DEAR BARRY: When we purchased our home, the inspector was very thorough. At least we thought so. He spent hours looking at the house and reported a lot of defects. But later we discovered that one of the toilets was not connected to the septic system. Instead, it flushed directly onto the ground under the house. This mess was discovered by our cable man. What is the likelihood that something like this could have been missed by a home inspector? –Jesse

DEAR BARRY: When we purchased our home, the inspector was very thorough. At least we thought so. He spent hours looking at the house and reported a lot of defects. But later we discovered that one of the toilets was not connected to the septic system. Instead, it flushed directly onto the ground under the house. This mess was discovered by our cable man. What is the likelihood that something like this could have been missed by a home inspector? –Jesse

DEAR JESSE: If the inspector went under the house, it would not have been easy to miss raw sewage on the ground, unless something blocked his entry to that part of the crawl space. In some cases, air ducts or low ground clearance prevent full access. Such conditions might have impaired your inspector’s view of the mess, but it would not likely have masked the distinctive "aroma."

The cable man’s discovery of the undisclosed "flushings" indicates that there were no impediments to that part of the subarea. Therefore, you should contact the home inspector and request a reinspection of the bathroom plumbing.

DEAR BARRY: My friend owns a downstairs flat in a two-story building. The new owners of the upstairs flat recently moved in and noticed a plumbing leak on the outside of the building. They guessed that it was leaking into my friend’s unit, as well as their own. When they asked her about it, she confirmed that she had known about the leak for quite some time and had discussed it more than once with the previous owners of the upper flat. The new owners claim that my friend should have disclosed this problem to them before they closed escrow. They are all upset and demand that she pay for the repairs. I should mention also that they hired a home inspector before they bought the property, but he said nothing about the leak. What do you think my friend should do? –Heather

DEAR HEATHER: If your friend had been selling her own flat, she would have been obliged to disclose the leak to her buyers. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, the previous owners of the upstairs unit were selling their flat, which was none of your friend’s business. She had no relationship with the buyers of the upstairs flat and was in no position to be making disclosures to them. It was the obligation of the upstairs sellers to disclose the leak, and since your friend had already discussed the leak with them, they had no excuse for not disclosing that problem to their buyers.

Furthermore, the leak, as you described it, was plainly visible on the exterior of the building. This means that it should have been discovered while the property was still in escrow, particularly by the home inspector.

The bottom line, therefore, is this: The sellers were not forthcoming with their disclosures; the buyers were not very attentive when doing their final walkthrough inspection; the home inspector was negligent; and the buyers have no reasonable claim against your friend. In fact, their demand is totally outrageous.

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

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