Jamie Neely, Entomologist, Serving the Real Estate Industry in Hawaii since 1973. Member Entomological Society of America    
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When residential property in Hawaii and most of the U.S. is sold it is customary to have a TERMITE INSPECTION REPORT done. It is not required by law but most lending institutions want to know about the property they are lending on as do the buyers of the property. The laws pertaining to termite inspections vary from state to state. It Hawaii the law is HRS 460-J section 19. The results of the inspection must be reported on a form developed and approved by the State referred to as a PC-9. The inspector is looking for and must report on eight items.

  1. General description of the building or premises inspected. (house, condominium, etc.)
  2. Were any areas of the building or premises obstructed, enclosed, or otherwise concealed from inspection? (There are always some areas that can not be inspected such as between the walls, under the carpets, etc.)
  3. Describe the areas of the building or premises which were not inspected due to obstruction, enclosure or inaccessibility, and the location of each such area, together with the reason(s) that each such area was not inspected. (Inaccessible areas should be listed.)
  4. Was visible evidence of active (i.e. live) termite infestation observed? (Drywood or ground) (The inspector is looking for evidence of live termites. However, he does not need to find live termites to come to the conclusion there is an active infestation.)
  5. Was visible evidence of inactive termite infestation observed? (Are there signs the house was infested in the past?)
  6. Was visible damage due to termites observed? (Damage is noted but only a contractor or architect can determine if the damage is a structural problem.)
  7. Is further treatment for control of drywood and/or subterranean termites recommended? State general type of treatment recommended. (The inspector makes recommendations as to what type of treatment; tent fumigation, ground termite treatment, etc.)
  8. State whether any existing conditions of the premises contain the potential for future termite infestation. (Are there situations that could lead to future infestation of termites, such as leaking plumbing, soil-to-wood contact, construction defects?)

All the termites in Hawaii, as with most of the insects we commonly see, have been introduced since the arrival of Captain Cook. The most common termite is the West Indian Drywood Termite, Cryptotermes brevis. It is spread throughout the tropical areas of the world. This termite swarms in the Spring and once a male and female have paired off they will nest in any wood they can find including furniture, doors, cabinets, the framing of the house and books. They are attracted to light and are frequently found in window frames or wood close to exterior lights. They feed on the wood and excavate a network of galleries where they live and raise their offspring. This termite is most easily recognized by the fecal pellets they push out of the gallery. There are several other species of drywood termites in Hawaii but they are not usually found in homes. The only truly effective way to control these termites is with a tent fumigation. The fumigant is able to penetrate inside the walls and kill the termites where they live. Fumigation is not practical in condominiums so they are ‘spot-treated’ by injecting liquid insecticide into the termite galleries.

The termite of most concern the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus. It was probably introduced from South East Asia about 150 years ago. It has become established throughout Oahu and parts of the neighbor islands. It usually nests underground and will forage over about an acre looking for food. The nest can have several million termites in a colony and they will consume about two pounds of wood a day. It enters homes through cracks in the slab, around the plumbing, areas of soil-to-wood contact such as fence posts, and hollow tile walls.

The law calls for a visual inspection of the structure and the inspector will tap on the wood throughout the house listening for hollow spots. He is looking for droppings from the drywood termites and the damage caused by ground termites. The inspection should include every accessible area of the house including the crawlspace under the house and the attic. The exterior and all interior areas will be inspected. Cabinets and closets will be opened and inspected.

This inspection is only for termites. It does not cover other wood damaging insects or rot. It does not cover areas that are not accessible such as behind the kitchen appliances and cabinets, under the floor coverings, inside the walls and floors and rooms or closets that are locked or inaccessible. Areas that are not accessible are noted on the report. The report should list as many areas of infestation and damage as possible but it may not detail the extent of the infestation/damage and whether it is structural. The report does not recommend repair. The report is considered reliable for fifteen days. This is due the activity of termites and their surreptitious nature.

The seller should be prepared to have as much as the house accessible as possible and to allow the inspector access to the attic, all rooms in the house and should also provide any history of termite treatment.

The Buyer should expect a written report noting areas of active infestation, areas of previous termite infestation, areas with termite damage, conditions conducive to future infestation and recommendations for treatment if there is active infestation. There will be a diagram noting the approximate placement of infestation and damage. Conditions conducive to future infestation will also be noted.

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