A number of inspectors have been getting into trouble recently by missing termite damage in roof voids. This has lead to home owners accusing them of failing to identify the damage.
There are circumstances where the inspector has a good defence and a good chance of refuting the assertion.This is usually where access was unavailable, restricted or the inspection obstructed by insulation or a safety issue. The report then should clearly outline the lack of access or obstruction or safety issue and recommend further inspection after safe access is provided.
In some cases insulation might be badly laid and cover the ceiling joists, bottom chords of trusses etc. This might also be a safety issue. A further inspection is needed, so a strong recommendation is necessary in the report specifically advising that insulation should be lifted or removed and a further inspection carried out prior to purchase. This can greatly assist the inspector's position if an allegation is made that activity and/or damage was missed.
Liability can be difficult to deny where access is available but the roof void is partly obstructed, e.g. by insulation, and activity and/or damage is later found in areas not obstructed. An inspector cannot rely on the fact insulation is present and then not inspect the accessible or partly accessible roof void unless there are major safety concerns. There are many roof framing timbers that remain exposed and can be inspected by tapping or probing.
In recent times a number of alleged misses by inspectors have led to significant claims. Specifically when reporting no access available to the ceiling void at all. In some cases, the termite activity/damage not detected has been within arm's reach of the manhole and easily detectable by using, eyes, a donger or probing instrument despite the presence of insulation.
As in this picture below;
The truss bottom member has failed due to termite damage.
The ceiling bearer was intact but hollow prior to gouging since the inspection. No insulation present but sounding or probing would have detected it.
The ceiling joist within easy reach of manhole with heavy damage. Insulation was removed for this photo but did not cover the top of joist and probing has now been done. Tapping this joist would easily have revealed a problem.
The moral of the story is on entering through the manhole and while you're still on the ladder, tap all the timbers within reach of the manhole. It is surprising how many times termite damage is found in this location.
Sometimes I have found damage around the manhole so severe that it was unsafe to enter. Just another reason to check carefully the roof timbers around the Manhole before getting off the ladder.
Should you have any inquiry about the above please contact our Technical Department on 1300 309 169.