What to do when sellers hide defects

Agent shares blame for failure to provide report in timely manner

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Luxury Connect | Oct. 16-18 | Beverly Hills

DEAR BARRY: We bought our home six weeks ago. The sellers had inherited the property and claimed to know nothing about its condition. After moving in, there was a rainstorm. The roof leaked and the bedroom ceiling became wet. Our home inspector had said the roof was fairly new and in good condition. The termite report, however, disclosed water stains on the bedroom ceiling.

Unfortunately, we did not receive the termite report in time. Our real estate agent never gave us a copy. We obtained one directly from the termite company three days before the close of escrow. By that time, our deadline for negotiation had expired and our belongings were already packed in a moving van.

When we complained to our agent, he apologized for not having provided the termite report, but he assured us that the stains were probably caused by old leaks and were "no big deal." He also insisted that the sellers couldn’t have known about the leakage or they would have disclosed it, according to law. But the sellers must have known because they paid for the termite report. Who is liable for the roof repairs: the sellers, our agent, or the home inspector? –Jen

DEAR JEN: The sellers were required to disclose the defects that were listed by their termite inspector, including evidence of possible roof leaks. When you realized that they had not provided disclosure, you could have put a hold on the deal, even though the contingency period had expired.