My daughter recently bought a condo. After moving in, she noticed that rusty water comes from some of the faucets when they are first turned on. The warranty people determined that the problem is deteriorated galvanized steel pipes. They estimated $7,000 to repipe the unit. The home inspector didn’t disclose this problem, but the sellers could have run the water before the inspection, flushing the rusty water from the lines. Who knows? It just seems that the sellers must have been aware of this condition. Shouldn’t they have disclosed it? – Rebecca

Dear Rebecca,

Sellers are obligated to disclose significant property defects of which they are aware. Rust-colored water at faucets is an observable and unusual condition that would arouse the interest and concern of most homeowners. Therefore, failure to divulge such conditions to buyers would constitute a breach of the responsibility to disclose. As a result, your daughter now faces an expensive repair burden that should have been resolved before purchasing the property, either by negotiation or by canceling the sale.

The first step in addressing this issue is to notify the sellers and agents regarding your concerns. If the sellers are unwilling to accept responsibility for a major portion of the repair costs, a Small Claims judge might be inclined to prompt their interest and participation. Hopefully, such procedures will not be necessary.

It would also be prudent to obtain two more bids from licensed plumbing contractors. Prices for such repairs can vary widely, and price differences don’t always coincide with levels of quality. It’s entirely possible that the $7,000 bid is too high. It is also possible that only some portions of the water piping warrant replacement. Clarification in this regard would be beneficial to everyone concerned.

Dear Barry,

My circuit breaker box doesn’t have a master breaker to shut off the electricity to the house. Is it a good idea to have one installed, and is this a job for a do-it-yourselfer? – Mike

Dear Mike,

If your main electric service panel has more than six breakers, the code requires a main shutoff device. The intent of this requirement is to enable quick disconnection of the power in the event of an emergency. Older panels, originally installed with six or fewer breakers, typically do not have a main switch. Many of these panels, however, have been modified to include additional breakers, now exceeding six, but still have no main shutoff. Often the additional circuits in these older panels were installed by individuals without sufficient electrical qualifications. In such cases, review and upgrades by a licensed electrician or electrical contractor is warranted to ensure safety and legal compliance. Unfortunately, many older panels are not designed to accommodate the installation of a main disconnect switch. Therefore, replacement with a new main panel might be warranted.

At this point, it should be clear that these are not procedures to be undertaken by a “do-it-yourselfer.” Work of this kind requires considerable professional knowledge and expertise. When attempted by handypersons, the finished product may appear functional but is likely to include significant fire safety violations and possible shock hazards. Don’t try to do this at home.

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


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