Dear Barry,

When we bought our home just over a year ago, we hired a home inspector and addressed all the issues he disclosed. The listing Realtor, at the time, gave us a letter stating that the furnace had been cleaned. But last month, we awoke to a house full of smoke because the heater burned out. The heating contractor we called said he had inspected the furnace one year earlier and had told the Realtor that the system had major problems. He recalled her being angry and saying that she’d call another contractor. She never mentioned any of this to us, so now we’re stuck with a worthless furnace and are probably lucky to be alive. What should we do, and whom should we contact? –Dianne

Dear Dianne,

The conduct of the Realtor, as you describe it, is beyond unethical: It amounts to criminal negligence. It involves failure to disclose major furnace problems that could have endangered the lives of your family.

Of further concern is the home inspector’s failure to disclose major furnace problems. He may have been professionally negligent, depending on what conditions were visible at the time of the inspection. But this barely compares with the deliberate concealment by the Realtor.

Here are a few things you can do:

1) You can obtain a letter from your heating contractor, documenting his encounter with the Realtor when he discovered major problems with the furnace.

2) You can have your home reinspected to test the overall thoroughness of the original home inspection. This time, find someone with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness.

3) You can have an attorney notify the Realtor that she is liable for replacement of the furnace and could face further liability for deliberately concealing a significant safety hazard.

Agents of that caliber should not be allowed to practice real estate.

Dear Barry,

We recently installed two large, double-pane windows in our living room, but we ran into a problem. The weather last night was very cold, and warm air from the floor register caused the glass to crack along the bottom edge of one window. It seems that we made a mistake installing the windows so close to the register. The windows are just a few inches above the floor. What do you think? –Trudy

Dear Trudy,

The apparent errors in this window installation are worse than you realize. Temperature differentials may indeed have caused the crack, although the cause might have been a flaw in the glass edge, as sometimes occurs when glass is roughly cut. There is, however, a bigger issue.

Windows that are larger than 9 square feet and are within 18 inches of the floor must be made of tempered safety glass. The fact that your window cracked, instead of disintegrating into small shards, indicates that it is not safety glass. If someone were to walk into one of these windows, major injuries could result, and you could be liable for the costs of those injuries. My advice is to have these windows replaced by a professional glazing contractor.

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


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