Oregon Home Inspection Laws and Regulation

home_inspectionUnder Oregon law, a seller of residential property must deliver a Property Disclosure Statement to each buyer who makes a written offer to purchase. Under ORS 105.475, refusal to provide this form gives the buyer the right to revoke their offer at any time prior to closing the transaction. Sellers can claim an exclusion under ORS 105.470. An exclusion may be claimed only if the seller qualifies for the exclusion under the law.

If not excluded, the seller must disclose the condition of the property or the buyer may revoke their offer to purchase anytime prior to closing the transaction.  Here are some of the questions on the statement:

  • Are there problems with settling, soil,  standing water or drainage on the property  or in the immediate area.
  • Does the property contain fill?
  • Is there any material damage to the property or any of the structure(s) from fire, wind, floods, beach movements, earthquake, expansive soils or landslides?
  • Is the property in a designated floodplain?
  • Is the property in a designated slide or other geologic hazard zone?
  • Has any portion of the property been tested or treated for asbestos, formaldehyde, radon gas, lead-based paint, mold, fuel or chemical storage tanks or contaminated soil or water?
  • Are there any tanks or underground storage tanks (e.g., septic, chemical, fuel, etc.)  on the property?

There are over 50 questions that must be answered.

Oregon Construction Contractors Board

The Oregon government agency responsible for home inspections is the Construction Contractors Board (CCB).

Oregon law requires individuals who bid, offer to perform or perform home inspections of two or more components to be certified by the Oregon Construction Contractors Board. (Example: an inspection of a roof, the electrical system and the plumbing system would be three components.) An individual must pass a comprehensive test to become certified and must complete continuing education courses to renew his/her certification. Each certified home inspector must also be an owner or an employee of a business licensed with the CCB.  A home inspection business also needs a contractor’s license from CCB, which means that the business must

  • Obtain and submit a CCB surety bond in the required amount(s).
  • Obtain and provide proof of general liability insurance in the required amount.
  • Provide evidence of worker’s compensation and other employer account numbers if applicable.

Check a Home Inspection Business  To check a home inspection business, get the business’ license number and the home inspector certification number (OCHI). Call 503-378-4621 or go on-line at www.oregon.gov/CCB to determine if the license and certification are active and if there are any open complaints filed against the business.

Summary of Oregon Home Inspector Certification Law and Standards of Practice for Home Inspections  The CCB has a six-page document entitled, Summary of Oregon Home Inspector Certification Law and Standards of Practice for Home Inspections.  It provides a summary of the rights and responsibilities when having a home inspection done by an Oregon certified home inspector. Click here to download.

An Overview of Home Inspections

But what does a home inspection report disclose? Home buyers are often confused about home construction and its components, and have difficulty deciphering home inspection reports.  How does a home buyer know how to figure out which types of defects are serious or whether their home inspector checked all the essentials?  Buyers need to discuss the report and issues with the inspector to ascertain the seriousness of any issues.  Sometimes bringing in an expert on a particular issued is required.  A Realtor’s® willingness to go the extra mile to help the home buyer have any repairs issues addressed is a good reason to make sure you retain an experienced Realtor® .

When you get an inspection, you are purchasing an educated opinion, not a guarantee.  Therefore the person doing the inspection should be a highly qualified person.  Most Realtors® have working relationships with a number of inspectors and their role is important in the inspection process.

More information about inspections:

Home Warranty

A home warranty is like insuring the appliances at your house. When appliances or systems (furnace, hot water tank, etc.) breakdown, the insurance company repairs or replaces the equipment. In most cases, newer homes do not require home warranty, because appliances and systems are not likely to replaced and the total cost of all minor repairs is going to be less than the cost of buying home warranty, in a given year.

You are buying peace of mind. If a major appliance/system needs to be replaced, someone else pays the bill.  Whenever you need a repair service, you just call the home warranty company and pay your flat deductible amount (generally around $50), no matter how many hours it would take to fix the system.

Some consumers have had bad experiences dealing with the claim processing. Some insurance companies may use clauses to avoid helping you when the project expenses run high. The most common complaint is that the insurance company rejects your claims when they decide that you have not maintained the equipment properly. Occasionally, a home warranty company will try to repair, not to replace the system. That means you will have to live with the inefficiencies of the old system, plus you keep paying deductibles every time it needs a repair. Always remember, most of the contracts do not cover system or appliance failures due to lack of maintenance. There are many reputable home warranty companies that provide excellent service.

The cost of a home warranty is between $450-$1,000.  They usually are good for one year after which they can be renewed.  Depending upon the market, many sellers offer a home warranty as in incentive.

General Inspection:  Step One in the Process

inspector_tools

The modern home inspector uses a variety of tools to include a computer in which the home owner report is generated.  Many carry a laptop to the site and enter the information on the laptop whereas other rely on a “pen/pencil” at the site and enter the information into the computer at their office.

Other instruments that inspectors may carry include a moisture meter, portable combustible gas leak detector, analog or digital metal shaft thermometer, and flame meter.

