DEAR BARRY: I purchased my home a few years ago, but was stationed overseas during the transaction. I trusted my agent and the honesty of the seller, but that confidence was misplaced. They disclosed that the additions were all permitted and that the termite damage was all repaired. They also had me sign that I accepted the property "as is," but I signed this based on their disclosures.
After being discharged and moving in, I learned that two additions were not permitted, the screened porch was separating from the building, and the termite damage was not repaired. Do I have any recourse? –Cheryl
DEAR CHERYL: It is always disappointing to learn about dishonest disclosure, but it is particularly disturbing when it is done against someone who is actively serving our country.
There are two legal questions that bear on this situation. The first involves statutes of limitations, since the transaction occurred a few years ago. The second involves the real estate disclosure laws that apply in your state. With these issues in mind, here is my prescription:
First, get some legal advice from a real estate attorney. The seller and the real estate agents may be accountable for misrepresentation, according to state law, but this will need to be determined by a qualified lawyer.
Second, have your home checked out by a truly qualified home inspector — someone who will find and report all of the defects. You will need a thorough inspection report if you pursue this matter against the seller or the agent.
Having done these things, you’ll be prepared to pursue the matter of liability, if the facts lead in that direction.
DEAR BARRY: We recently purchased a home and discovered undisclosed issues after moving in. We had a home inspection and we performed a final walkthrough inspection the day before closing, but the damage we found occurred after the walkthrough.
The two issues are wall damage caused by the moving company and removal of the window treatments. The window treatments, according to the purchase contract, were to remain on the property. How should we handle this situation? –Virginia
DEAR VIRGINIA: The sellers are clearly responsible for these issues. Fixtures that are fastened to a building are part of the building and, therefore, part of the sale. To remove window hardware before the close is no different than a butcher weighing a pound of meat and then secretly cutting off a piece before wrapping it up. If the window coverings had not been listed in the purchase contract, this might be a debatable point. In this case, the issue is clear. The window coverings were essentially stolen.
The sellers, their agent and the broker should receive a certified letter from you stating that the items must be returned immediately or you will file a case in small claims court. If they don’t take you seriously, have an attorney send them a more impressive letter. If you do talk to an attorney, get some advice on how to win in small claims court.
As for the wall damage, the moving company or the sellers should take responsibility for the repairs.