DEAR BARRY: My sister purchased a house and is having electrical problems. The previous owners bought the home, remodeled it, and then resold it. The real estate agent said the house had been inspected and there were no problems. But every night the upstairs lights blink on and off, and an electrician says the house is not properly grounded. Who is responsible for these repairs: the sellers, the agent, the home inspector, or my sister? –Tyler
DEAR TYLER: The sellers are liable only if they knew about the electrical problems and failed to disclose them. Whether they actually knew is probably not discoverable. However, it wouldn’t hurt to contact them to see if they would be willing to assume or to share the cost of the repairs.
The home inspector is liable only if your sister had a contractual relationship with him. If she did not hire the inspector, she probably has no claim against him, especially if she did not receive a copy of the report.
The problem here is with the agent’s verbal disclosure. As soon as an agent says, "The house was inspected and no problems were found," red flags should be waving under a banner of flashing neon lights. Anyone with experience in the real estate profession knows that all homes have defects of one kind or another. An agent who claims otherwise is either dishonest or just plain ignorant.
Furthermore, if the home was inspected, the agent should have given your sister a copy of the inspection report, not simply told her about it. And the agent should have advised your sister to hire a home inspector of her own.
If your sister did not hire a home inspector, now is the time to do so. A qualified inspector will find defects that have not yet been discovered. With a detailed report in hand, your sister will be in a better position to negotiate repair costs with the agent and the sellers.
And be sure to find a home inspector with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness.
DEAR BARRY: I bought a brand-new house last year. The first time it rained, the roof leaked. So I called the builder but he just gave me the phone number of the roofing contractor. When I called the roofer, the line was disconnected. Since then, two roofers have told me that the roof was not properly installed and needs to be redone. Who is responsible for this expense: the builder, the missing roofer, or me? –Gary
DEAR GARY: The roofer is responsible to the builder, but the builder is responsible to you. If the builder thinks he can pass the buck, he is mistaken. You are not the one who hired the roofer. The builder engaged those services.
Therefore, he is responsible for whatever the roofer did. If the builder won’t take responsibility, you should report him to the state agency that licenses contractors. If that doesn’t work, you should consult an attorney who specializes in construction defect law.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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