Dear Barry,

While we were having a home inspection, the sellers disclosed the presence of cat urine on the carpet. But our inspector reassured us about this, saying that a good carpet cleaning would remove the odor. After moving in, we had the carpet cleaned, but that proved unsuccessful and the bad smell remains. The urine has penetrated the flooring under the carpet, and the stench permeates the entire house. The wood flooring, it seems, must now be replaced at major expense, and in some areas, the building materials cannot be removed, so the odor may be permanent. How could a home inspector have given such bad advice? And who is liable for this condition, the sellers or the home inspector? –Richard

Dear Richard,

Cat urine odors are pervasive and decidedly unpleasant. I recall one home where the resident feline routinely employed the floor registers for the forced air heating system as a network of private urinals. But I digress.

The sellers of your home were responsible for disclosure of the urine problem, and having done so, they appear to have absolved themselves of any liability in that regard. The home inspector, on the other hand, stuck his neck out by saying more than was necessary. His obligation was also one of mere disclosure. Instead, he chose to prescribe the means of correcting the urine condition. In so doing, he exceeded the standards of practice for his profession and made the critical mistake of minimizing the extent of the problem. He clearly undertook needless liability, and you should notify him of the situation immediately.

However, before commencing expensive repairs to your home, you might try a few of the new cat urine products that are now available. Here are a few Web sites to check out: www.caturine.com; www.pinkrock.com; www.odordestroyer.com; and www.justrite.com.

Or you can do a Google search for additional products and alleged solutions.

As a final note, purveyors of ozone generating equipment also claim success in alleviating residual cat urine odors. In fact, one company’s motto is, “Urine in good hands with ozone.”

Dear Barry,

Our home is still covered by a builders’ warranty for structural defects, and we’ve just discovered that two foundation walls are leaning inward. The builder has offered to give us a cash settlement for repairs, but friends have advised us not to take the cash because this would relieve the builder of future related claims. They say that liability for foundation problems would shift from the builder to the contractor we hire to do the repairs. Can we legally refuse the cash and insist that the builder perform the repairs? –Bill

Dear Bill,

Your builders’ warranty provides vital, long-term protection from financial consequence and, therefore, should be carefully guarded. Hiring your own contractor to perform warranty-related repairs could permanently alter the warranty relationship with your builder, especially if the work performed is pursuant to a financial settlement with the builder. Much depends upon the wording of the original warranty, the provisions of the settlement documents the builders expect you to sign, and state laws governing builders’ warranties and contractors’ liability. To prevent regrettable errors in this decision, legal advice should be carefully considered before proceeding, and you should seek an attorney with experience in construction defect law.

If your attorney advises you to accept the cash settlement, the amount should be determined by obtaining bids from at least three licensed contractors, and bids should be based upon a structural engineer’s written evaluation of the foundation problem.

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

***

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