Dear Barry,

The house next door has a central heating system that is very noisy at the roof vent. It’s not so bad during the day, but at night it wakes everyone in my home. Recently, the house was listed for sale, so I wrote a letter to the agent and informed her of the problem, hoping that someone would have it fixed. She acknowledged receipt, but nothing more was said. After the house sold, I spoke to the new owner. She said the agent had never mentioned the noisy heater vent. How could the agent have failed to disclose this after receiving my letter? –Mike

Dear Mike,

Agents and sellers are required to disclose any conditions that could be of concern to a buyer or that could adversely affect a buyer in any way. The agent who received your complaint but failed to disclose it to the buyer was in violation of that requirement. This omission was as foolish as it was unethical because it subjected the parties of the transaction to potential conflict and liability. For all the agent knows, you might be inclined to litigate the matter or to be unpleasant in any number of ways, thereby subjecting the new owner (and the agent herself) to costs and other consequences. Yet, she apparently chose to withhold the information you provided, subjecting all parties to whatever outcomes might be precipitated by the noisy vent.

The agent has certainly earned a complaint to the state licensing agency. Setting that matter aside, however, the simplest solution to the entire matter may be to share the furnace repair costs with your new neighbor. That would eliminate a problem for both parties and establish friendly next-door relations.

Dear Barry,

We recently bought a new house after having it inspected. The first week, we had problems with the heating and air-conditioning system. An inspector from the home warranty company told us that the system was mismatched, the outside unit being too large for the inside one. When our home inspector looked at the system, he said the outside unit was malfunctioning but did not mention the mismatch of the components. Now he says that home inspectors do not determine whether these fixtures match, that his job is to identify functional defects only. Is what he says true, or is he liable for replacing the system? –Douglas

Dear Douglas,

Home inspectors are required to identify and report operational defects and physical damage when inspecting heating and cooling systems. Recognizing when exterior compressors are not matched with main air units requires a higher degree of familiarity with such systems than is common for the majority of home inspectors. Overriding this issue, however, is the fact that your home inspector discovered a malfunctioning compressor. That was a serious disclosure that warranted further evaluation by a licensed heating and air-conditioning contractor before you bought the home. If that had been done, the discovery of the mismatched units would have occurred before you bought the property, and the seller might have been persuaded to pay for necessary repairs. A determination of home inspector liability would therefore depend upon whether he recommended that repairs be done before the close of escrow.

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

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