DEAR BARRY: We bought our home about two years ago, and no fireplace or chimney problems were disclosed by our home inspector. But this week we hired someone to remove birds that were inside the chimney, and we were told that the chimney is unsafe. Who do we call to file a claim: our warranty company or the home inspector? –Linda

DEAR LINDA: To say that a chimney is unsafe is a vague generalization. You need to know specifics. Chimneys can be unsafe for reasons that are costly and complicated or affordable and routine.

For example, a missing or damaged spark arrestor makes a chimney unsafe, but the repair is simple and inexpensive. The same would apply to a chimney that is encrusted with creosote and needs to be swept.

On the other hand, a chimney that is unsafe because of structural cracks, deteriorating mortar or lack of a flue liner would involve major expense, including possible reconstruction. Before making a claim of liability, this question needs to be answered.

Regardless of the answer, this is most likely a pre-existing condition, and warranty companies typically do not pay for such claims. Therefore, the home inspector’s lack of disclosure could be the main issue.

If the chimney defects were visible and accessible at the time of the inspection, those conditions should have been disclosed. Exceptions would include inaccessibility due to wet or freezing weather or a chimney top that it too high to reach with a common ladder. If circumstances were favorable to chimney access, the home inspector was probably negligent.

The first thing to do it to call the inspector and request a reinspection of the chimney. At that point, you can discuss the question of financial liability.

DEAR BARRY: The property next to my house is owned by a high-rent slumlord. His front yard is overgrown with weeds and littered with trash. This has raised complaints from several neighbors, but everyone is afraid to mess with him because he is a karate instructor and a bully.

The trees in his yard are damaging my fence, cracking my driveway and rubbing against my roof. He has made it plain that he intends to do nothing about this. What can I do? –Lisa

DEAR LISA: Finding a solution to this problem could be difficult. With a normally problematic neighbor, issues can be discussed and legal pressure can be applied without fear of retaliation. But with someone who is a “bully” by nature, who knows what problems could develop if you stir the pot.

You should get some legal advice to see what options are available. It might be possible for the municipality enforce some health and safety regulations without your name being mentioned.

As a side note, there was a homeowner who had a similar problem with a neighbor’s trees. He treated the soil on his own side of the fence with a defoliant. The trees died. The owner of the trees had no choice but to remove them. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you employ such far-reaching measures.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription