DEAR BARRY: Two years ago, we bought a home with a backyard pool. Then, a few months ago, the county posted a violation notice on our front door for an expired pool permit.

The previous homeowner, who was also the contractor for the pool, pulled the pool permit, completed the construction, but never called for an inspection. It cost us $2,000 for the late penalties, some corrective work and the final inspections. The seller never disclosed that the pool was not signed off. Do we have recourse to recover our costs? –Dorene

DEAR DORENE: If the seller was a licensed contractor and did not disclose that a permit was not signed off, he is in violation of two laws: the state disclosure law for sellers and the laws that regulate contractors.

You should not have to pay fines to the county because you were not responsible for the violation. The seller should be notified by certified mail immediately. If he does not respond, you should file a complaint with the state agency that licenses contractors. You can also file an action in small claims court. But before you take any legal action, get some advice from an attorney.

DEAR BARRY: I was planning to purchase a 50-year-old home that has several additions and has been remodeled more than once. The records at the building department show no permits since the house was originally built, so I canceled my purchase offer.

The owners dropped 10 percent off the selling price, hoping that I would resume the purchase. Instead of a price reduction, I would like the sellers to get an as-built permit and have the building improvements signed off. What do you recommend? –Lori

DEAR LORI: Your strategy is a good one. Having the home inspected and approved by the building department is a better idea than a 10 percent discount. If the sellers are that anxious to sell the property, who knows what manner of defects await discovery? The 10 percent discount may or may not be sufficient to offset potential repair needs.

Let the sellers have the property inspected and approved by the building department. And when they’re done with that inspection, be sure to follow up by hiring a qualified home inspector of your own.

DEAR BARRY: I want to buy a 4-year-old house with solar panels and radiant floor heat. The home inspectors I’ve called say they don’t evaluate "nonstandard" things like solar panels and radiant heat. What can I do since it appears the inspection industry hasn’t kept up with the building industry? –Catherine

DEAR CATHERINE: This is not a matter of keeping up with the building industry. Home inspections are visual inspections, done without the use of sophisticated test equipment.

Solar panels and radiant floor heaters are systems that cannot be evaluated by visual inspection only. A comprehensive inspection requires the professional expertise of specialty contractors. The solar panels should be inspected by a licensed solar contractor; the heating system by a licensed HVAC contractor.

As a buyer, that will be the best way to protect your interests.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Real estate news and analysis that gives you the inside track. Subscribe to Inman Select for 50% off.SUBSCRIBE NOW×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription