DEAR BARRY: When I bought my home, I hired a home inspector recommended by my Realtor. After the inspection, the report was sent to my Realtor, but no copy was ever given to me. I asked for it repeatedly, but she stalled me until the end of the transaction. When I asked the inspector, he told me to get a copy from the agent. So I closed escrow without ever seeing it.
After moving in, there were lots of undisclosed problems, such as kitchen appliances that did not work. Finally, I hired another home inspector, and he found problems with the foundation. Since then, the agent refuses to answer my phone calls. What should I do? –Gloria
DEAR GLORIA: Any Realtor who would withhold copies of a home inspection report needs a crash course in professional ethics. The same goes for a home inspector who would withhold the report from the buyer who paid for it. It is unfortunate that you did not have someone to advise you prior to the closing. The best advice would have been to stop the transaction until you received full disclosure of the condition of the property.
The agent’s conduct calls for serious consequences to protect future clients from being used in the same manner. A complaint can be filed with the state agency that licenses real estate professionals. The same should be done with the inspector, if home inspectors are licensed in your state. For further advice regarding recourse, you should consult with a real estate attorney.
DEAR BARRY: We live in a 20-year-old townhome development with a corrupt homeowners association. The HOA is controlled by two real estate agents who make their living selling townhomes in the neighborhood. In order to maximize sales, they routinely withhold disclosure of major problems to prospective buyers. The property has been involved in many construction defect lawsuits, and the exterior has not been well maintained, but none of this is ever pointed out to buyers. What can be done to make these conditions more transparent? –Scott
DEAR SCOTT: Real estate agents are required to disclose conditions that would affect a prospective buyer’s decision to complete a purchase. Failure to do so is a violation of law in most states and a violation of common ethical decency in every state. If the property has construction defect issues, buyers have a right to know this. If the association does not meet its maintenance obligation, this should also be disclosed.
Two changes need to take place: The real estate agents should be removed from HOA leadership, and their conduct should be reported to the state agency under which they are licensed. A third option, of course, is a lawsuit, but that should be used as a last resort if necessary.
To replace the agents on the HOA board, other homeowners will need to become active in HOA politics. Hopefully, disaffection with the current board is sufficiently unanimous to bring about positive change.