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Passing on a job
2

Passing on a job

Passing on a job

(OP)
Hi all,

New to this forum. I have a business and ethics question for you all. I recently performed a home inspection for a guy trying to sell his home. Turns out there were a bunch of mods made, including the significant removal of primary shear walls - done without a permit. Well, i wrote a fairly scathing report outlining the issues. Now, unfortunately for this guy, his buyer dropped out of the sale and he is stuck with my report. Turns out this guy is a house flipper and a somewhat shady one at that. He now wants me to walk him through improvements he needs to make for me to revise my report. But, frankly i want nothing to do with this clown. I told him to find another engineer.

Was that wrong? Am i obliged to help him correct deficiencies i pointed out?

And before you ask, i fulfilled the terms of our contract so i dont think legally i am obligated. Ethically though?

Thoughts?

RE: Passing on a job

Nothing wrong at all. Tell him to share your report with another competent engineer who can help with the design.

RE: Passing on a job

I agree with JStructsteel. You told him what is wrong. He can either restore it based on the prescriptive code, or hire an engineer to design a fix. Doesn't have to be you. If nothing else, tell him you don't have room in your schedule for a design for 5 months. I doubt he'll be willing to wait. If he is, quadruple the price.

RE: Passing on a job

And require payment in full in advance.

RE: Passing on a job

Refer him to a competitor you hate smile

nothing good ever came from dealing with shady people....

RE: Passing on a job

Just so long as the competitor doesn't hate you in return. If they do, they'll probably find a way to convince the owner that it was really okay all along and they should sue you for damages for losing out on that sale. Even if it doesn't stick, it would be a serious PITA.

RE: Passing on a job

I've dealt/seen this type of stuff before. Add a recommendation in the report to retain a structural engineer to fix any observed issues. I don't think you are on the hook to fix previous alterations, but the added recommendation does help prevent them from defaulting to your services (which you don't want to provide).

"The primary shear walls have been modified...We recommend the Client retain a structural engineer registered in _______ to provide design that addresses the observed deficiencies."

They usually ask for recommendations. Tell them you are not available but Person X, Y, Z might be.

RE: Passing on a job

"Was that wrong?"

IMHO, not "wrong", but maybe a little harsh. Essentially as a non engineer / domestic client, I would have thought that part of the report would be an outline at least of what was required in order to obtain a permit post the work or the repairs required to bring the property into a secure place.

"Am i obliged to help him correct deficiencies i pointed out?"

Again IMHO, no, not "obliged", however I think you should have provided at least a simple list of what you thought would be required to correct the deficiencies, even if you decline to actually do the detail work yourself. I would just tell him you would love to do the work yourself, but unfortunately the projects you have would mean he would need to wait at least 6 months and you advise him to look for others not so heavily loaded. And if by chance he waits 6 months, then as said before just quote some extortionate price and time required to do the work. And say he would need to wait another 6 months...

What exactly did the contract say about the work you were asked to do? Is there any wriggle room for the developer to say you haven't completed your work?

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Passing on a job

" think you should have provided at least a simple list of what you thought would be required to correct the deficiencies,"

This is a slippery slope to design. If the scope of the original report did not include any recommendations, don't include any. Not only is this free service if you add more information. You also open yourself to liability. Like the owner sells the house and the new owner assumes they only have to do what you wrote. but it turns out much more has to be done.

RE: Passing on a job

Directly to your point, no, you are not obligated to help him correct the deficiencies that you identified, assuming, as you say, that was not part of your contractual obligations, which you say you have satisfied.

Beyond that, I would add to be wary of situations like this in the future. Consider strengthening the language in both your contract and your report to make clear that design and construction drawings, etc. for any needed repairs is not included in the scope of services of the inspection. Offer as additional services if you want.

