DEAR BARRY: We just moved into our home and are finding many undisclosed defects. Just to give a few examples, our kitchen sink is clogged. When our home inspector checked it, he ran the water for about two seconds, but it takes about 15 seconds for the water to back up. He also didn’t disclose the basement lights that don’t work or the hot and cold water connections that are backwards at the master shower. Shouldn’t our home inspector and the sellers have disclosed these problems? –Scott
DEAR SCOTT: Many of the questions I receive involve defects that were not disclosed to homebuyers. These problems range from plumbing to roofing, electrical to drainage, foundations to fireplaces, from everything possible to anything imaginable.
But the essential issue is always the same: "I relied upon the expertise of a home inspector and the honesty of a seller, but now I find undisclosed problems and don’t know what to do." In your case, fortunately, the faulty surprises are relatively minor in nature. So let’s begin with the slow sink drain.
Home inspectors operate and inspect plumbing fixtures at sinks, tubs, showers, etc. They check for damage, deterioration, faulty installation, substandard materials and functional defects. This includes observing whether drains are reasonably operative or congested.
Two seconds is obviously not enough time to determine that a drain is flowing freely. On the other hand, the inspector might argue that he ran the faucet for more than two seconds; but then, who was using a stopwatch at the time? And who can say whether the drain congestion existed on the day of the inspection or developed in the weeks or months between the inspection and the completion of the sale. Given these uncertainties, this problem should be viewed with thanksgiving for its relatively minor nature.
If the light fixtures in your basement are not operative, this should have been discovered during a home inspection. Make sure that the bulbs are OK and that there are no tripped breakers or blown fuses. If the lights still do not work, ask your home inspector to take another look and to discuss whether this was overlooked during the inspection.
With regard to the reversed hot and cold at the shower faucet, plumbing standards specify hot water on the left side and cold on the right. Most home inspectors routinely check for this, but some probably do not. Those who overlook this aspect of faucet plumbing are not performing thorough inspections. Fortunately, this condition can be simply and inexpensively repaired in most (but not all) cases. Again, ask your home inspector to take a look.
All of these defects should have been listed in the sellers’ disclosure statement. Unfortunately, seller disclosures are typically incomplete, but this is usually not deliberate. People grow accustomed to the imperfections in their own homes and cease to think of them as problems.
When asked to list all known defects, a slow drain or a reversed shower faucet simply doesn’t come to mind. This, however, does not absolve sellers from the legal responsibility to divulge such conditions to buyers. Therefore, the sellers, as well as the home inspector, should be notified when you discover significant defects after purchasing a home.