Form 17 is a state-mandated form, and the seller only has three options: Yes, No, and Don’t Know.
If a seller answers “Yes” to any question, they have just guaranteed that the answer is an absolute yes, which is the same in the law as an insurance policy on which you could sue them if the answer turned out not to be 100% true. If they answer “No” and the real answer is anything less than 100% no, again they could be sued.
If they answer “Don’t Know” they are answering with the safest answer, but it may also be the most truthful answer. After all who knows that a particular condition of the house is either 100% yes or 100% no? Who would be willing to be sued if they were even slightly incorrect?
When a person answers “Don’t Know” they reduce the possibility of being sued almost completely. Part of the reason is that it may be the most truthful answer, but even more importantly it would be very difficult to come up with actual evidence you could use in a courtroom under the strict Federal or State Rules of Evidence that they knew inside their head. Unless there is external evidence, there is virtually no way to prove that someone knew or didn’t know inside their own mind.
Understanding what a Home Inspection covers when you should turn to Form 17 to get the answers that a Home Inspection doesn't include, based on the Washington State SOP for home inspections.Take a look at the image to the right, we have highlighted all the areas that pertain to the limitations of a home inspection based on the WA State Standards of Practice and what a Home Inspector is required to look at under the licensed inspectors required visual inspection. (Our review of Form 17 does not suggest that areas not highlighted be ignored. The entire form should be reviewed by your Realestate lawyer prior to the signing of any legal document)
Follow along with us as we break down the highlighted areas in the Sellers Disclosure Form 17
Section 1. TITLE
Inspectors are not required to report on any easements, property lines, right of ways, zoning etc. WAC 308-408C-030 This section is what your Title Company typically verifies.
Section 2. WATER
A (1) Private Water Systems - Inspector is not required to inspect: WAC 308-408C-100 (vi) Private water supply systems. ( Yes this is outside the scope of the WA requirements. Make sure you understand what is being inspected when buying a home with a private water supply system. Many inspectors will follow the State SOP due to insurance policy requirements)
A (2) Is there an easement for access and/or maintenance of the water source? - This area is also outside the standards for a home inspection. Home inspectors do not verify access rights or maintenance responsibilities of the home's water source. WAC 308-408C-100 This applies to both public and private source and water wells.
A (5) Are there any water treatment systems on for the property? - Inspector is not required to inspect: WAC 308-408C-100 (v) Water-conditioning equipment, including softeners and filter systems.
B. Irrigation Water
(1) Irrigation water rights, permits, certifications or claim? Inspectors are not required to inspect. Believe it was a few years back we did an inspection where the water service was coming from a stream along the back of the property. The home had very low pressure and was later determined that yes the home was served by the stream. So what would happen if neighboring properties cut off the stream? Is it your right to have the stream returned to its natural flow? What if flow changes? So just when you have been spoiled by public utilities it is up to the buyer to verify such cases. Think this was a Renton property if I recall...
C. Outdoor Sprinkler System
C (1) Outdoor Sprinklers - Inspectors are not required to inspect. (12) Determine the existence of or inspect any underground items including, but not limited to, underground storage tanks or sprinkler systems.
Section 4. STRUCTURAL
Some of the defects listed for the seller to check are items a Home Inspection itself is not required to inspect. Some of these items are:
Stair Chair Lifts
G. Structural Pest
Structural Pest inspections are not permitted by a Home Inspector unless they are a licensed Structural Pest Inspector. SPI inspection is not required and are often omitted from a Home Inspection.
Section 5. SYSTEMS AND FIXTURES
Section 7. ENVIRONMENTAL
EVERY ITEM IN THIS SECTION IS NOT A REPORTED REQUIREMENT OF A HOME INSPECTION
A home inspection does not report on Environmental issues.
Inspectors are not required to: (3) Report the presence of potentially hazardous plants or animals including, but not limited to, wood destroying insects or diseases harmful to humans; the presence of any environmental hazards including, but not limited to mold, toxins, carcinogens, noise, and contaminants in soil, water or air; the effectiveness of any system installed or methods utilized to control or remove suspected hazardous substances.
The Home Inspection does not include investigation of mold, asbestos, lead paint, water, soil, air quality or other environmental issues unless agreed to in writing in the preinspection agreement.
Stay tuned for more....Yes, we are just getting started.
Check out this video from Dana Charter with John L Scott of Issaquah as he explains the Form 17 Sellers Disclosure Form