(Posted March 2015)
Web Based Report Writers
To improve the way reports are completed we have web based (on-line) report writers for both timber pest inspections (AS4349.3), building inspections (AS4349.1) and combined property/timber pest report.
Features of the web based report writer system include:
- the ability to access the report writer from your office computer or in the field from many different types of mobile devices such as a laptop, tablet or iPad;
- the ability to complete a full inspection report on-line by selecting answers from a series of tailored menus;
- the text generated (including any extra inputs you may have) is automatically spell checked and photographs can be easily inserted into each section of the report;
- the final report is converted on the report writer web server to a read only PDF document;
- the completed report can be downloaded to your computer and a copy is securely stored on the report writer web server; and
- once downloaded the report can be emailed or printed and posted to your client.
Request further information via the “Contact Us” button on the Home Page
(Posted 27th December 2011)
How to practically implement a Pre-Engagement Inspection Agreement
Australian Standards AS 4349.1-2007 & AS 4349.3-2010 indicate that an inspection agreement between the client and the inspector shall be entered into before the inspection is carried out.
The objective of a Pre-Engagement Inspection Agreement is to ensure that the inspector and their client have a common understanding and expectation of the service to be delivered before delivery of the service actually starts.
Any clause which seeks to limit the liability, responsibility or the scope of the report must be agreed with the client before the inspection is carried out. If the Pre-Engagement Inspection Agreement is to be regarded as an integral part of the contract, it must be signed by the client.
However, if from previous dealings, the client is familiar with the terms and conditions of inspection and report, notice may be deemed to have been given. Accordingly, a copy of the Pre-Engagement Inspection Agreement terms should be forwarded and kept on file by the inspector’s regular clients such as real estate agents, solicitors and conveyancers. Invoices can be issued which impute those standard terms to the current engagement.
In the case of `urgent’ jobs for new clients it is not always practical to have a pre-engagement inspection agreement signed before carrying out an inspection and the issue of a report. In such cases, the following procedure (or something similar) may be adopted subject to the inspector’s professional indemnity insurer’s approval:
- The inspector verbally informs the client (or the client’s authorised agent) at the time of booking the job that the inspection report is subject to the terms and conditions as set out in the inspector’s pre-engagement inspection agreement. At this stage, it is important that the client understands and verbally agrees to the Scope of Inspection and Report and has the opportunity to ask for and review the standard terms of engagement.
- After completing the inspection, when the written report is forwarded to the client, the inspector also includes the Pre-Engagement Inspection Agreement. The agreement must be completed, signed and returned by the client with the `agreed fee’.
- Tax Invoices can be issued which impute the standard terms and conditions of engagement. The terms and conditions can be attached or printed on the reverse side of the invoice. It is important to clearly direct the client to those terms and conditions. Accordingly, a statement can be inserted in a prominent position on the front of the Tax Invoice directing the client to the terms and conditions. A sample statement can be found in the RSA Handbooks.
Inspectors must note that only those contractual terms brought to notice of the client before the contract is formed can be enforced. Beware of doing jobs on what may become a speculative basis.
(Posted 27th December 2011)
Report Writing – Defect Statements
Following an inspection, written reports of defects should be set out in such a manner that they will be clearly understood by the client. Attempts to set out the method and any associated costs of rectification work should be avoided.
In setting out the results of their inspection, inspectors should appreciate the importance of always using correct terms, and should remember that the use of `trade jargon’ frequently leads to serious misunderstandings.
When making defect statements, inspectors should always consider:
(a) what is it;
(b) where is it; and
(c) what is wrong with it.
Where appropriate, it is also important to inform the client as to the need for any further action (e.g. obtaining further expert advice) and as to the urgency to implement any recommendation.
The RSA Handbooks contain many sample statements indicating the proper method of reporting defects.
(Posted 27th December 2011)
Commentary – Revised Timber Pest Australian Standard AS 4349.3-2010
Many timber pest inspectors believe that carrying out an inspection to the minimum requirements of AS 4349.3-2010 is sufficient to fulfil their duty to the client.
