The standard Residential Real Estate Contract used in Northern Virginia requires a Buyer who has a home inspection contingency to provide, among other things, an entire copy of the home inspection report to the Seller by the contingency deadline. Suppose a Buyer does so and in connection with the delivery of the home inspection report to the Seller, the Buyer also delivers a notice voiding the contract. May the Seller share a copy of the original Buyer’s home inspection report with a subsequent Buyer of the Seller’s property?
To start, pursuant to 18VAC15-40-140 B.: “The licensee [home inspector] shall not disclose any information concerning the results of the home inspection without the approval of the client for whom the home inspection was performed.” Thus, a home inspector has a duty to keep confidential both the home inspection report as well as results of the home inspection and may only share such report or information with the client’s consent, which in almost all cases, is the Buyer. However, this speaks to the home inspector’s obligation to the Buyer. In the above example, the home inspector has provided the report to the Buyer (or the Buyer’s agent with Buyer’s permission) and the Buyer then provides it to the Seller.
The Seller thus finds themselves in possession of a copy of a home inspection report regarding Seller’s property, provided by the Buyer, with no additional document signed or agreed to by the Seller (e.g., confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement) limiting the Seller’s ability to share such information. While there may likely be language in a home inspector’s report limiting the inspector’s liability to the party for whom the report was prepared, such language would not limit a third party, who properly comes into possession of the report and who has not otherwise agreed to keep such report confidential, from sharing it.
Practically speaking, if we change the facts just a bit, we may find further support for the proposition that the Seller is free to share the home inspection report. Suppose a Seller in possession of a home inspection report delivered by the Buyer, shares that inspection report with a contractor who will perform work on the Seller’s property to fix certain things before the Seller re-lists the property for sale. Or, the Seller shares the home inspection report with a new listing agent the Seller hired. It is doubtful anyone would find a problem with that.
That said, if a Seller decides to share a previous home inspection report with a new Buyer, it may be wise to consult legal counsel regarding protective language the Seller may want to utilize limiting the Seller’s liability and/or getting an acknowledgment from the new Buyer that the report is being provided as a courtesy and that Seller is not making any representations or warranties by providing it.