Who is responsible for identifying rodents?

The answer may surprise you…

A common source of problems after the close of escrow can be the presence of rodents. Significant lawsuits have been filed over contaminated attics and ducts. So who should be identifying rodents in a home during the contingency period? This is a gray area that needs to be discussed to satisfy the client and protect the seller and real estate agents who are involved in a transaction.

A pest inspection will reveal rodent infestation, right?

Most people assume that the “pest” inspection will document rodent problems. In most cases, it doesn’t. The term “pest inspection” is a bit of a misnomer. During a title transfer, the inspection performed by a pest inspection company is required to report wood-destroying organisms (WDO) by a person licensed by the Structural Pest Control Board of California.

Wood destroying organisms include fungus, dry rot, termites, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, subterranean termites, etc. These are organisms that can destroy the structure of a dwelling by damaging the wood. Identifying these fall under a Level 1 pest inspection license, and that is all that is required for a real estate transaction. Since Rats, mice, bats, and other rodents do not destroy the wood, they are not included in the group of wood-destroying organisms, and may not be included in the pest inspection report. A pest inspector qualified to identify rodents will have a Level 2 license.

Will my home inspector report the presence of termites or rodents?

The pest inspection profession is a licensed trade in California. Most home inspectors are not licensed pest inspectors and therefore are not legally qualified under the professional code (law) to identify or report on the various pests that can damage a home. Home inspectors can and should report on damaged wood, observable organic growth such as fungus and dry rot, but they will likely not use the words “termite damage” since they are not legally qualified to do so. They will refer the damage back to a licensed pest inspector for further evaluation. Likewise, home inspectors cannot definitively say what type of rodents are in a house, even though we often see traps with dead rats or mice. More frequently we see concentrations of rodent feces or smell their urine in heavily infested homes.

How will I know if rodents are in a house?

As a buyer’s agent, you will need to read the pest inspection carefully to see if the pest inspection company includes or excludes rodents in their inspection. You may need to request, or order, a Level 2 pest inspection to identify the presence of rodents. Likewise, a home inspector will likely exclude the identification of the presence or absence of rodents in a house for the reasons described above. Even if there are droppings, traps, or other signs of infestation, a home inspection may not report it.

The Real Estate Inspection Company will report evidence of rodents in a house. While our inspectors will not lift insulation, there are other signs of rodent activity that may trigger a recommendation for a Level 2 inspection. If signs of an infestation are observed, we will report it. It’s just one way we provide a superior home inspection.

P.S. Have you registered for our free Referring Agent Protection Program? It provides you with up to $10,000 if you get named in a lawsuit over a negligent referral.