Is a home inspector required to inspect (test) a washing machine?
No, there is no "requirement," but a home inspector can test anything he wants to or that the client wants tested.
Does that surprise you?
Isn't the home inspector hired to examine systems and components? Yes, but there are limits.
The home inspection associations agree - there is no "requirement" to inspect some things. Clothes washing machines fall under that "requirement."
Remember too - standards are MINIMUM standards. An inspector can, at his discretion and according to the business model he has established for himself, exceed any MINIMUMS.
From ASHI - the inspector "shall" inspect "fixtures and faucets." But is NOT required to turn valves on or off, or inspect "clothes washing machine connections." Why not? Because sometimes they are not visible. A stack-able unit put inside a thin closet cannot be moved to look over or behind to see those connections.
Also, the inspector is NOT required to do anything that, in his opinion, might be dangerous or might be a "significant risk" to himself or the clients, do damage to the property or its belongings, or to move belongings blocking the way of performing a visual examination.
From INACHI - the inspector "shall" inspect the plumbing including "all fixtures and faucets, by running the water." But he is NOT required to "inspect clothes washing machines or their connections."
A home inspection has built-in deficiencies. There are simply some things that cannot or should not be inspected.
Once during a home inspection I ran the dishwasher and washing machine on their regular cycles, and began moving through the house. What I did not know, but was admitted to later by the listing agent, that the washing machine was broken and the seller was to leave a note not to test it. He didn't! The resulting flood damaged $20K of office equipment and computers in the basement.
When washing machines are not on drip pans, or look old and the connections do not appear to be in good condition, or if I CANNOT move the valve handles easily to turn off if need be, I will not run a washing machine.
But the Standards of Practice of all associations state that if a home inspector DOES NOT operate something, he must so state in the report. Fair enough.
On a recent home inspection the house had been vacant for some time.
The appliances were very old.
The washing machine was on the lower level, and looking at it and the shut-off valves, and the lack of drip pan, I expressed my reluctance to test it.
And I could not see behind to check the connections. This photo was taken by reaching the camera behind.
The Realtor insisted and turned it on when I was not there.
Hearing the resulting water flooding behind the washer and within 30 seconds I ran to it and turned it off.
But not before it drained a lot of water behind and onto the floor.
The left yellow arrow shows that the hose behind was not connected to the unit, and the right arrow shows that disconnected hose. Succinctly put, it was a mess.
The following panoramas show thermal images of just how quickly water can flow from a laundry room onto the carpet. This happened in less than 30 seconds.
The upper panorama shows the carpet on the left side of the laundry closet in front of the washing machine, and the lower one shows the opposite end of that room in front of the furnace and water heater. That water made its way around the corner and well into the living room.
Fortunately the house was on a slab and the water could not go into a lower level.
In this case the home inspector will not be blamed for this accident. He did not turn on the washing machine, and made it clear he thought it best not to.
My recommendation: sometimes your home inspector will get a "Spidey Sense" about something and advise against doing it. That could be anything - walking around an attic space, turning on or off a valve, or running an appliance. If he cannot do something he will protect your client by putting in the report that this or that needs to be examined by a different professional or demonstrated by the seller. In the end, hopefully, everyone will be happy! In the example above, my client was happy to find out that the loose washing machine connection was found BEFORE moving in, but the listing agent and sellers were NOT happy that it was tested! Another day in the life of a home inspector.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560