Home inspection nightmares: Why state regulations fail to cover your risk

A Central Florida couple claim a botched inspection has crushed their first home dreams. Weeks after buying the home, the couple discovered it had sustained severe fire damage.

Action 9's Todd Ulrich investigated home inspection nightmares and looked into why state regulations fail to cover some homeowners' risks.

"It's supposed to be our dream home that we worked really hard to get, and now it turned into a nightmare," Rachel Valentine said.

Weeks after Valentine and her husband, Angel, bought their first home, the plumbing backed up.

"(It was coming) Out of the toilet bowl and out the shower," Angel Valentine said.

The couple had a home warranty but what the plumber uncovered took their breath away.

"It was just unreal to find out," Angel Valentine said.

In the manufactured home's crawl space, the plumber found charred wood, melted plumbing and scorched wiring -- damage caused by a fire.

The Valentines said they felt betrayed by the sellers and Pillar to Post Home Inspectors, the inspection company they had paid to find defects before they bought the home.

"How come this wasn't caught during the inspection? How is something this big missed?" Angel Valentine asked.

The damages are so severe that the master bath is ripped apart and the couple fear there may be structural floor damage.

"I just don't feel safe walking around," Angel Valentine said.

The couple claim Pillar to Post sent someone to conduct a re-inspection and that person said dirt had covered up fire damage. So, the company offered a $500 inspection fee refund.

"Does that begin to cover your loss and your pain?" Ulrich asked.

"Nowhere near. It doesn't. It doesn't cover anything," Rachel Valentine replied.

The Valentines sued the sellers, the realtors and the home inspection company. The lawsuit claims it was negligent to miss obvious damage.

Nine years ago, Florida started licensing home inspectors, so they're trained to spot damages even in hard-to-reach places.

But, in the past five years, inspection complaints to state regulators have steadily increased, with just a slight recent drop.

Hollie Phillips complained to the state when a home inspection company failed to find risky aluminum wiring she could not afford to replace.

"It was me and my girls and I couldn't put them in that situation," Phillips said.

Consumer experts warn that Florida doesn't require errors and omissions insurance and, even if it did, you may not be covered.

"Don't assume, if they miss something major, you'll get them to cover it and you'll get money back, even if they carry insurance," said Kevin Brasler, with Consumers' Checkbook.

Ulrich contacted the south Orlando Pillar to Post franchise. Its attorney vehemently denied negligence because conditions were deliberately concealed.  And the lawsuit prevents further comment.

"I just want my home back. I want my life back," Rachel Valentine said.

According to the Valentines, their repairs could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars.

If an inspector can't get into the attic or a crawl space, that must be explained on the report.

Consumer experts say homeowners should be there for the inspection and ask questions.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.