Timber Pest Inspection Claim Case Study

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Poor report writing is probably the greatest cause of professional negligence claims against timber pest inspectors in Australia.

From previous claims experience, it is apparent that some inspectors can identify a problem, but cannot adequately report the findings of inspection.

The following case study is an actual insurance notification against an inspector. The purpose of this case study is to demonstrate that proper reporting procedures could have avoided the potential claim. The inspector identified the defect but failed to clearly convey their inspection findings to the client.

Timber Pest Inspection Termite Damage

The inspector’s report described the above defect as:

“There is some possible past pest damage in the roof space”.

To meet their reporting obligations the inspector’s defect statement should have been constructed using the following report writing principals.

As a guide, when making a defect statement the inspector should always consider:

  • what is it;
  • where is it;
  • what is wrong with it;
  • a recommendation for further investigation or advice, where applicable; and
  • how quickly should any recommendation be implemented.

For the purpose of this exercise it will be assumed that: subterranean termites were responsible for the widespread damage to the ceiling frame above the kitchen and laundry; and the termite workings were inactive.

Considering the evidence above, the inspector’s statement should have been constructed using the following generic structure.

The (what is it) (where is it) was seen to be affected by termite attack. Under test conditions it was revealed that the termite workings were inactive, i.e. the absence of live termites at the time of inspection. Visible damage to timber (appeared localised/appeared widespread/was undetermined). Where evidence of inactive termites is located within the building, it is possible that termites are still active in the concealed or inaccessible areas of the building and damage to building elements also exists. A further more invasive inspection is recommended. Also, competent advice e.g. from a licensed building contractor should be obtained to determine the extent of any structural damage and as to the need or otherwise for rectification or repair work. The above recommendations should be implemented by the client (as a matter of urgency/without delay). For further advice consult the person who carried out this inspection.

The above generic statement can be easily customised to convey the actual findings of inspection.

The timber ceiling frame in the roof space above the kitchen and laundry was seen to be affected by termite attack. Under test conditions it was revealed that the termite workings were inactive, i.e. the absence of live termites at the time of inspection. Visible damage to timber appeared widespread. Where evidence of inactive termites is located within the building, it is possible that termites are still active in the concealed or inaccessible areas of the building and damage to building elements also exists. A further more invasive inspection is recommended. Also, competent advice e.g. from a licensed building contractor should be obtained to determine the extent of any structural damage and as to the need or otherwise for rectification or repair work. The above recommendations should be implemented by the client as a matter of urgency. For further advice consult the person who carried out this inspection.

 

Informative Note: This information is generic in nature and does not take into account your circumstances. This information contains extracts from the copyrighted Report Systems Australian handbook series.