in Swahili, after all if they are technically correct then the language used is merely an inconvenience to the customer?

My /guess/ is that the underwriter would like a clear statement that confirms that structure X has been designed in full accordance with the regs and best practices of state Y, to the most conservative assumptions. My other /guess/ is that a young engineer might use equivocal language when supplying such an assurance.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

TenPenny (Mechanical)
28 Feb 13 8:20
You have a client who is paying you to write a report that answers a specific question (is the item in question structurally sound, yes or no). Did your report answer that question? If so, tell your client that you've done what you're paid for, and the bill is now due.

Did the client request the report in a specific format or with specific wording?

In other words, have you done what you were asked to do, or have you done what you think you were asked to do? There's a difference.
gte447f (Structural)
28 Feb 13 8:34
A certain level of technical jargon is inherent to any thorough engineering report. Try asking your postman or your neighbor who isn't an engineer to explain to you what "moment" means as used in structural engineering, and see how close they come.

The underwriter may indeed want an unequivocal statement like "structure X has been designed in full accordance with the regs and best practices of state Y, to the most conservative assumptions", but you damn sure won't find anything like that in any of my reports for an inspection of an existing residential structure that could have been built by the lowest common denominator. In my opinion, to do so would far exceed the standard of care, based on my own experience with the time limits and the financial and physical constraints applicable to the residential structural condition assessment market.
siteturbo (Civil/Environmental) (OP)
28 Feb 13 9:35
Here's is the matter, specifically.

A homeowner built an addition without permits. The addition rest, partially, on an existing home.

My report stated that, "...there was no evidence to indicate that the addition is impairing the structural integrity of the existing home."

Well, the underwriters insist, and they want it to say, "...the additions do not impact the structural integrity of the existing home."

Do you see the difference.

Without a set of plans, and without taking off the roof, sheathing, etc, and viewing the underlying framing and fastening components, there is no way to determine, emphatically, what they are wanting. Our scope included observations of visible items only, not a complete forensic investigation. The order of magnitude just 10 fold in terms of scope and cost.
siteturbo (Civil/Environmental) (OP)
28 Feb 13 9:38
"The order of magnitude just 10 fold in terms of scope and cost."

I meant to say, "jumps 10 fold".
OHIOMatt (Structural)
28 Feb 13 10:12
They are asking to state something that you likely cannot substantiate. The addition is adding load to existing elements, this by definition has impacted the integrity of the home. It may be fine, and likely, based upon your assessment, is. I have been in this situation before. Stick to your report based upon the facts as you know them. The last time I was in this situation, I asked to speak to the department manager. I explained that we had no way of knowing what was there, only that it appeared to be performing adequately. They accepted the letter.

After the headaches, we made it a policy to avoid these types of projects.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
28 Feb 13 10:28
So, the farthest you could go is, "...the additions do not appear to impact the structural integrity of the existing home"

My doctor gets this sort of reach statement request all the time, "...the patient does not have any diseases that prevent them from adopting..." usually from foreign countries trying to limit US adoptions.

FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

Need help writing a question or understanding a reply? forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers

stanweld (Materials)
28 Feb 13 10:47
Assuming that your investigation and report was generated by a propose real estate transaction, were you working for the underwriter, the seller or the buyer? If you are not working for the underwriter, you owe him nothing. If you are working for him, you may well need to address specific issues that he believes have not been properly addressed in your report.
Helpful Member!(2)  wadavis (Structural)
28 Feb 13 10:55
It is understandable for an underwriter to be unhappy with a even slightly opaque summary, they came to an engineering firm to get clear info to act on. Consider formatting your executive summary with:

- A binary summary of your findings: "Additions Engineering Inc. says the additions do not impact the structural integrity of the existing home." / "Additions Engineering Inc. says a visual inspection is insufficient to assess the structural integrity of the existing house."

- A summary of your analysis scope (this is your disclaimer): "We visually inspected the addition for structural concerns, destructive testing, NDT, FEA or gypsy fortune telling was not included in the inspection."

