Dear Barry,

We purchased a house two years ago but never had a home inspection. Since then, we’ve discovered a number of problems that were not disclosed by the sellers. Part of the house was added without a building permit, and the roof has major leakage at this addition. According to our roofing contractor, the roof has insufficient slope, and there is no felt under the shingles. Do we have recourse against the sellers or the agent? –Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

You’ve just discovered a central reality of acquiring a home. Buying one without a professional inspection is a major mistake; one that can have costly consequences. Although sellers and agents are required to disclose known defects, no one can provide the defect disclosure of a professional, full-time faultfinder. Either you were not adequately advised of this prior to buying your home, or you chose to ignore the advice you received. If you were represented by an agent, it was his or her responsibility to emphasize the critical importance of a thorough home inspection.

At this late date, you may or may not have a claim against the sellers or the agent for nondisclosure. This will depend upon the disclosure laws in your state. You’ll need to consult an attorney to determine those options. But regardless of whether you pursue liability issues, a home inspection at this time is strongly recommended. Without doubt, a qualified inspector will discover defects not already apparent to you. Whether or not you choose to press the issue of nondisclosure, this information could be vital.

Dear Barry,

Is duct cleaning a legitimate service? We have lived in our house for 23 years, and lately have seen bits of paint and/or popcorn ceiling material on our furniture, directly under our heating vents. The appearance of this debris seems to be increasing in frequency. Would duct cleaning be a remedy? Also, who does this kind of work? –Nancy

Dear Nancy,

Cleaning air ducts can be beneficial if dust and debris is forming on their inner surfaces of your warm air system. Dust buildup in forced air heating ducts can harbor dust mites and mold, posing potential health problems. Various types of business, such as heating contractors, janitorial companies and chimney sweeps, probably provide duct-cleaning services in your area. Just check the yellow pages and make some calls.

However, the loose particles of ceiling material you’ve noticed on your furniture indicate a problem of a different nature. When your home was built, acoustic texture was apparently sprayed onto the ceilings. In typical fashion, the person installing the texture allowed the material to coat the interior surfaces of the air duct openings. This over-spray is now losing its adhesion, which is why particles are falling onto your furniture. The problem with this occurrence is that the loose texture particles may contain asbestos fibers. This material should be professionally tested to determine whether it is an asbestos-containing material. If asbestos fibers are found, the over-spray within the ducts should be removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor.

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

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