The case of the shoddy Sherlock

It's elementary, Sherlock Homes Inspections has been found negligent and ordered to pay nearly $20,000 in damages after losing a small claims case.

It’s elementary, Sherlock Homes Inspections has been found negligent and ordered to pay nearly $20,000 in damages after losing a small claims case.

Joe Radwanski, the company’s owner and one of a handful of inspectors here, was sued by first-time homeowner Chelsea Larouche for costs and damages she incurred after buying a house he’d inspected.

Radwanski reported the house was acceptable, mentioning only esthetic improvements needed to be done.

After the sale, Larouche, who was 24 at the time, had to replace the roof and chimney, electric baseboard heaters and still has to replace the deck.

In court, Radwanski admitted he hadn’t inspected the baseboard heaters, had only looked at the snow-covered roof from the ground and had simply peered out the door to the deck outside.

She would have still been interested in the house, but, had she been aware of the problems, would have bid lower, said Larouche.

Radwanski should have done more, said Judge Michael Cozens, ordering him to pay back the repair costs in full, including those for the deck.

Cozens also threw in the court-filing costs, interest charged on the repairs, half the cost of a municipal permit and $367.50 paid for the inspection.

“She clearly did not receive what she paid for,” wrote Cozens in his decision.

Radwanski was no longer a member of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (BC).

The association was contacted by Larouche’s lawyers because Radwanski claimed to be a candidate member of the association. But the title expired nearly a decade ago – Radwanski failed to complete the association’s exams and training, said Helene Barton, the association’s executive director.

Cases like this happen, she said. Recently in North Vancouver, a homeowner was awarded $200,000.

“And that was a very good inspector just having a bad day,” she said. “Somebody can have a bad day. Something can be missed. Nothing is going to stop the odd mistake. But you can’t get away with incompetence.”

Members of Barton’s association must have a $1-million insurance policy. In the Yukon, you don’t.

The territory lacks regulations, she said.

The stiffer rules and requirements for home inspectors in BC came into effect in April, 2009, after an aggressive lobbying effort by Barton’s association.

Alberta did the same two weeks ago, she said. They are the only Canadian regions to do so.

“Until April 1, 2009, anywhere in Canada, anybody could be a home inspector,” she said. “You or I could just go out and make a business card tomorrow and buy a ladder and say we’re a home inspector. The consumers really need to be educated in how to choose their inspectors.”

There should be more regulations, said Greg Dumka, a member of an American-based international inspectors’ association, who is trying to get certified by Barton’s group.

The former Dawson inspector has been working as a carpenter down south for a decade.

He is reviving his inspector gig starting July 1.

His company, Point of View Inspections, is one of three in the territory’s yellow pages.

“It looks pretty busy,” he said. “Sounds like they’re a little overwhelmed.”

In a hot market, inspectors may take on more work than they can handle, said Dumka, who allots four hours for every regular-size home.

The market shouldn’t affect inspectors’ work, said Mike Racz, president of the Yukon Real Estate Association.

The type of market we have shouldn’t have any bearing on what a home inspector does,” he said. “The home inspector should do the same job for everyone.”

Inspections are not mandatory, he said.

“A home inspector cannot come in and rip open walls. They’re basically restricted to being able to look at what’s visible and trying to deduce if there’s a problem from what can be seen. But you’re hiring someone to let you know.”

Radwanski refused to comment except to confirm he has shut down Sherlock Homes Inspections.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com