Checklist for General Inspection

Below are the checklist standards of practice established for a general inspection by the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors:

  • Structural Elements:  Construction of walls, ceilings, floors, roof and foundation.
  • Exterior:  Wall covering, landscaping, grading, elevation, drainage, driveways, fences, sidewalks, fascia, trim, doors, windows, lights and exterior receptacles.
  • Roof and Attic:  Framing, ventilation, type of roof construction, flashing and gutters. It does not include a guarantee of roof condition nor a roof certification.
  • Plumbing:  Identification of pipe materials used for potable, drain, waste and vent pipes. including condition. Toilets, showers, sinks, faucets and traps. It does not include a sewer inspection.
  • Systems and Components:  Water heaters, furnaces, air conditioning, duct work, chimney, fireplace and sprinklers.
  • Electrical:  Main panel, circuit breakers, types of wiring, grounding, exhaust fans, receptacles, ceiling fans and light fixtures.
  • Appliances:  Dishwasher, range and oven, built-in microwaves, garbage disposal and, yes, even smoke detectors.
  • Garage: Slab, walls, ceiling, vents, entry, firewall, garage door, openers, lights, receptacles, exterior, windows and roof.

A wood destroying organism (WDO) report (sometimes called a pest and dry rot) is often included in Oregon. Usually not included are septic systems, wells, underground piping, swimming pools and other items that are not considered part of the main structure.

Other Inspections to Consider

The results of the general inspection will trigger whether specialized inspections (e.g., underground storage tank, sewer, radon, etc.) are necessary.  The age of a home will also determine whether a specialized inspection may be needed.  For example, it is the practice of most Realtors® to have a sewer inspection done.

Most Realtors® will advise their clients about other inspections that may be needed and help them find qualified inspectors for these special inspections.  Here is a list of specialized inspections that a home buyer should consider, depending upon the house and location:

  • Asbestos
  • Electrical System
  • Exterior Siding
  • Fireplace/Chimney
  • Heating/Cooling
  • Lead Based Paint
  • Pest and Dry Rot
  • Plumbing System
  • Radon/Air Quality Test
  • Roof
  • Septic System/Sewer Lines
  • Soil Stability
  • Structural (Engineering)
  • Underground Storage Tank
  • Water Related Damage (e.g. mold)

Wells

If the domestic water is supplied by a well, then promptly after the seller’s acceptance and pursuant to ORS 448.271, the seller shall have the well tested for nitrates and coliform bacteria and submit the test results to the home buyer and the Oregon Department of Human Services. In addition, the home buyer should verify whether the well has been registered with the Oregon Water Resources Department, as required by Oregon law. The home buyer may be well advised to have other tests performed on the well such as: arsenic, lead, extended contaminants, test (“top 20”), well flow test.  The well flow test is performed by a licensed well tester to measure the volume of water produced from the well used for domestic purposes. Typically, well flow tests are four hours in length.

Radon

A study, released in early 2013 by the Geology Department at Portland State University (PSU), suggests that one in every four houses in the Portland area accumulates radon above the level the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says should prompt fixes to keep the gas outdoors.

Long-term tests show ZIP codes with high or moderate average levels of radon at 79 percent, up from 65 percent at last count in 2003. PSU’s data crunching includes a list of results by Zip code for the Portland area.

The Oregon Health Department radon risk scores (green/yellow/red rankings) was updated in 2014 — view the table of Radon Risk Levels in Oregon by Zip Code (pdf).

Odorless, invisible radon is a radioactive gas that seeps into buildings from the surrounding earth. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking and it is the leading cause among non-smokers. Radon seeps from the ground through construction joints and cracks and gaps in foundations, accumulating in buildings. Risk in the Portland area is higher because granite-infused sediment, relatively high in uranium, washed into the region from the torrential Missoula Floods during the last ice age. Radon is a byproduct of uranium’s breakdown.

Widely available short-term measurement devices cost roughly $35 with lab fees, and contractors fixes generally range from $1,000 to $2,100. This list of radon mitigation companies that provide service in Oregon. These companies are certified by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) and the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB). This list should be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to be an endorsement by www.movingtoportland.net. For more information about radon, contact the Oregon Public Health Department website about radon.

Common Specialized Inspection

Below is information about three of the more common specialized inspections that Portland area Realtors® are likely to encounter on homes.

Sewer Inspection

sewer_inspectionThe time to find out if a sewer is faulty or needs replacement is before buying a home, not after the fact. Therefore many Realtors® recommend to their buyers that they obtain a sewer inspection. This includes new homes since sewer inspectors have told me that they have found broken lines in new subdivisions.  The primary cause is heavy duty construction equipment being used at the site after the sewer lines are installed.  The cost for a sewer scope is $125-$150 and this minor investment could save you thousands of dollars of repair.

Many Realtors® recommend sewer scopes if the home is older than 30 years.  If certain conditions are present in homes newer than 30 years such as numerous trees along the sewer line, they also recommend an inspection since the tree roots can still clog up a newer sewer line.

A sewer inspection is performed by inserting a camera into the sewer line so we can view and record the condition of the line – a CD of the findings can be viewed on most computers. If a problem is found, the location of  the damage can be pinpointed to include the depth.