- Clear recommended actions: "Additions Engineering Inc does not recommend further action" / "Additions Engineering Inc. recommends further inspection including the removal of finishing to inspect structural connections and members"

This of course is only from my experience as an EIT working on residential projects, I would like to hear others input.
rb1957 (Aerospace)
28 Feb 13 11:05
"...the additions do not appear to impact the structural integrity of the existing home"

"...the additions do not appear to negatively impact the structural integrity of the existing home"

the addition clearly adds load into the house structure, and the house structure doesn't show obvious signs that these additional loads are causing damage.
and just to piss them off ... although clearly there are scenarios where the addition would cause damage to the house (eg, if the addition's footings subsided, if an unusually high snow load built up on the addition's roof.

i'd've thought (quite possibly wrongly) that "all" the underwriter would want is a statement that the structure (house and addition) is structurally sound.

Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

Helpful Member!  1gibson (Mechanical)
28 Feb 13 12:36


My report stated that, "...there was no evidence to indicate that the addition is impairing the structural integrity of the existing home."

Regardless of your scope, you can't definitively say "there was no evidence" unless you've completely investigated. What if there is/was evidence, you just didn't see it because it was outside your scope? That would make your statement incorrect. I am surprised the underwrite didn't accept that.

Define the basis of your conclusion, and then state the conclusion. "Based on the information reviewed during this assesment, the addition does not impair the structural integrity of the existing home."

Maybe this is too nit picky, but "is impairing" doesn't help anybody with anything. Maybe there wasn't any snow on the roof the day you made that statement. Maybe it had impaired it in the past, and will impair it in the future.
Helpful Member!  Ron (Structural)
28 Feb 13 16:17
Because of the limitations of a scope of such assessments, and absent being able to analyze the structure for cost and time reasons, there must be caveats and limitations in the language of the report. It is not (or should not be) an unqualified "yes" or "no". Any requirements for specific language should have been given prior to the engagement, giving you a chance to accept or decline the engagement. If there is anything unclear about your statements, you have an obligation to clarify those as your end readers might have no technical background, as others have noted. This is common in condition assessments.

Conversely, I agree with dik. If you have done a good technical assessment and have presented that in such a manner that a non-technical person could reasonably understand it, and you have covered your liability, then your report stands. If they want a clarification you can issue a supplement, taking care that your supplement does not conflict with your original.

Be careful with some of their "standard" language. Those little paragraphs they want included can sometimes cause your liability to skyrocket.
GregLocock (Automotive)
28 Feb 13 21:41
I gave wadavis a star for his second alternative, specify what you did, and what you found from doing that, and point out the absence of heavyweight in-depth analysis.


Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

concretemasonry (Structural)
28 Feb 13 21:58
There is no legal requirement that says the professional disagrees with has to something that the lender is not comfortable with and must provide since their are other lenders, but it may be a time constraint or a cost problem. There other choices for the owner to make since there are many firms/people willing to make a living/profit for services and/or funding.

This not a structural answer, but based on common problems when people are concerned about their liability. Very often it is a result of anticipated results and previous promised or commitments.


Engineer and international traveler interested in construction techniques, problems and proper design.

dik (Structural)
1 Mar 13 12:34
Reports are easily understandable by most people, but are technically correct... if they are challenged, they will likely be challenged by technical people. There was nothing in my postings that my reports were not 'readable'... I didn't know that there were technical Swahiliis (sp?)... the importance of a report is communication, and a big part of that is understanding...

You can sign and seal anything you want, and at the end of the day, you have to be prepared to defend your submission... Using the line, "The client wanted me to write it this way", and a buck and a half will get you a cup of coffee...

Thanks Ron

steellion (Structural)
1 Mar 13 13:29
You have to write the report in a way that accurately reflects your scope of work for the project. Do not bow to the pressure of the underwriters to make absolute assertions regarding the integrity of the project that you know as an engineer that you cannot make. Phrases such as "based on our limited visual evaluation...", "based on information provided..." and "the structure appeared to be..." are your friends and accurately reflect your ability to evaluate the structure and effectively limit your liability.

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