Memo to Real Estate Professionals RE: Inspecting Crawlspaces with Water
FROM: InterNACHI, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
As the world’s largest inspector association, InterNACHI puts its members’ safety first. InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice for Performing a General Home Inspection provides a minimum inspection standard for home inspectors to follow, and includes limitations, exceptions and exclusions. (The Standards can be read in their entirety at www.nachi.org/sop.) While we do not regulate nor oversee the business or inspection activities of our members, we do advocate that they take every precaution to keep themselves and their clients—as well as any other parties relevant to the real estate transaction who may be on site—safe and out of harm’s way. Although a home inspection is a non-invasive and visual property evaluation, it is not without its inherent risks. Liability issues notwithstanding, the InterNACHI inspector’s first duty is to the public, and that includes their clients’ safety.
One area of the home that is notorious for hazards is the crawlspace, and one common hazard within a crawlspace is standing water and moisture intrusion.
Here are some dangers that may be present in a crawlspace due to moisture intrusion and/or standing water, and the problems associated with trying to inspect one:
- slip-and-fall hazards due to not being able to see the floor/ground clearly and maintain safe footing and traction;
- live pests, which may include snakes and rats, that are attracted to dark and damp places;
- biohazards, such as mold and microbial growth, sewage, animal/vermin feces, etc.;
- hidden obstructions and other dangers that can cause falls and other injuries, including floating debris, hidden holes, dislodged flooring, loose metal components, rugs, grates, etc.;
- defective hidden/live electrical wiring, which may come into contact with water and pose a danger of fatal electrocution; and
- the inability to properly assess an area that is under water or unusually damp, regardless of any personal protective equipment (PPE) worn, as doing so in this case only protects the wearer’s garments, but does nothing to aid in a proper and full inspection.
The main problem with the hazards listed above is that they are often discovered too late, after the person has been injured or exposed. That is why we strongly urge our inspectors to use their experience, training and discretion to protect themselves and their clients by disclaiming crawlspaces that appear unsafe, including those that are unusually damp, muddy, or have standing water. It is the property owner’s responsibility to mitigate such unsafe conditions in order for the crawlspace to be safely and fully inspected.