DEAR BARRY: We bought our house about six months ago. Since then, we’ve learned that someone else nearly bought the property and that those buyers hired a home inspector. The sellers were given a copy of the inspection report, but they never mentioned it to us or gave us a copy when we were the buyers. Shouldn’t they have disclosed the information in that report? –Vince

DEAR VINCE: Questions about who should have disclosed what and when they should have disclosed it never cease to arise. There seem to be no limits to the doubts and reservations surrounding real estate disclosure. At the root of the confusion is one basic question: How does a seller or an agent know what to disclose and what not to disclose?

Fortunately, the answer is simple and straightforward: Disclose all that you know: without exception, without compromise. When in doubt, disclose. The worst that can happen when everything is disclosed is that another buyer might have to be found.

On the other hand, the consequences of abridged disclosure may include financial loss, needless litigation, and in the very worst cases, injury or death due to undisclosed safety problems.

With this criterion in mind, no seller should wonder or ask if an old home inspection report should be disclosed. If the report itself is withheld from disclosure, then the particular defects that are listed in the report should all be included in the sellers’ disclosure statement.

Failure to disclose those defects can be regarded as deliberate concealment, and in most states, that is a violation of law. If you have concerns regarding possible nondisclosure, you should demand to see a copy of the old report.

Hopefully, you hired a home inspector of your own before buying your home. If your inspector was qualified, experienced and conducted a thorough review of the property, you should already be aware of the significant defects that were disclosed in the older report.

DEAR BARRY: My home inspector reported a problem with a gas water heater, but the seller’s plumber disagrees with the inspector. The water heater is installed in a utility closet, directly in front of the forced-air furnace. The inspector says the workspace in front of the furnace is restricted, but the plumber says this violates no provision of the plumbing code. If this condition is a problem, I’d like to have it repaired. How do we determine whose evaluation is correct? –Shannon

DEAR SHANNON: Everyone is correct, but the home inspector is more correct. The plumber is correct when stating the water heater placement violates no provision of the plumbing code. However, the problem involves a violation of the mechanical code, governing the installation of the forced-air furnace, not the water heater.

A minimum workspace of 30 inches is required in front of the furnace. If the water heater is installed within that specified workspace, then it will need to be moved to enable contractors and other persons to adequately service the equipment. Moving the fixture will entail modification and adjustment of the water and fuel connections, as well as the exhaust flue.

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