DEAR BARRY: When we bought our home, no one disclosed the defective flat roof over our living room — not even our home inspector. The rainy season began weeks after we moved in, and we’ve been fighting leaks ever since.
Finally, after three years of patching, we replaced the bad roof. But it seems unfair that we should be stuck with this expense. Do we have any recourse against the inspector or the sellers for not disclosing this defect? –Henry
DEAR HENRY: There are two issues that reduce the strength of your claim: You waited three years to lodge a complaint for nondisclosure, and you have now removed all evidence that there was a defective roof.
When homebuyers discover defects after the close of escrow, home inspectors, sellers and agents should be notified immediately, and reinspection of disputed conditions should be scheduled as soon as possible. Some home inspectors specify this as a liability requirement in their contracts, and many contracts require reinspection prior to making repairs.
When the roof leaks first became known, one question was paramount: Were the roof defects visibly apparent at the time of the inspection? Reinspection at that time might have provided a clear answer. In some cases, a flat roof that leaks will appear to be in perfect condition. In those cases, a home inspector would not be liable unless there were unreported ceiling stains.
For the sellers, the question would have been whether leaking occurred prior to selling the property. Ceiling stains might have answered that question as well, but three years of subsequent leakage have obscured any clear answers.
Time and circumstances have eliminated any basis for pursuing this claim. At this late date, the new roof should be regarded as homebuying experience. Next time you buy a home, be sure to find a highly qualified home inspector, and don’t wait to report undisclosed defects.
DEAR BARRY: The home we are buying is about 25 years old and has the original tile roof. There is evidence of leakage over the master bedroom, and our home inspector says that some of the tiles are damaged. How long can we expect a tile roof to last? –Vern
DEAR VERN: For most tile roofs, 25 years is not a long time. Clay tiles and concrete tiles are typically rated as 50-year roofs. In actuality, they can be expected to last more than a lifetime. Case in point: The clay tiles on the California Spanish missions are more than 200 years old and are still shedding water.
If your home inspector found some damaged tiles, this is not unusual. Most tile roofs are in need of maintenance repairs. Some tiles may be cracked or broken because someone carelessly walked on the surface. If the inspection report was not specific about the damage, you should ask your home inspector for particular details, and you should ask the sellers to have the tiles repaired by a licensed roofing contractor. If the seller is unwilling to pay for repairs, get your own bid from a licensed roofer.