New home owner: hire your own inspector

POWHATAN, VA (WWBT) - Another reason to hire your own inspector before closing the deal to buy a home - it's one way to be reasonably sure you have someone working on your behalf.

Michael Lecik had a home inspection, but sometimes a second is recommended if the issue requires a special skill.

Before Lecik bought his house in Powhatan, his home inspector urged a fireplace inspection by a chimney sweep. The contract was changed and the seller was required to have a company clean, repair and certify the fireplaces, chimney and flue are working properly.

The seller hired Neat Sweep Chimney Services of Richmond, which inspected, roto-cleaned, fixed a damper handle, and filled out a report - 'No fire hazard, October 17.'

Complaints that it didn't look clean brought Neat Sweep out again November 13. The sweep noted on the paperwork: additional roto-cleaning will cause damage and again circled 'No fire hazard.'

Lecik closed on the house and later lit the fireplace... and saw smoke.

"Smoke started to be introduced through out the downstairs chimney," said Lecik. "These chunks of stuff keep falling out of the fireplace."

He called our station, he says, because the seller's agent told him to when he couldn't get Neat Sweep to come back and fix the problems.

"I'm not asking for upgrades or cosmetic issues. The building code issues and the problems that effect the fireplace functioning safely... that's what I'd like fixed," said Lecik.

He paid two different companies to run inspections. Each found different things wrong, but both told Lecik not to use the fireplace and get a cleaning because of creosote, a highly flammable tar-like substance.

"The downstairs fireplace, where I saw the creosote, there was 3rd degree creosote there," said Eric Blackwell, owner of London Sweeps Chimney Sweeps. "The flues didn't look too bad, but still, there was enough creosote caked into the smoke chamber that it was a fire hazard."

Neat Sweep owner Frank Kaestner said his guy saw safety problems just like the other companies and identified them to the seller... on October 12. 
"Yeah, this is exactly what we did, and we even checked saying this a fire hazard," said Kaestner.
Kaestner claims October 12 was the first inspection, not October 17 - a stunning allegation, because Lecik's real estate agent and the seller's agent all said they know nothing about an October 12 inspection and never got a report indicating a fire hazard.

Kaestner says the seller did.

"We told them that it wasn't safe," said Kaestner. "He decided not to have all the work done."
So, why would Neat Sweep mark subsequent reports 'No fire hazard' when everything wasn't ok?

"The current home owner was never our client. We wouldn't hand him inspection reports. Inspection reports go to the person paying the bill," said Kaestner.

We reached out to the seller, but he hasn't  responded. His agent says the seller did what he was supposed to. He had the fireplace cleaned and certified.

Lecik plans to file a complaint with the Virginia Association of Realtors.

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