DEAR BARRY: Here’s our problem. A den was added to the house some time in the past, and we don’t know if the work was permitted. We’re afraid to ask about a permit because we don’t want someone to order the addition torn down.
How can we find out if the addition is legal without risking a bulldozer invasion of our property? –Gina
DEAR GINA: Don’t worry about someone attacking your home over building code issues. If you want to know the status of the addition, go to the building department and ask for the permit history of the property.
This is not an unusual request and should not raise any eyebrows. The documents they give you will include the original building permit and any subsequent permits for additions or alterations.
If the addition was not permitted, it may be possible to obtain an as-built permit, which allows the municipal inspector to review the addition and either approve it or make demands for upgrades.
If the addition is unpermitted and you prefer to leave it "as is," that is also an option, but you’ll need to disclose the lack of a permit when you sell the property.
DEAR BARRY: After buying our home, we learned that there are asbestos floor tiles under the carpets in every room in the house. Shouldn’t our home inspector have looked under the rugs? Shouldn’t he have known that old 9-by-9-inch tiles installed up until the mid-1970s may have been made with asbestos? –Bill
DEAR BILL: Home inspections do not include the raising of carpet. That is something that home inspectors simply do not do. If your inspector had known about the 9-by-9-inch tiles, he might have mentioned the possibility of asbestos, but that is uncertain because environmental hazards are not within the scope of a home inspection.
In most cases, 9-by-9-inch tiles do contain asbestos fibers, but this type of asbestos-containing material is not regarded as a significant health hazard because the fibers are securely embedded in a hard asphalt medium. It’s unlikely the fibers will be released into the air unless they tiles are significantly disturbed. If the tiles remain covered by carpets or by other types of flooring, they may not pose a health problem.
DEAR BARRY: When I bought my condo, no one disclosed the crack in the bathtub. It was covered with a nonslip sticker, but I discovered it later by stepping on it while showering. Do I have any recourse against the sellers or the home inspector for not disclosing this condition? –Marge
DEAR MARGE: If the crack was covered by a nonslip sticker, the home inspector cannot be faulted for not having seen it, but the sellers can be faulted for having concealed it, assuming that they lived in the house and were responsible for applying the sticker. You should notify them by certified mail.
If they won’t cover the repair costs, small claims court is a possible option. If you do that, be sure to take photos of the defect, get at least two contractor bids, and pay for some advice from an attorney.