It is important that you understand the role that the California Real Estate Inspection Association (“CREIA”) plays in handling complaints regarding real estate inspections. CREIA is committed to maintaining ethical standards for its members. Before we authorize any inspector to identify himself or herself as a CREIA Inspector, they must pass a general inspection knowledge exam and an ethics course or test. All members agree to abide by CREIA’s Code of Ethics in their business conduct.
Should you wish to make a complaint please note that CREIA can address an ethics matter only if it concerns one of our members. Membership in CREIA is available only to individuals. It is important that CREIA know specifically which inspector, by name, is involved. Also, please note, CREIA cannot keep your name confidential from the individual against whom you bring a complaint because the specifics of the complaint need to be investigated with that individual.
To help you frame your complaint more completely, CREIA will supply you with a complaint form that is completed by you and returned to CREIA. This form will be included with any other materials that have been submitted relating to the complaint and forwarded to the CREIA Ethics Committee for review and action. Our Ethics Committee very seriously reviews an ethical complaint. After careful investigation, they will respond to both the complainant and the inspector involved.
CREIA is looking out for consumers by establishing Standards of Practice, which have been recognized throughout the state and are frequently used a referencing standard by the real estate and legal community. However, while CREIA has set these standards, CREIA is unable to monitor Standards of Practice performance by individual inspectors because they usually involve findings of fact, outside expert opinions, and possible legal proceedings. Look carefully at the services you contracted for with your inspector and then discuss your issues with the inspector.
If you have found items in your written inspection report that you fail to understand, call the inspector and ask them to thoroughly explain the condition(s) in question.
If you fail to find defects listed in your report that your inspector verbally noted to you during the inspection process, call the inspector and ask why they were left out.
If you get a conflicting opinion from one of the agents involved in the transaction, call the inspector and ask them for the basis for their opinion.
If you get a conflicting opinion from a contractor retained to perform corrective work on a defective system or component noted in the inspector's report, call the inspector and ask for further explanation; suggest the inspector speak to the contractor.
If you find that the seller states that a certain item reported as defective or hazardous is not a problem and refuses to negotiate a price adjustment, it is the seller’s legal right to not negotiate. Either accept the seller's position or look for another house.
If you feel the inspector performed less than a thorough inspection, call the inspector and share your feelings. If the inspector fails to satisfy your feelings, offer to return the inspector's written report, sign a legal waiver of action, and ask for your money back.
If you have exhausted the above solutions and you feel that you have neither received the inspection services you contracted for nor received services to the current standards of practice, then there are several varying levels of recourse available to you:
Register a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in your local area or visit the Better Business Bureau Online at www.bbb.org
Register a complaint with the California Department of Consumer Affairs at 916/445-1254.
Small Claims Court
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it all goes wrong, and you have no choice but to try and get help from the legal system. In California, the “legal system” includes a small claims court; an alternative designed to produce faster judgments at a reduced expense. Small claims court is designed to help people recover money, while arbitration or courts of greater jurisdiction are better alternatives for more complex problems. The amount of money that you can collect in California small- claims court is limited to $5000. Suing in small claims court in not a complicated procedure, and the whole process, from starting your lawsuit to collecting your judgment, might take only a few weeks. Please note that procedures may vary from county to county. Contact your local Small Claims Court for more information.
Before you consider a full-scale legal action, there are alternative dispute resolution forums available to you. They include utilizing either arbitration or mediation.
Engaging an arbitrator is similar to having a judge, although the arbitrator may be an experienced trained layperson. After hearing both sides, the arbitrator makes a decision in the matter. Arbitration, like mediation, can be binding or non-binding. This is determined by the parties involved. It is recommended that you engage the services of someone familiar with real estate and inspection issues. In some cases, your contract with the inspector may require you to arbitrate any dispute that cannot be resolved. The contract may also stipulate an arbitration service provider that specialized in construction and inspection issues to better serve both parties. Also, the California Real Estate Inspection Association can help you locate arbitrators who are familiar with inspection and consumer issues.
Mediation is a process of the parties making a decision between themselves utilizing the services of an impartial trained mediator. The mediation setting is informal and both sides are permitted opportunity to express both their factual position as well as their emotional feelings on the matter. It is an efficient and usually inexpensive process As with arbitration, is it recommended that you engage the services of someone familiar with real estate and inspection issues. The California Real Estate Inspection Association can help you locate trained mediators who are familiar with inspection and consumer issues.
In the unfortunate event that your dispute rises to the level of a court action, you (and your attorney) will probably be in need of expert witnesses who can testify as to the standards of practice for inspectors and to comment on the performance of the inspection in dispute. The California Real Estate Inspection Association can help you locate recognized expert witnesses in the area of dispute in which your claim is focused.