DEAR BARRY: We purchased a condo last year and had it professionally inspected. The inspector could not see the gas line for the patio barbecue because it was under the concrete slab. But the seller assured us that it was installed to code. He volunteered this information while taking us on a tour of the home. Recently, we removed the patio to replace it with brick pavers. It turned out the gas line was on top of the soil, directly under the concrete. The paving company won’t install the new patio until we have the gas pipe buried at the required depth of 18 inches. Are the sellers responsible for this plumbing work, or must we swallow the cost? –Denise
DEAR DENISE: Sellers often make statements about code compliance in utter ignorance of the building code. In fact, home inspectors laugh among themselves about sellers who say, "We built the addition without a permit, but everything was done to code." Unless sellers are architects or building contractors, they have no way of knowing whether code compliance has been met. If you combine the building code, the plumbing code, the mechanical code and the electrical code, you have a set of books about 5 inches thick and written in esoteric language that is essentially foreign techno-speak to the average person.
The "craftsman" who installed the gas line below your patio, without burying it 18 inches below grade, was obviously not a professional. This means that the seller installed a gas line (or had some other unqualified person install it) and did so without a required building permit. Since the seller represented the gas line as being "installed to code," it would be reasonable to request that he make that line comply with his own disclosure. If he does not agree, a small claims judge would be likely to rule in your favor.
Be sure to take photos of the gas line before having it replaced.
DEAR BARRY: I’ve made an offer to buy a 40-year-old condo with electric radiant heat in the ceilings. So far, I haven’t been able to confirm that the heat is working. Our home inspector said he wasn’t sure. So what should I do next, hire an electrician? If the heating doesn’t work, is the seller obligated to fix it? –Kelly
DEAR KELLY: Home inspectors can verify the function of radiant ceiling heat in two easy steps: Step one is to turn on the thermostat in each room and then wait about 15 to 20 minutes while inspecting other aspects of the property. Step two is to carry a ladder from room to room and to place one’s hands on the ceiling surfaces. If the ceiling feels warm, the radiant heating is functional.
You don’t need to hire an electrician. Instead, call your home inspector and ask that the heating inspection be completed. If the system is not operative, you can request that the seller have it repaired. The seller may not be required to make these repairs, but you can argue that a home without a functional heating system is not a legal dwelling.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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