DEAR BARRY: My home was inspected about eight months ago, but the buyer backed out of the deal. Since then, I’ve paid contractors to repair the defects that were found by the buyer’s home inspector. Now the home is back on the market, everything has been fixed, and I don’t know if I’m required to disclose the old inspection report to future buyers. What are the rules regarding the disclosure of a past home inspection report? –Lou
DEAR LOU: The rules that govern real estate disclosure vary from state to state, but the basic requirement is to disclose every known condition that could be of concern to a buyer. Most buyers are not concerned about conditions that have been repaired, except to know that the repairs were done correctly and completely. But there is an overriding issue, apart from full and honest disclosure. It is the potential for frivolous claims and lawsuits. Even though defects have been corrected, someone could still declare, "You should have told me about the old problems!" The safest practice, therefore, is to be proactive to a fault. When in doubt, disclose.
There are two good ways to handle the disclosure of an old inspection report and subsequent repairs to the property. A common approach is to attach the inspection report and the contractors’ repair receipts to your disclosure statement. Another solution is to hire the home inspector who disclosed the defects. Have the inspector reinspect the items that were corrected and write a supplemental report, indicating the current state of repair.
If you opt for reinspection, there are two possible outcomes. The home inspector may find the corrective work to be satisfactory, in which case you will have a clean report for future buyers. But things don’t always go that smoothly. The home inspector might discover that some repairs were never done, or that they were partially done, or were done incorrectly. In that case, the money paid to the home inspector would be well spent. You could notify the contractors that further repairs are needed. This, of course, would greatly strengthen your position with regard to disclosure liability.
DEAR BARRY: We bought our first house about a year ago. The sellers told us about roof leakage, but the roof leaks whenever it rains. Can we go back to the sellers and have them fix the roof? –Chay
DEAR CHAY: When sellers withhold knowledge of roof leakage, it is difficult to have them admit the problem later. The typical sellers’ defense is to declare that there was no roof leakage while they owned the property, leaving you, the buyer, to prove otherwise.
What you need now is a professional roof evaluation and some answers to questions. Are the leaks caused by minor defects or major deterioration? Is the roofing material damaged or was it improperly installed? Is it in need of patching or total replacement? These questions should have been answered by a home inspector before you purchased the property.
Now you need an evaluation by a licensed roofing contractor. The findings of that inspection will determine whether to pursue the seller for the cost of repairs.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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