State Journal-Register

Springfield, Illinois

Sunday, September 15, 1991

HOUSE CALLS

Springfield resident Dulany Sriner is one "doctor" who always makes house calls.

About 15 years ago, a real estate agent asked the then-contractor to look over a house for a "queasy" customer. Sriner agreed and thought if there were any problems with the house he could make some extra money fixing them. Such home inspections soon turned into a regular side job for Sriner, who at the time thought he had discovered a new type of business.

In fact, there weren't a lot of people doing home inspections back then, says Vera Hollander Wadler, a spokeswoman for the American Society of Home Inspectors.

(See House Calls below)

 

State Journal-Register
Friday, May 10, 1991

Connection suspected between flooding, illegal sewer hookups

By BERNARD SCHOENBURG
STAFF WRITER

   In the wake of flooded city streets and backed-up sewers following heavy rains last weekend, Springfield officials said part of the problem was a high number of houses with illegal hookups to sanitary sewers.
   Dulany Sriner has some evidence to back up that view.
 
   Sriner runs a business called The House Doctor. Home buyers hire him to inspect houses they’re considering buying and warn them of any problems.
 

(See Sewer below)
(continued) (continued) 

 

House Calls (continued)

    Wadler said home Inspections really caught hold in the last five to seven years and even now most homes are sold without them.
    Nationally, she said, about 25 percent to 30 percent of homes are inspected privately before a sales transaction is completed. In the New England area, Wadler said the percentage may be above 90 percent but in other areas such inspections may be non-existent  
    In the Chicago area, Wadler estimates more than 50 percent of homes are inspected prior to completion of a sale. Sriner said his business has increased yearly, but in central Illinois most homes are sold without an inspection. 
    Wadler believes the “evolution of consumerism” lead to the creation of home inspections.    “Homes have become expensive and people  want to know what they’re buying,” she said. Consumers first turned to people they knew who were in the construction industry to do them a favor and look over a house. These favors, she said, eventually turned into a business.  
    It is a business that is for the large part unregulated. Wadler said Texas is the only state that has a licensing law for home inspectors, although she said it didn’t do a lot to ferret out unqualified people. “Anybody who wanted to be a home inspector got a license,” said Wadler, who said about 3,000 people were grandfathered in under the law. As a result, Wadler said some got into the business overnight with little capital investment or qualifications. “It’s exploding,” she said of the borne - inspection business. “Almost    too quickly.”

INSPECTING THE INSPECTOR  
    Wadler said in selecting a home inspector, consumers should find out how long the person has been in business, check past references, and contact the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed.  
    Despite the potential for abuse, Janice Pryor, spokeswoman for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, said the office has received maybe only one complaint.  
    Before joining the American Society of Home inspectors, Sriner bad begun regulating himself. In order to avoid a conflict of interest Sriner stipulated that he would not work on a house for a year after an inspection.  
    When he found out about ASH!, Sriner discovered he was heading in the right direction. The organization was created in 1976 and its members must adhere to certain standards and code of ethics, which prohibit them from using an inspection to generate other business or having a financial interest in the structure they inspect. In order to join, applicants must pass a series of tests and have completed at least 250 home inspections.  
    Sriner, who has been a member of ASHI for three years, now does inspectlions full-time under the name House Doctor Services, Inc. He said he averages about four inspections a week for a base fee of $175 plus a dollar per thousand dollars for homes over $80,000. Inspections on weekends and for homes outside of town cost more.  
    The national average for home in­spections is $250, said Wadler, with the cost In the Chicago area estimat­ed at about $300 for a typical three­bedroom house.  
    The inspections, usually done by one person, will take two to three hours. Sriner said his inspections usually average three to three-and-a-half hours, although it is not unusual to go four hours. He recommends the purchasers accompany him on the rounds. Even if they don’t see anything wrong, Sriner said most people feel It is worth the education. “It is like a mini-course on house anatomy,” he said.     
    The National Association of Realtors also promotes a home warranty program that also cost about $300. Depending on the warranty, it can pay for repairs or replacements of major appliances for a year after a home is purchased. The warranties sometimes are purchased by sellers as an incentive for people to buy a house.  
    Robert Butters, deputy general counsel of the real estate agent asso­ciation, said the warranties eliminat­ed many complaints from people who had something go wrong and blamed the seller or real estate agent.  
    Wadler, however, says warranties are limited and consumers should be very thorough in checking out what they cover

 

Sewer:

   One problem Sriner often finds is illegal sewer hookups, where either downspouts or sump pumps feed water into sanitary sewers.
   “It’s not limited to one area,” Sriner said Thursday. “It covers expensive homes and cheap homes.” 
   So far this year, of 48 Springfield homes he has inspected, Sriner said, five had gutter downspouts connected to sanitary sewers. Nine of the houses bad sump pumps, and five of those were connected to sanitary sewers.
 
   He also said it is his impression that people aren’t overly concerned about such connections. He said he Isn’t aware of any sale being blocked because he found such a problem. 
   Storm water, flowing into sanitary sewers can cause the sewers to fill and back up, city officials say — and that can lead to sewage in basements. 
   Under the city’s sewer ordinance, no person can tap a public sewer more than five feet from a building without a permit from the Springfield Sanitary District. No sump pump effluent can be discharged onto any city street or alley or into a storm sewer without approval from the city engineer’s office.
   Violations range from $25 to $500 dollars per day. 
   Ward 10 AId. Allan Woodson said this week that he’d like to make the minimum fine $250 — increasing the incentive for homeowners to disconnect illegal hookups. 
   Woodson said Thursday that Sriner’s numbers show the problem is real. 
   Although improper hookups are just part of the sewer problem, he said, “We need to attack these problems on all fronts.” 
   Woodson said people have told him new owners often are unaware of illegal hookups, so there should be some type of warning before a fine is imposed. The ordinance he plans to introduce probably will give time for people to make repairs, Woodson said. 
   Public Works Director Brad Townsend said his department Is studying the problem and plans to work with the sanitary district to see how to achieve better compliance with the law.

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