I perform structural assessments related to residential real estate transactions quite often. My engagements are almost always for the buyer, not the seller. I find that working for the seller is more fraught with possibilities that can lead to unhappy clients. In short, buyers tend to view your findings as useful information for their benefit. On the other hand, unless you determine that everything is in great shape, sellers tend to view your findings as screwing them over. Sellers may tell you upfront that they just want to do the right thing, but in the end, it has been my experience that they are likely to be unhappy with any findings that are not in their favor.

RE: Passing on a job

You should be able to add caveats like "as a minimum" and "will require further design, checks and calculations "

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Passing on a job

Quote (EnergyProfessional)

This is a slippery slope to design.

No doubt. It's basically the fallacy as "tell me why this won't work". If that was possible, then new product development would reduce down to checklists and not prototypes.

Another thought: if, in your inspection, you identified several outwardly visible mistakes in (re)construction, imagine how much more is waiting to be discovered? Would the client trust you when new unfortunate things are added to the scope?

I don't do structural engineering, but it's your prerogative if you don't want to take on that work / get involved with a shady real estate seller. One thing I've learned about real estate - trust your instincts when something seems off.

RE: Passing on a job

I'm of the opposite opinion on this one. If the client wants to make his faulty work right, and is willing to pay you properly to assist him achieve that, I think you should help.

A bit like going to a dentist and admitting you dont brush and floss as much as you should, and you know you shouldnt have left the chip on that molar so long before coming in to see him. What would you think of the dentist if he told you everything that was wrong with your mouth, but told you to find another dentist to fix it?

IMO home inspections by engineers are the lowest value and riskiest work there is. Turning it into an actual project brings some value to the project for you, and reduces your risk.

RE: Passing on a job

Quote (NorthCivil)

home inspections by engineers are the lowest value and riskiest work there is. Turning it into an actual project brings some value to the project for you, and reduces your risk.

There's an engineer in my area that does nothing but inspections. Carries no liability insurance. Has lots of disclaimers and makes his clients sign a waiver releasing him from liability - don't know how well it will hold up if he get sued, but he has one. He does no design work. If he finds a problem that requires more than prescriptive IRC, he points it out and tells them to find an engineer with insurance to do the design. And he charges 3x what most other engineers in the area charge for doing a better job of inspecting a house.

RE: Passing on a job

Quote (phamENG)

There's an engineer in my area that does nothing but inspections. Carries no liability insurance. Has lots of disclaimers and makes his clients sign a waiver releasing him from liability - don't know how well it will hold up if he get sued, but he has one. He does no design work. If he finds a problem that requires more than prescriptive IRC, he points it out and tells them to find an engineer with insurance to do the design. And he charges 3x what most other engineers in the area charge for doing a better job of inspecting a house.

phamENG
In my area, there are quite a few engineers that do nothing but this, except that they charge 1/3 of a decent rate for an engineer instead of 3X. Their typical deliverable is a 1 paragraph letter with about a half dozen spelling and grammatical errors in it. There are also several unlicensed folk that offer and advertise "structural inspections". Most of the unlicensed ones are smart enough not to use the magic word (engineer) or any of its derivatives, but I know of one who lies about being an engineer and is not. I reported him myself to the board, and to my knowledge nothing has been done about it.

I do not perform home inspections, but I do perform residential structural condition assessments as a structural engineer. In my opinion, there is a a significant difference in the standard of care between the two offerings. Whether that difference is real or self-imposed, I don't know.

RE: Passing on a job

gte447f - yeah, the guy I'm referring to does more than a paragraph, but lots of grammatical and (I think) technical errors. We wound up on opposite sides of a mini-dispute once (didn't go to court), but I wrote a 3 page, detailed technical analysis and description of what was going on with the house. He wrote about other things completely unrelated to the problem and then saved two sentences at the end to say that my assessment was ridiculous. Nothing to back it up other than the fact that I disagreed with him.

I agree on the inspection/assessment language. I still slip into "inspection" occasionally, but I've been pretty diligent about making sure it doesn't show up in proposals or reports.

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