Why is there so much Home Inspector concern about foundation liability?
On the surface, it is not obvious why foundation repair is feared as much as it is. There are solid reasons why slab foundations should not be magnets for lawsuits:
Foundations do not cause physical injury
Have you ever heard of a slab foundation that has physically injured anyone? Slab foundations are ground-supported structures, unlike, say, bridges. Because they are continuously ground supported they cannot collapse. For this reason alone, foundation lawsuits are of no interest to competent plaintiff attorneys.
You have never seen and never will see a highway billboard or advertisement saying that if you have been in a slab foundation accident you should call a phone number for a self-described mean, tough attorney.
What you do see all over town are billboard ads directed at people who have been in a wreck with a “big rig truck” an industrial accident, or certain medical issues.
Competent plaintiff attorneys are looking for a case where there is a responsible defendant who has deep pockets and a plaintiff who has suffered a visible injury.
Home Inspectors and Engineers do not have deep pockets
Plaintiff attorneys have no interest in filing lawsuits against people or corporations that have no assets. They go after entities that have deep pockets, to use the language attorneys use. With rare exceptions, individuals do not have deep pockets. In Texas, there is a great deal of legal protection for debtors. This makes it very difficult for a plaintiff to get much even if he or she wins a judgment.
Foundation repair is not highly expensive
It is a myth that foundation repair is expensive. I do not claim that it is cheap, but it is less expensive than many other major home repairs. The average foundation repair job is around $8,500. The typical roof replacement is around $10,000 to $15,000. The same is true of replacing the siding on many homes. Replacing an outside air conditioning unit, the evaporator coil and the furnace can easily exceed the average cost of underpinning a foundation.
The fear is due to misinformation
So why does the public have so much fear of foundations? I contend that it is because almost everything they think they know is from foundation repair contractor ads and those ads are based on fear for the most part.
It is well understood in the sales and marketing world that fear and greed are the two most powerful motivators for people to buy something. Nobody would buy a sales proposition that claims that having your foundation repaired will make you rich, enhance your sex life, give you more energy or cure your arthritis. They might fall for a pitch that says you cannot sell your house, or insects and vermin will enter your house, or that your foundation violates a building code so you have no choice but to sign a repair agreement.
All if this, of course, is either entirely false or, at best, highly misleading.
How to deal with bad information
The only way to deal with bad information is with good information. One of the things I address is what I consider the bare minimum that you need to know to counter the many false things your buyers, sellers and real estate agents believe.