DEAR BARRY: We purchased our home just last week and had a sewage backup within 12 hours of moving in. Our first load of laundry caused flooding in the basement, so we called a plumber. He said the main sewer line is full of roots and has been that way for a long time. His estimate to replace the line is more than $5,000.

According to the sellers’ disclosure statement, all drain lines were in good working order, but the plumber says this cannot be true. So now we are stuck with a major expense that we cannot afford. Our home warranty doesn’t cover tree roots, and our homeowners insurance says it doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions. Are the sellers liable? –Amanda

DEAR AMANDA: The plumber’s description of old root congestion in the drainpipe indicates that there have been previous sewage backups in your home. The sellers probably knew about the problem and failed to disclose it, but proving that could be difficult, if not impossible.

You could ask the neighbors if they ever noticed a plumber’s truck on the property. If they can provide the name of a plumber who serviced the drain, you might be able to prove nondisclosure.

Aside from the question of seller’s liability, there is the matter of repair costs. Fortunately, there is an alternate method of drainpipe repair that is becoming very popular because it eliminates the need for excavation and costly pipe replacement.

Plumbing companies are now installing synthetic liners in old, deteriorated drainpipes. This enables the old pipes to remain in place and prevents further root intrusion. To determine the viability of this approach to your drain problem, call a few plumbing contractors in your area to see who installs drainpipe linings, and get at least three bids.

DEAR BARRY: My son wasted his money on two home inspections. In each case, he made a verbal purchase agreement with the sellers, hired the inspector, and then was told that a higher offer from another buyer had been accepted. His real estate agent told him that this is the chance you take when you buy a home. I think the agent is not protecting my son’s financial interests. When, in your opinion, should a home inspection be done? –Joe

DEAR JOE: The time to hire a home inspector is after you have an accepted offer and a signed purchase contract. A standard purchase contract states that the buyer has a specific number of days to conduct inspections, and the purchase is contingent on the buyer’s acceptance of the inspector’s findings.

Your son, as a first-time buyer, would not have known this, but it is inexcusable that a real estate agent would not know it. If your son was counseled to hire a home inspector without an accepted purchase offer, then his agent is not representing his interests and, in fact, is professionally irresponsible.

Your son needs to find another agent immediately. If the agent is not willing to pay for these two wasted inspections, you can file a complaint with the state agency that licenses real estate agents. You can even file a case in small claims court.

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