Most sewer inspectors specialize in just inspections, and they do not offer repair service.  That is a another skill set requiring equipment, etc. 

Underground Storage Tanks

ustA primary environmental concern for buyers and sellers is the presence of hazardous substances, including petroleum from underground heating oil storage tanks (USTs) and indoor pollutants.  Steps should be taken to determine whether a tank exists and, if so, whether decommissioning and/or clean up are required.

The current Oregon Heating Oil Tank (HOT) program started on March 15, 2000. This program allows third party certification of cleanups and decommissioning of heating oil tanks by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) licensed service providers. When a licensed contractor completes a cleanup or decommissioning, the company submits a certification to DEQ. Then DEQ will then issue a letter to the tank owner registering the contractor’s certification. The combination of the contractor’s certification and DEQ’s registration is equivalent to the “No Further Action” letter that the DEQ used to issue.

It is legal for a homeowner to clean up soil and groundwater from a HOT release and to decommission their HOT, assuming they perform the work themselves and comply with all applicable local, state and federal rules. It is not legal to complete the work by serving as a general contractor and hiring subcontractors to complete portions of the job. To do so transfers liability for improper work by the subcontractors to the homeowner.

According to DEQ, there are approximately 210,000 residential underground heating oil storage tanks in the State of Oregon. DEQ says there are approximately 60,000 underground heating oil tanks still in use and 150,000 that have been abandoned, i.e., not properly decommissioned.  Many of these tanks still contain fuel, and therefore pose potential environmental liability. Statistically 60-70% of underground heating oil tanks on record have leaked some product into the soil.

The rules and regulations about oil tanks are complicated.  If you purchase a home where an underground storage tank exists (average life of a tank is 25 years) and you were unaware of the tank when you purchased the home, you can undergo considerable financial expense if the tank begins to leak when you are the home owner or should you decide to sell it later.  Make certain your Realtor understands how this issue is addressed when purchasing a home in Oregon.

Since January, 2009, the Oregon DEQ adopted the federal standards for naphthalene and ethylbenzene, common compounds found in home heating oil. Naphthalene and ethylbenzene weren’t included because they weren’t considered carcinogens, until the EPA reclassified them in late 2008. Don Francis, an environmental consultant and general manager atEcoTech, was quoted as saying a quick look at a handful of his projects certified under the old standard showed that most would require soil removal under the new rules. This could double the cost of removing a tank.

You will want to view the DEQ’s Heating Oil Tank publications for further information.  Of particular interest are Guidance for Contractors and Homeowners found at this DEQ link.

Mold

moldMold is a very common problem in Western Oregon (especially the Portland metro area and Willamette Valley) due to the rain. But homes in Eastern Oregon can also develop mold problems. The fear of mold lawsuits has mushroomed, popularizing the slogan “mold is gold” among lawyers and driving up the demand for laboratories that test for toxic mold. As a result, mold paranoia has grown.

It’s more difficult to eliminate mold than, say, asbestos, many experts say. Unlike asbestos, mold is a living organism. With mold, you can take out 99.999 percent of the particles, and the .001 percent, that little particle that does survive, is likely to come back. Any indoor air or dust sample will likely contain fungal life according to mycologists but that doesn’t mean every building has, or will develop, a mold problem. Fungal spores are ubiquitous. Fungi are not ubiquitous.

It’s much easier instead to deprive mold of its preferred habitat: The way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

Jack Levy, who manages Smith Freed & Eberhard’s construction defect group, spoke at a seminar held at the World Trade Center in Portland in early 2009 and offered some tips for developers and builders looking to defend themselves against litigation, or, better yet, to avoid litigation altogether.

First, don’t wait until trades people and subcontractors are on site to address water intrusion issues.  Get the architects involved,” Levy said. “Spend the money up front on that detailing.”

Tearing out siding to install flashing, for example, wastes time and money. “If you’re looking to save money,” Levy said, “the envelope is not the area to be saving any costs.”

Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS)  The EIFS product is also called synthetic stucco, and refers to a multi-layered exterior finish that’s been used in European construction since shortly after World War II, when contractors found it to be a good repair choice for buildings damaged during the war. The majority of repairs to European buildings were to structures constructed of stone, concrete, brick, or other similar, durable materials.

EIFS in North America  North American builders began using EIFS in the 1980’s, first in commercial buildings, then applying it as an exterior finish to residencesmostly wood frame housesusing the same techniques that had been successful in Europe. EIFS layers bond to form a covering that doesn’t breathe. That’s fine when no moisture is present behind the covering, but if moisture seeps in it can become trapped behind the layers. With no place to go, constant exposure to moisture can lead to rot in wood and other vulnerable materials within the home. What had worked well as an exterior shell for concrete and stone became a problem when used on wood.  Newer EIFS systems include a drainage arrangement to help keep moisture from being trapped behind the covering.

Signs of Mold Problems on ETFS Construction

Mold or mildew on the interior or exterior of the home.
Blistered or peeling paint.
Cracked EIFS or cracked sealant.
Swollen wood around door and window frames.

Many of the newer stucco homes in the Portland metro area used EIFS in their construction, and therefore it is important to have a thorough mold/moisture inspection when purchasing an EIFS.

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