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-   -   Suing your Seller (http://www.houserepairtalk.com/f55/suing-your-seller-599/)

CraigFL 04-03-2006 01:05 PM

Suing your Seller
 
Iím probably asking to be flamed on this but it never ceases to amaze me all the people who buy houses(or cars Ė especially off EBay) and then want to sue the people for defectsóOR the people that recommend suing the seller. Now, I can understand that if the seller maliciously hides something so thoroughly that you or your independent home inspector is unable to easily find it, you may have a case. But, this is usually not what I hear. Usually itís Bob Buyer purchases a home from Stan Seller who discloses that the roof leaked at one time (thatís why the water spots in the living room ceiling that have been repaired although not professionally). Stan tells Bob that the roof was fixed and hasnít leaked in the last four months. I classify these as three common situations:

Typical situation: Stan has lived with the leak for many years. When he decided to sell his home, he knew he needed to fix the leak so he did. Stanís work is not professional but in fairness to Stan, he didnít want to spend a lot of money so he did the best he could. The leak was from the chimney flashing so Stan globbed it up with caulk and then repaired the drywall by sanding it down, coating with mud and repainting. It really hasnít rained hard since then and Stan never crawled back up in the attic to check around the chimney but as long as he doesnít see that wet spot on the ceilingÖ

Deceptive Seller situation: Stan has lived with the leak for many years. When he decided to sell his home, he knew he needed to fix the leak so he did. Stanís work is not professional but in fairness to Stan, he didnít want to spend a lot of money so he did the best he could. The leak was from the chimney flashing so Stan globbed it up with caulk and then repaired the drywall by sanding it down, coating with mud and repainting. It has rained a few times since his repair and the leak continues so he keeps caulking and painting before each showing. He says it doesnít leak but he really means it hasnít leaked since it stopped raining the last time when he repaired it.

Dishonest Seller situation: Stan has lived with the leak for many years. When he decided to sell his home, he knew he needed to fix the leak so he did. Since itís fixed, there is no need mentioning that there even was a leak at one time. Stanís work is not professional but in fairness to Stan, he didnít want to spend a lot of money so he did the best he could. The leak was from the chimney flashing so Stan globbed it up with caulk and then repaired the drywall by sanding it down, coating with mud and repainting. It has rained a few times since his repair and the leak continues so he keeps caulking and painting before each showing. He says it doesnít leak but he really means it hasnít leaked since it stopped raining the last time when he repaired it. He knows over the years the wood has been rotting, bugs have attacked the dampness and the mortar in the chimney structure needs to be repointed. To be sure nobody can see the damage, he has framed in around the chimney and disguised it by putting up shelving and storing items on the shelves. He puts 20W bulbs up there to keep the lighting down so that repairs arenít that noticeable. Drip pans and towels have stopped the water intrusion into the ceiling drywall.

Obviously there are variations on these as well as to what extent someone will go to cover up a problem. The dishonest seller is the one you need to be careful of and most would agree that if he/she gets away with this they need to be prosecuted if the buyer is damaged. In the typical situation and the deceptive buyer situation, a good independent home inspection should catch the problem. (In most cases a good home inspection should catch the problem masked by a dishonest seller also).

First, I believe it is YOUR responsibly to have an independent check done of ANY home you purchase. After all, you are probably spending a lot of your money on it and you should be sure you have all the facts to make your decision. Notice, I said ďall the factsĒ meaning that any problem you find doesnít have to be a deal killer Ė you just need to be aware of it and what you will be doing about it. Any problem found can be dealt with in one of five ways:

1. You can ďdemandĒ the seller fix it before you will buy it
2. You can escrow money to repair it with your contractor after your purchase
3. You can reduce the price by some amount equal to what you can repair it
4. You can forget about it and take the house as-is
5. You can reject this deal and look for another

Now for the tough partÖ. What do you do if youíve already purchased the home and find out about the leak? Well, if you had that home inspector look at it and he was the one who missed it, you need to discuss with him about the situation. A good inspector will have some kind of Errors & Omission insurance for mistakes they make. Be aware that they are careful and may have the supposed defect covered already in their report. And then there is the case where you didnít have the home inspected and chose to go with your own evaluation Ė a kind of ďself-insuredĒ situation. In this case you may be able to recover some costs from Stan if you can prove he was a dishonest seller. Did he overtly and covertly try to cover up this defect? Was his intent to defraud? You canít stand in front of a judge and say ďthere wasnít enough time to inspect it properlyĒ or ďI didnít have the experience to know about the cost of repointing my chimneyĒ.

Every piece of real estate Iíve purchased, Iíve had an inspection done. Many people at the time of the sale have said I didnít need to do this or gave me the name of their favorite inspector. Real estate agents implicitly donít like home inspectors because theyíre looked on as deal killers. I used to sell real estate and I know. Itís not that they discover deal killing defects but less sophisticated buyers can get all worked up over minor little problems that causes them to back out of perfectly good deals. The key is for the inspector to find a balance for their particular customer.

oldslowchevy 04-03-2006 01:19 PM

couldn't have said it better myself

Square Eye 04-03-2006 03:20 PM

Agreed.

BUT, I have recommended speaking to an attorney many times because an attorney in someone elses area will be far more familiar with the law in that area and will know if their's is a worthy case. Frivilous lawsuits are ridiculous to say the least, but a case of someone unloading a dog and running is all together different. My opinion is that a man who sells an irrepairable mess, is a thief, if he sells it without disclosing the pertinent information. A person who buys a mess knowingly, takes a tremendous risk. A home inspection is only as good as the inspector. Using someone you trust is a worthwhile expense.

Tom in KY, Hey, Sandy won't bring a tomato home without inspecting closely,
I trust her. She buys good tomatos.

inspectorD 04-03-2006 03:27 PM

Nicely done.
 
Welcome to my world..And thank you for the good example of why you need a good home inspection done.

I'm to biased to say much more..Tomato...tomato

InspectorD:D


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