Poking holes in seller's disclosure

Silence on sewage spills a red flag for buyer

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Nov. 3, 2010

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Silence on sewage spills a red flag for buyer

Barry Stone
Inman News

DEAR BARRY: I recently bought a condo in a multistory building. After moving in, I learned that there have been three major sewage leaks in my unit in the past nine months. Each time, a sewage pipe burst, causing the unit to fill with waste. The seller's disclosure statement says there have never been any issues with the plumbing.

The owners association has no detailed information about the problem, and all evidence of past damage has been repaired. I feel as if it is only a matter of time before it happens again. What options do I have? --Aaron

DEAR AARON: Before assessing your options, you need to know the causes and the extent of the plumbing problem. The first step, if possible, is to get the name of the plumber who addressed the sewage backups. Contact that company and find out why those backups occurred.

If there was an inherent defect in the system, you need to know if it was corrected. If the plumber simply cleared a blockage in the lines or patched the breakage, then recurrent problems are likely, which should have been disclosed by the sellers.

If the drainpipe system was adequately repaired, then the sellers may have assumed that there was no need for disclosure. If significant repairs have not been made, then the sellers are guilty of nondisclosure and should be held liable for the cost of repairs.

A video inspection of the waste lines would be a good idea. If the sellers failed to disclose a known defect and are not willing to cover repair costs, you should discuss the matter with an attorney. You might be able to get a judgment in small claims court.

DEAR BARRY: My son is trying to get into the home inspection business. He has many years of contracting experience and has passed the tests to qualify as an inspector. He has contacted several real estate agents and a few other home inspectors, but getting inspection orders is proving to be difficult. Do you have any advice on how to get this business up and running? --James

DEAR JAMES: Getting started in the home inspection business is a slow task that requires patient, persistent marketing to real estate agents. While doing this, it should be remembered that agents are already using home inspectors of their liking, and they are not suddenly going to change just because a new inspector comes into the office and says, "Hello."

However, by continually reminding agents that you are qualified and available, sooner or later jobs will begin to appear. They can come from an agent whose regular home inspector is not currently available, or from an agent who is disgruntled with the usual inspector, or from a brand-new agent who doesn't yet have a regular home inspector.

It's all a matter of time and of never giving up. Competition is strong, and the real estate market is slow. In fact, many home inspectors have dropped out of the business since the end of the real estate boom.

Tell your son to be relentless in his marketing efforts and to pursue continuing education on a persistent basis.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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