Dear Barry,

I purchased a condo less than a year ago and have grown to despise it because I hear my neighbors above me talking, watching television, walking across their floor, arguing, and so on. I’ve added insulation to the ceiling, but the noise persists. Recently, I learned that this condition is due to a construction defect. The condo association won a lawsuit against the builders many years ago, but the outcome was a money settlement with the original owners, rather than correction of the problem. Shouldn’t my home inspector or the seller have disclosed this condition when I bought the unit? – Rachel

Dear Rachel,

A determination of noise transmission between adjoining living units is not within the scope of a home inspection, since factors that would lead to such discovery are subjective and not apparent at all times. For example, at the time of the inspection, the upstairs neighbors may not have been home, or they might not have been engaged in raucous pursuits. Even if they had been noisily occupied, conversations by those participating in the inspection (i.e. Realtors, sellers, inspectors, etc.) could have obscured the din of upstairs frivolities. As to the litigious history of the property, there is very little chance that the inspector would have been privy to such information.

The sellers, on the other hand, must have been aware of the noise transmission between adjoining units, having lived with the situation themselves, and probably had knowledge regarding the history of litigation. On this basis, they would have been obligated to provide you with complete disclosure of noisy conditions. In that regard, they may bear some liability. However, the likelihood of exacting compensation for that breach is probably very slim, but that is a matter for further discussion with a real estate attorney.

Dear Barry,

We converted our basement to additional living space and had a licensed contractor install a direct vent gas fireplace. He said that we didn’t need a permit or an inspection for the fireplace or the gas piping, but we’re feeling unsure about this. Is a permit required? – Dee

Dear Dee,

It is not legal to install gas piping or a gas-burning fixture without a building permit. According to Section 105 of the International Building Code, “Any owner or authorized agent [i.e. a licensed contractor] who intends to…install…any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permit.”

Every licensed contractor should be aware of this requirement. Keep in mind that the purpose of the code is “to provide minimum standards to safeguard life or limb, health, property and public welfare by regulating and controlling the design, construction and installation…of mechanical systems.” In view of the potential for serious consequences when gas piping and gas burning equipment are improperly installed, a degree of regulatory oversight would seem appropriate for such installations.

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


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