Dear Barry,

Our home inspector was a gem and saved us a lot of money by finding defects that should have been disclosed by the sellers. But now we’ve realized a problem that was beyond the scope of a home inspection and which the sellers also failed to reveal: The family across the street includes two delinquent kids who are on drugs, have drinking/pot parties on the porch, screaming fights on the front lawn, etc. The house has a changing cast of seedy characters, and the police are there repeatedly. We’ve learned that this has been going on for 10 years and all the neighbors are sick of it. Our sellers obviously knew about this but said nothing. I realize this is not a home inspection question, but it does involve disclosure, so we’re wondering what you would advise. – Carol

Dear Carol,

Disclosure requirements are often presumed to involve merely physical and functional defects, such as problems with plumbing, roofing, foundations, etc. Much more, however, is involved in full compliance with the purpose and intent of laws pertaining to real estate disclosure. The main idea is to inform buyers of any and all known conditions that would adversely affect the value or desirability of a property; anything that might influence a buyer’s decision to complete the purchase. Common examples would include noises caused by low-flying aircraft or a factory, unpleasant odors from a nearby sewage treatment plant or a feed lot, frequent burglaries in the neighborhood or a registered sex offender known to be living in the area. All such disclosures would be of obvious interest to a prospective home buyer.

The nuisance situation in your neighborhood clearly diminishes the value and desirability of your property and could affect your ability to sell to someone else. Legal recourse, however, is not a clear-cut consideration. When someone fails to disclose a plumbing or roofing problem, the issues are readily solvable for measurable amounts of work and money. Your problem is far more complicated: An adequate solution may not be attainable, but let’s consider some possibilities.

Perhaps the disgruntled members of your neighborhood could form a community action committee to address the problem collectively. You could begin by consulting with the police, your city council representative and an attorney. If handled properly, you might be able to improve the quality of life on your block. Have your neighbors over for coffee and exchange ideas. Some good ones may emerge.

Dear Barry,

Our home was built in 1981 and has an electric water heater on the garage floor. One contractor says the fixture should be on a raised platform. Another says it’s OK on the garage floor because it is electric and does not have a pilot light. Who is correct? – Bethany

Dear Bethany,

When a water heater is installed in a garage, the plumbing code requires that it be on a raised platform. This is to prevent ignition of gasoline fumes on the garage floor. It is often presumed that this requirement only applies to gas water heaters, not electric ones. However, the code specified any water heater that is capable of producing a spark or a flame. Since an electric heating element is capable of producing a spark, a raised platform is required.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


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