Clark County Kitec Plumbing update from Spectrum Inspection Group May 2013
Spectrum Inspection Group Inc. Kitec Update
Please don't think that the Kitec issue has gone away. It has not. There were purported to be between 35,000 to 50,000 homes in Clark County that contained the defective plumbing. The Clark County class action settlement has now closed and a free re-plumb is no longer an option. But there were purported to be over 6,000 homes left in Clark County that were thought to contain Kitec plumbing that did not take advantage of the free re-plumb that was offered through the settlement.
How can that be? Why would anyone who owns a home with defective plumbing not take advantage of the benefits offered through the settlement? No one can definitively answer that question but I'd be willing to bet the majority of homes in question are (or were) bank owned properties.
Real estate agents need to be very careful in this area. There are still a significant number of Kitec plumbed homes in our community. And there will be a number of homes that people bought without knowing that Kitec plumbing was installed. How can that be? How could someone buy a home with Kitec plumbing and not know the plumbing was installed? This I can answer.
The Home Inspector Role
Home inspectors are not required to identify the manufacturer of the plumbing installed. The Standards of Practice that a Nevada State certified Inspector of Structures (a home inspector) is required to observed is contained NAC 645D paragraphs 450 through 580. If you look at NAC 645D.510.
2.(a) it states "An inspection of the plumbing system must include, without limitation an identification and description of the type of water lines and a determination of whether the system has been activated"
The bottom line is that we home inspectors are only required to identify the type of plumbing installed. We are not required to identify the manufacturer of the piping.
The most common type of plumbing installed in residential construction is PEX piping. PEX is an acronym for crossed-linked polyethylene. The most common type of PEX piping used in the Las Vegas Valley is a product called Wirsbo Aquapex. It is a wonderful product that has some great characteristics. It can freeze solid and it will not burst. Unfortunately Kitec is also a form of PEX pipe.
Real estate agents and their buyers need to review the inspection report closely to see if PEX pipe has been identified as the type of piping installed. Chances are very high that you will see that this is the type of plumbing installed in the home. It would then be prudent to dig further to see if you can identify the manufacturer of the PEX piping.
Identification of the Plumbing System Manufacturer
I cannot emphasis this enough:
The only way to positively ascertain the manufacturer of the piping installed
is to read the markings on the side of the pipe.
A sticker in the electrical panel does not ascertain the manufacturer of the pipe; it is only an indicator. If I had a nickel for every time I found a Kitec sticker in the electrical panel only to find a different piping system installed I'd be wealthy.
Very often it is beyond the ability of the home inspector to access the piping to read the marking on the side of the pipe. Most of the piping is installed in inaccessible areas of the home. As much as we all would like to be able to do what Mike Holmes on the reality TV show Holmes on Homes does in reality we are real estate inspectors and, by law, we are specifically prohibited from opening walls and ceilings to gain access to the components within. Generally the only area of the home where the inspector has the potential to read the markings on the side of the pipe is in the attic.
Spectrum Inspection Group inspectors utilize thermal imaging as a tool in our inspections and one of the advantages this provides is that we have a higher chance of locating the piping in the attic. When water piping is routed through the attic the builder lays the piping on the sheet rock of the ceiling below and covers the piping with insulation so that the piping is not exposed to temperatures more severe that what exists in the interior envelope of the home. The majority of the time the piping is under insulation and is not visible. During the winter months we can run the hot water at plumbing fixtures in the home and the thermal imaging gun will allow us to locate the piping. In the summer months we can run the cold water and create a temperature differential that will allow us to locate the pipe. The thermal imaging increases our ability to locate the piping but even with thermal imaging it is not always possible to locate the piping.
If there are indicators that Kitec plumbing may be installed and if the inspector cannot positively ascertain whether or Kitec is installed then a licensed and qualified contractor needs to be retained to cut a hole in the wall to access the plumbing and read the markings on the pipe. Believe it or not there are plenty of plumbing contractors in the valley who are not knowledgeable about Kitec plumbing. If you find yourself in the position where you need to secure a plumbing contractor to ascertain the plumbing manufacturer I recommend you contact one of the plumbing contractors who were authorized by the courts in the ClarkCounty settlement to perform the remediation. They are:
Plumbing Express: (702) 458-7508
Dynamic Plumbing: (702) 643-4440
Delta Mechanical: (866) 694-1486
Repipe Specialists: (702) 448-5313
Don't Make Mountains Our of Mole Hills
There is another caveat that you need to know about; when a Kitec re-plumb is performed a significant amount of the Kitec plumbing is left in the home. The re-plumb contractors do not remove all the Kitec plumbing; they take it out of service. On numerous occasions I have had agents call me in a panic explaining that their inspector found the Kitec sticker in the panel and subsequently found Kitec plumbing in the attic. I directed the agent to call the appropriate building department to see if any permits were pulled for plumbing and many times we learn that the Kitec re-plumb had been performed and that the Kitec plumbing that the inspector found was no longer in service.
What Can Be Done if Kitec is Found.
If your buyer is utilizing a loan program and it is discovered that Kitec exists in the home then you probably will need to be looking for another home. Defective plumbing poses a habitability issue. It used to be that just VA and FHA underwriters required habitability issues to be corrected prior to approving and funding the loan but now most conventional home loan underwriters are also requiring habitability issues to be resolved as a loan condition. If the home is an REO or short sale then the chances of getting the seller to correct the issue are almost nil.
When the Clark County Kitec settlement was paying for the re-plumb the contractors were getting about $6,500 for the re-plumb. Now that the settlement is over I have seen contractors charging as much as $8,500 or more for the re-plumb. Not many financially non-distressed sellers are willing to pay that fee. And in this market all the seller has to do is hold out for an all-cash buyer (which are plentiful) and negotiate the price down a bit and they will get out of the home without having to pony up the money for the repairs.
If you have a past buyer who calls you and tells you they had a plumbing leak and when the plumber came out to perform the repair he informed them they have Kitec plumbing installed there is a potential path of resolution that may be available.
Kitec plumbing is an issue in other areas and countries. There is an international Kitec class action settlement to provide relief for those people. This settlement provides relief for anyone who has or who has had a home plumbed with the defective product. There is a caveat to eligibility for this settlement; participants in the Clark County settlement are not eligible.
I do not know of anyone who has filed a claim with this settlement but the way I read it is that if you participated in the Clark County settlement then you are not eligible to file a claim for this international settlement. But it does not say that homes in Clark County are ineligible. If you did not gain any benefit from the Clark County settlement you may be able to gain relief from the international settlement. The website for the international settlement is:
I am not an attorney. Therefore, none of this information should be regarded as legal advice. I publish these Kitec updates to provide the Las Vegas real estate community with information that will protect agents and their buyers. I would greatly appreciate it if you know of anyone locally who has filed a claim for this international settlement regardless of whether or not they obtained relief so that I can disseminate the information to the community.
As always I welcome your feedback and if I can provide you with any guidance or direction regarding Kitec please do not hesitate to call my office and I will be delighted to help you in anyway I can. I don't charge anything to help any agent or their buyer with a Kitec issue (even if they utilized another home inspection firm). I am a resource for you and if I can help you and / or your buyer from making a potentially very costly mistake it makes my day!
Paul Donohue, RHI, RREI, CREI
President / Senior Inspector
Spectrum Inspection Group Inc.
8275 S. Eastern Avenue STE 200-276
Las Vegas, NV, 89123
Spectrum Inspection Group