Seller Hid Home Defects: Options for Sellers that Fail to Disclose Problems Before a Sale

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  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Patrick in Iowa is on the line with a roofing question that concerns options for sellers that fail to disclose problems. How can we help you today?

    PATRICK: OK. I bought a home; it was a for-sale-by-owner. The roof was put on about four or five years ago. And in the disclosure, he mentioned there was nothing wrong with the roof. But since moving in – now, being in Iowa, we get severe weather and I understand a couple shingles might rip off during a windstorm or something like that. But it’s literally – it’s daily, shingles are coming off.

    So I patched some of the shingles but it is – it’s every time we get a wind, shingles are just blowing off. And so I ask him, “Can I have the name of the company that did the roof?” And so, I got the name and phone number and I talked to the workers that did it and they said, “We’ve been out there every single year, year after year. We told him it’s no longer covered. He has to pay for it himself.” And he – and they asked, “Didn’t he mention that in the disclosure?” And I looked through the disclosure and of course, there’s nothing in the disclosure that mentions anything it.

    TOM: Right. Of course. Yeah. Wow. Sounds like you have a pretty strong case of fraud.

    PATRICK: And of course, I don’t want to go down a road that is going to be months and months and months or years. But it is – it’s just one of those cases that if it’s not in the disclosure – but then I can prove that it is. I mean is there any recourse whatsoever?

    TOM: Well, yeah. The recourse is to hold him legally responsible for the cost of replacing the roof. And options for sellers that fail to disclose problems is really more of a topic for an attorney than for home improvement experts like ourselves.

    But I was a professional home inspector for many years. I’ve seen these situations before. And if you have a seller that outright misrepresents the condition of part of the property on the disclosure, then they should be held liable for that and in some cases, can be held liable for multiples of what the actual damage is which, in this case, is essentially going to be the cost of a new roof.

    PATRICK: And it’s not just that. If I was told, then I could have just budgeted for …

    TOM: Right. You could have headed it off, exactly. But it’s – some people just want to make sure – just want to misrepresent their home and try to hide all the problems. And that’s why you have professional home inspectors out there which – by the way, did you get a home inspection done, Patrick? They can help prevent having to seek options for sellers that fail to disclose problems.

    PATRICK: Yes. There is a mortgage on it. Of course, the mortgage company did their inspections.

    TOM: Well, no, besides the mortgage company, did you have your own, independent, professional home inspection done?

    PATRICK: I did not.

    TOM: Yeah. So that probably was a mistake. Because home inspectors work for you and not for the mortgage company. And a good-quality home inspector – for example, one that’s a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors – would have spent two to three hours going over that house and probably would have seen all of the repaired shingles. Because that’s something that’s actually fairly obvious to see.

    So, unfortunately, you can’t focus on the past but you should try to hold the seller responsible and maybe you could take him to small-claims court as part of options for sellers that fail to disclose problems. I don’t know. Again, question for a lawyer but it sounds like you’re going to need a new roof.

    PATRICK: Well, I know that it’s a metal roof that’s going to be going on, so …

    TOM: OK. Alright. Well, good luck. Sorry that happened to you, Patrick. Good luck with the project, though. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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