DEAR BARRY: We recently purchased a home and hired a home inspector to find all the defects. During the inspection, I noticed that the wallpaper in the master bedroom was discolored and peeling at the edges. When I asked the inspector about this, he dismissed it as insignificant, but I continued to feel uncomfortable about it. Last week, I peeked behind a peeled edge of the wallpaper and found green mold. If I’d known about this, I’d have asked the sellers to have it removed. Shouldn’t this have been disclosed by our home inspector? –Jeri
DEAR JERI: When you asked the home inspector about the loose and discolored wallpaper, he should not have dismissed the issue. His answer should have been something on the order of, "I don’t know for sure if there is a problem, but the condition of the wallpaper indicates that there could be a moisture-related issue below the surface. Therefore, I recommend that the wallpaper be removed prior to close of escrow to determine whether there is a problem in that area." That kind of disclosure would have led to discovery of the mold and would have saved you the cost of mold remediation and wall repairs.
You should contact the home inspector about your new findings and ask that he take a second look at the wall. A common response from many home inspectors in this kind of situation is to claim that the mold was concealed from view and that mold is not within the scope of a home inspection. Both defenses are true and valid. However, competent home inspectors never dismiss evidence of possible moisture damage. That was your home inspector’s primary error.
DEAR BARRY: The contractor who built my home doesn’t want to fix damages caused by flooding in the basement. We bought the house about a year ago, and the warranty covers one year of workmanship. We don’t trust the builder and want to hire a contractor to fix the problem and then have the builder pay for all of the repairs. We are preparing the case for court. What do you advise? –Marcos & Evelyn
DEAR MARCOS & EVELYN: If flooding occurs in the basement of a new home, this means that the builder did not adequately provide for ground water drainage and waterproofing of the foundation walls. These are significant construction defects, and the builder is responsible for corrective work, which is likely to be very costly. In preparing your case, you’ll need professional evaluations for evidence. First, you need a report from a geotechnical engineer. That’s the fancy name for a drainage specialist.
Next, you should have the entire home evaluated by the most qualified and experienced home inspector you can find. A good inspector will find more construction defects than you are currently aware of, and the added list of defects will strengthen your case against the builder.
The entire matter should be handled by an attorney who specializes in construction defect law. And finally, you should file a complaint with the state agency that licenses contractors.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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