This simply may not be the case, as in many instances consumer expectations will not be met.
Clause 3.5.2 of AS 4349.3-2010 states “An inspection in accordance with this Standard is non invasive and does not include invasive inspection or the use of proprietary equipment or techniques”. However, Appendix E, states “While an inspection carried out to AS 4349.3 without tests is of limited value, an inspection with tests is of considerably more value. The tests normally applied comprise the tapping of timber (to determine the soundness of the interior of the timber being sampled), and the use of a moisture meter to determine the presence of elevated moisture levels in materials”.
In the following scenario, an inspector works to the minimum requirements of AS 4349.3-2010 and a negligence complaint is lodged against the inspector. Third party mediation establishes that a more thorough inspection in the first instance (including the carrying out of tests) would have avoided the client suffering financial loss. Where does this leave the inspector?
Another potential area of concern is the inspection of subfloor spaces where many timber pest problems originate or occur.
Provided it is safe (see Note below) to do so, it has been accepted industry practice for many years (reference Australian Standards AS 4349.1-1995 & AS 4349.3-1998) to inspect those parts of a subfloor space where the vertical clearance between the ground and the underside of the timber floor structure (the bearer) is 400 mm or greater.
Note. Before inspecting a crawl space, in addition to personal health and safety precautions, the inspector and their firm or company must consider all applicable occupational, health and safety requirements.
Having a nominated vertical clearance has made it perfectly clear as to what is expected of inspectors in the undertaking of a timber pest inspection report. Also having a defined clearance means that the inspector does not need to note in the inspection report specific areas within a subfloor space where this clearance was not available. If a problem arises with the findings of the report, the consumer or another inspector could easily ascertain by using a tape measure whether the area in question was in fact readily accessible and should have been thoroughly inspected.
Such clarity minimises the risk of consumer misunderstandings and helps the inspector meet their obligations under the scope of inspection with the minimum of fuss and risk.
Some inspectors may not be aware that AS 4349.3-2010 has deleted all reference to vertical clearance measurements in subfloor spaces whilst keeping the previously accepted minimum measurement (of 600 x 600 mm) for the inspection of roof interiors.
AS 4349.3-2010 states:
- “The inspector shall determine whether sufficient space is available to allow safe access to confined areas.”
- “The report shall identify areas within the scope of the inspection that were not inspected and provide the reason for exclusion from inspection.”
Where a subfloor space is deemed safe to inspect, having uncertainty as to areas that should be inspected will most likely lead to many disputes between clients and inspectors. For example, Inspector A may deem a subfloor space with 400 mm clearance readily accessible, where Inspector B may deem a subfloor space with 450 mm clearance as not readily accessible. Where does such uncertainty leave the consumer?
Also having to document in detail all areas within an accessible subfloor space that were not inspected due to height restrictions will increase the inspector’s reporting obligations and lead to the risk of errors or omissions in the report.
In the following scenario, the inspector does not inspect a (safe) subfloor space with 500 mm clearance. The inspector’s report indicates that there was no inspection of the subfloor space due to height restrictions. The consumer relying on the report suffers financial loss arising from a defect in the subfloor space. The consumer seeks independent advice. In the view of third party mediation, it is deemed that safe and reasonable access was available and the defect would have been apparent at the time of inspection. Where does this leave the inspector?
In conclusion, inspectors should view AS 4349.3-2010 as a minimum standard and care must be taken to provide a service that best suits the client’s circumstances and expectations.
The Report Systems Australia (RSA) Handbook “Standard Timber Pest Detection Reports, Uniform Inspection Guidelines for Timber Pest Detection Consultants” has been revised to take into consideration the updated Australian Standard AS 4349.3-2010 Inspection of Buildings, Part 3: Timber Pest Inspections.
When reading the Fourth Edition Handbook, special attention should be given to the following:
- Clause 1.4.12
- Clause 2.6
- Clause 3.4
- Clause 3.4.4 (h)
- Clause 18.104.22.168 (e)