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Vermiculite. Home inspectors do not have to tell you about it.

Posted by Rona Fischman October 25, 2012 02:00 PM

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A reader I will call “Katarina” wrote:

We recently bought a single family house in Dorchester. I was unable to be present during most of the inspection. The report was produced and I read it very carefully since we were about to purchase a fixer upper house.
Anyway, in the report, the inspector noted that there was some ‘loose filled insulation’ and that more insulation was needed.
This loose insulation turns out to be vermiculite. So my questions are:
1. Do Home Inspectors need to let the prospective buyer know that this loose filled insulation could be vermiculite?
2. Are we going to have a difficult time selling this home because of the vermiculite if we chose not to remediate? The attic is one of those accessed by a hatch in a hall way ceiling and a ladder. And we are about to add batt or blown insulation over the vermiculite.

I answered:
The obvious presence of asbestos or vermiculite is frequently a problem on resale. If the buyer or the buyer’s inspector sees it, the question of removal will invariably come up. Sellers who have lived with it for years may find they are cutting their price or losing buyers because of it.

I work with home inspectors who would tell my clients that the loose fill insulation looks like vermiculite and suggest that it be tested. I checked with an inspector that I trust about whether it is common practice to warn a buyer about vermiculite. He said it varies from inspector to inspector because it is excluded from the scope of the inspection, according to licensing law.

There are requirements for the scope of a home inspection in Massachusetts. An inspector can choose to not discuss the items below.

In general, the inspectors I trust most will speak about #1,2,3,10,11, 12 (below) and will point out sources of environmental problems like asbestos, UFFI, toxins, allergens, molds, lead paint, radon gas, noise, odors (which is #13.) They can’t say it is asbestos, but they can say that it looks like it, then recommend that it be tested or just removed.

6.05: General Limitations and Exclusions of the Home Inspection (1) General Limitations. (a) Home Inspections done in accordance with the standards set forth in 266 CMR 6.04 are visual and not Technically Exhaustive. (b) The Home Inspections standards set forth in 266 CMR 6.04 are applicable to Residential Buildings with four or less Dwelling units under one roof and their attached garages. (2) General Exclusions. (a) Inspectors shall not be required to Report On: 1. The remaining life expectancy of any component or system. 2. The causes of the need for repair. 3. The materials for corrections of the problem. 4. The methods of repair other than to indicated the repair should comply with applicable requirements of the governing codes and sound construction practices. 5. Compliance or non-compliance with applicable regulatory requirements unless specifically contracted for in writing. 6. Any component or system not covered by 266 CMR 6.04. 7. Cosmetic items. 8. Items that are not Readily Accessible and Observable, underground items, or items not permanently installed. 9. Systems or Components specifically excluded by Client (noted in writing in the Contract or in the Report). (b) Inspectors shall not be required to perform or provide any of the following under the Home Inspection specified in 266 CMR 6.04: 1. Offer warranties, guarantees and/or insurance policies of any kind on the property being inspected. 2. Collect any engineering data (the size of structural members and/or the output of mechanical and/or electrical equipment). 3. Inspect spaces that are not Readily Accessible and Observable. Enter any area or perform any procedure, which may damage the property or its components, or be dangerous and unsafe to the Inspector or other persons, as determined by and Reported by the Inspector. 4. Disturb or move insulation, stored and/or personal items, furniture, equipment, plant life, soil, snow, ice, or debris that obstructs access or visibility. 5. Determine the effectiveness of any system installed to control or remove suspected hazardous substances 6. Predict future conditions, including but not limited to failure of Components. (See Additional Services) 7. Project operating costs of Components. 8. Determine extent or magnitude of damage or failures noted. 9. Operate any System or Component which does not respond to normal operating controls. 10. Test for radon gas. 11. Determine the presence or absence of pests including but not limited to: rodents or wood destroying insects. 12. Determine the energy efficiency of the dwelling as a whole or any individual system or component within the dwelling. 13. Perform Environmental Services including determining the presence or verifying the absence of any micro organisms or suspected hazardous substances including, but not limited to, carbon monoxide, latent surface and/or subsurface Volatile Organic Compounds, PCB's, asbestos, UFFI, toxins, allergens, molds, carcinogens, lead paint, radon gas, electromagnetic radiation, noise, odors, or any contaminants in soil, water, air wet lands and/or any other environmental hazard not listed in 266 CMR 6.05(2)(a) and (b). 14. Evaluate acoustical characteristics of any system or component. 15. Inspect surface and subsurface soil conditions.

What did your inspector do an not do? Would you not buy a house with vermiculite in the attic?

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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