Why You Need Your Contract Accepted Before the Inspection – Part Two
In Part One, we looked at the importance of letting someone else set the rules, as well as giving your clients time to review the contract. We also mentioned how home inspection software can save you time and allow you to manage your contracts more easily.
Here, we conclude by looking at the final important reason to get the contract signed ahead of time.
The Beginning of the Inspection May Be Too Late
We believe that presenting the agreement to the client at the start of a home inspection is also unfair, for a few reasons.
- The home inspection is often performed as part of a conditional offer to buy a home. There is usually a time limit, and by the time the inspection begins, there is often not much time left. If the client were to find the agreement unacceptable, the client may not have time to shop for another home inspector. That puts the consumer in a bad position.
- The client is in a stranger’s home and is in the middle of an uncomfortable negotiation. There may not be a comfortable spot to sit and read the agreement quietly, thinking it through. In addition to the home inspector, there may be real estate agents, the sellers and others present, distracting the client.
- The person attending the inspection may not in fact, be the client. If the client is not able to attend the inspection, they might have a friend or family member attend in their place. It puts unfair pressure on the person attending to ask them to sign the agreement. It’s also not clear that the client will be bound by terms of the agreement if it was signed by someone else.
- The problem is compounded if the client does not attend. Sometimes the client plans to attend but is unable to. In other cases, clients indicate upfront they won’t attend the inspection.
Present the Agreement Before the Inspection
In our opinion, the best and most defendable practice is to get the agreement into the client’s hands well before the inspection. Modern technology and reporting software makes it relatively easy to send the client an email as soon as the inspection is arranged. The client can take their time, review the agreement, discuss it with their spouse or advisor, and contact the inspection company with any questions.
This is fair for the client and provides good protection for the inspector. However, this may not be enough.
The Agreement Should be Accepted Before the Inspection
The client should accept the terms of the agreement well before the inspection begins. We don’t want the client to say later that they did not receive, open, or read an email that included the inspection agreement. We’ve been there, and this is a difficult situation.
Again, technology makes it easy for the client to indicate their acceptance of the contract terms well before the inspection. While you should check with your legal advisors, in most jurisdictions electronic contract acceptance is now commonplace and binding.
Good report writing and scheduling systems integrate this process, making a quick and easy to not only send the payment, but to receive confirmation of acceptance. Our process asks the client to check off a box indicating they have read, understood, and accepted the terms of the agreement. The client types their name so there is no confusion about who is accepting the terms. They hit Submit and we receive confirmation in both our work order and our scheduler that the contract terms have been accepted.
The date, time, name and IP address of the person accepting the contract terms are recorded, along with the actual contract wording. This information is stored in the work order and archived in the cloud for a minimum of seven years.