I am selling my home and the buyers had an inspection done where the inspector listed the exterior GFCI outlets as a safety hazard because they weren't on their own circuits. These outlets were assembled and installed when the house was built and I have done nothing with them. This house passed the City's inspection protocol as I got the report. The inspector wrote in the report that this is a safety hazard but I am reading on line that it is common practice to wire them in with the interior lights. I got a copy of the city signing off that it passed to give the buyers, but I am confused as to why an inspector would write this up as a safety hazard if it's not even breaking code and it's common practice. Any answers out there?
A private buyer's inspector can write whatever they want. Some have a reputation for being minimalistic that gets them referrals from selling agents, some have a reputation for being "tigers" that gets them referrals from buyers who pride in waving 30 pages of "problems" at the seller. Some will highlight minor issues if there aren't any major ones in order to pad out the report and "demonstrate value".
There's no universal advice as to how you should deal with such things. There's nothing you can fix that the buyers can't fix. Some buyers will take pride in correcting all the things you didn't, some will try to squeeze it out of you ... it mostly comes down to money. However sometimes there is some psychology involved. If the buyers have an outsized fear of electrical fires and you can throw them a peace offering for $15, that could go a long way.
My first guess would be that the inspector was misinformed. It's common to have a number of GFCI protected outlets on their own circuit if the circuit is protected by a GFCI breaker in the main panel. Individual GFCI outlets do not have to be on their own circuits. The only reason I can think of that would be a safety concern would be if the GFCI's were not listed for outdoor use or not in weatherproof boxes.
Not violating any code that I am aware of, though I am not an expert.
In fact, as I understand it, if the receptacles were not even GFCI protected at all and were installed when there was no such requirement, they would be perfectly fine! In that situation, I would expect a home inspector to note that they should be protected as that is the current code. But they are protected, so that is not even an issue for you anyway.
In a perfect world, every single room would have its own circuit (or two!) for receptacles and another for lights. But running more circuits than required costs extra - both parts & labor. As a result, it is quite common to have the required circuits - typically 2 for the kitchen, 1 for each bathroom (technically multiple bathrooms can still share, and in older homes that is very common), 1 for laundry, etc. and then have just a few circuits - say between 2 and 5 - serving all the lights and receptacles everywhere else (e.g., lights almost everywhere, receptacles in bedrooms, living room, basement, etc.).
GFCI requirements are a separate issue - they do go along with dedicated circuits in the kitchen and bathrooms but in other areas they can be shared with non-protected receptacles. The reasons for "separate circuit" are different from the reasons for "GFCI protected".
Keep in mind that almost anything in a house on an inspector's report is for negotiation. That certainly includes electrical. For example, if a house was built before GFCI requirements and the buyer, based on the inspector's report, insisted on GFCI in kitchen and bathrooms, that would be a reasonable request, and would usually cost relatively little to resolve. On the other hand, running new circuits is generally very expensive, especially if the panel is full or if drywall work is needed as a result. Another example is a roof problem. A known leak should probably be addressed. On the other hand, a roof showing signs of age (which is reasonable for an inspector to report so the buyer has an idea of what repairs will be needed in a few years) but not any indication of any active problems can be left as is. But all is subject to negotiation. (At least in most areas that I know of - a little different from buying a used car where you can't, in many places, get new tags without showing proof of passing a rigorous safety inspection.)
Home inspections like this all use the same list of issues that they check for regardless of the age of the home. Sometimes they list things that are nonsense for the situation, sometimes they list technical issues that don't really cause real-world problems, and sometimes they actually list things that are dangerous.
When I bought my current house "the electrical system was deficient". Why? None of the breakers were labeled and there was a three-way switch that didn't work. Did I care or even mention that to the seller? No, it's just not a big deal.
You are not obligated to fix anything found in the report. You sell the house as-is and you can use any fixes as a negotiating tool. In some cases there might be an issue so bad that a buyer wouldn't be able to get financing, but some technicality on a GFCI outlet isn't one of those. Some buyers might make it out to be a bigger deal than it really is, but fixing it or not is up to you.
In some local codes (my own familiarity is here in Ontario) it may say that a house must have an exterior GFCI outlet on a dedicated circuit. In other words, at least one. I guess the idea is that you may have something like a corded electric lawn mower that draws a high load and they want to make sure there's at least one that can handle it. But there's nothing that says you can't have others which are on shared circuits.
But that's local code, and it doesn't sound like this inspector has referenced code. As a safety issue, I'm not getting it. Maybe he's thinking these circuits, if overloaded, could result in a power outage of something important inside the house? That seems a stretch, and at any rate, that's for code to consider.
If the inspector can't cite local code (as others have said, relevant to the date the outlets were installed) then I'd push back pretty hard on this being a valid issue.
My guess is the inspector is just confused, their training and certification is really questionable at best. I have been called to "fix" things that weren't a problem, for instance a breaker that was UL Listed for two wires had two wires. The seller agreed to have it "fixed", since there was available breaker space to add a breaker the broker said to just do that to comply with the agreed condition of sale. The "fix" wasn't a code requirement, but since they agreed to do it it needed to be done. Another time I had to tell the inspector inspecting for a house I was buying that the electrical panel location in the back of a kitchen cabinet was a code violation of code required working clearance, and I wanted it added to his report.
Codes vary and evolve, the NEC for instance normally updates every 3 years, and are subject to local adoption in whole or with amendments. I think until as recently as 2020 HUD was still regulating mobile homes under the 2008 edition.
In the NEC specific receptacle locations, dedicated circuits, and Ground-Fault requirements are all addressed separately.
The latest NEC 210.52 requires outdoor receptacles front and back, and requires they be accessible from grade, less than 2 meters above grade. It doesn't specify or give a reference to a section that requires a dedicated circuit.
210.11 specifies dedicated circuits that include the phrase "shall feed no other outlets" with specific exceptions. Currently the NEC specifies that garage, bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room receptacle circuits be dedicated, the only circuit with an exception for outdoor receptacles is the garage circuit.
Also heating and cooling equipment regularly requires dedicated circuits, but rarely do those circuits have receptacles. You also could have other fastened-in-place equipment that is plug fed, if it uses more than 50% of the rating of the circuit feeding it then it cannot share with other general purpose receptacles.
Ground Fault protection is specified in NEC 210.8. It includes all of the above locations in 210.11, outdoor receptacles, and more. This paragraph doesn't reference any circuit requirements. Also it doesn't specify location of protection in circuit. It could be at point of use, the load terminals of an upstream GFCI receptacle, or a breaker protecting the full circuit.
One recent NEC change causing confusion is that now GFCI reset is now required to be readily accessible, the code defines readily accessible a little more strictly than seems necessary.
But whatever is making him specify that there is a violation present is unclear.