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Heather, Home Buyer in Warrenton, VA

I bought a house and found a huge plumbing issue, is the seller liable?

Asked by Heather, Warrenton, VA Mon Mar 5, 2012

My husband and I bought a house 3 weeks ago, when we went to run the washing machine and dishwasher the basement flooded. I had a plumber come out and there is a break in the line and it will cost $640 for a pipe inspection plus $2000-$5000 for repairs. Is the seller liable for this?

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Answers

44
Good answer from Vicky.

You could likely have some recourse IF the break occurred prior to the sale AND if the seller knew of the problem. The trick, of course, is determining whether the seller knew of the problem. Since you're talking about $2,000-$5,000, it may be worth some investigation.

Did the plumber you called out give you any clue as to when the break may have occurred? Or did the home inspector (who should have at least run the dishwasher) notice any evidence of prior basement flooding?

But to really figure out what the seller may have known, call all the plumbing companies serving Warrenton. Say something like: "Hi. I just bought the house at 123 Main Street. I'd like to know whether you've done work here, since we'd like to maintain consistency in the service providers we use." If any of the plumbing companies says, "Yes, we've done work at 123 Main Street," you respond, "Great. Can you fill me in on what you've done." And if the response includes, "Well, we took a look at some basement flooding" or similiar: BINGO! Then you get a lawyer and go after the sellers.

Hope that helps.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 5, 2012
I'm not sure. I would call a plumber and see when the problem started happening. Not only with they be able to fix the problem, but they will be able to give you a time line as to see if the seller could've known about it. Good luck and I hope everything works out for you! http://allrightplumbingandhvac.com/Services/
Flag Tue Jan 20, 2015
I agree, Don, when you are dealing with that expensive of repairs, it is a good idea to investigate. You can find plumbing services that will come out and check it out. I would ask around and see what the best available plumbing services are in your area.
http://www.clearwaterplumbing.com/plumbing-services/
Flag Wed Dec 17, 2014
That was a really good plan.
Flag Thu Oct 9, 2014
Don Tepper, Real Estate Pro in Fairfax, VA
MVP'08
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Have your agent ask the other agent to ask seller...but expect nothing...once you take the home as yours and title/deed transfer...you are accepting the property in the state it is in...3 weeks later is nothing more than dumb-bad luck...my thought is you had an inspection...and nothing came up there? It has happened twice and it is hard to prove, sorry
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Oct 6, 2014
You guys are right, you're going to have to ask the agent to get a clear answer on this. Once the sale is final, it's going to be hard to prove any of this. I hope that you're able to get your plumbing repaired though. It never hurts to ask, and you never know when it could work out in your favor. http://www.drking.com.au
Flag Fri Mar 20, 2015
I agree, you can ask, but I don't think that you'll get anything out of it. That would be really hard to prove, and it could end up becoming a very messy situation. I'm really sorry to hear about this, but I hope that you're able to get the plumbing problem taken care of. http://www.robertwalkerplumbing.com
Flag Sat Feb 7, 2015
Welcome to home ownership, where you are responsible for maintenance and repairs on your property. Except in very rare circumstances, the seller is not liable for such an issue. Hopefully, your agent explained that the property was being sold as is and it was up to you to evaluate what that condition was prior to purchase. Generally, we recommend and negotiate a home inspection on behalf of home buyers. Did you have a home inspection? The plumbing should have been tested. HOWEVER, if the break developed sometime after the inspection, then it should have been caught at final walk through (did you test everything?). If it developed after closing, then it's pretty darn clear it's not the sellers' responsibility. If the flooding did damage, you may be able to put in an insurance claim - but save that for massive losses not minor ones because claims count against you. If you have a home warranty, then perhaps there is warranty on the plumbing - check that.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 5, 2012
All of this is true, but you still might be able to talk to the seller. If they knew of the problem beforehand, then they're liable for the damages. It's hard to find out what they knew, though. It's possible that the break occurred after they sold the home. In that case, all of the plumbing costs fall to you. http://www.eddiebplumbing.com
Flag Fri Feb 20, 2015
If the seller did not know of the problem beforehand, and there was an inspection done that said everything in the house was fine, then it's not their responsibility. I would recommend talking to them about it in a calm manner, and coming to the best agreement. Plumbing problems are not fun to deal with, but it might not be their fault.
http://www.theplumbingcompany.com.au
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 21, 2015
I would imagine so, as they should have had the plumbing inspected before they sold. Right now, holding them accountable is of secondary importance, though. You need to get that fixed, and fast. You want to avoid water damage as much as possible. This is a very serious issue that needs to be resolved. Once you have a reliable plumber take care of it, you can focus on the sellers.
http://terryrossplumbing.com/services.php
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 13, 2015
The seller definitely could be liable for this, but it depends on whether they actually knew about it or not. If it's a problem that definitely has existed for a while, or if insufficient repairs have been done, you can easily put the responsibility on the seller. Beyond that though, there really isn't anything that you can do. I know that it's hard to hear that, and I know that you don't want to have to pay for it on your own, but it is a possibility. I would suggest asking the plumber to look for signs that this has been a problem for a while, and contact a professional about this to see if there's anything else you can do.
http://www.drainsurgeoncsra.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 30, 2015
Typically, the buyer is liable for any problems in the home. I am sorry to hear that you have a huge plumbing issue. I know that plumbing problems an be really expensive.
Mark leach | http://www.rakeman.com/
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 9, 2015
Did you have an inspection before you bought the house? It's really important that you had an inspection, if you didn't get one you might have a problem. I would get in contact with a plumber and the real estate agent that helped you to start working things out. http://www.cjplumbingandheating.ca
Flag Tue Mar 31, 2015
I am sorry to hear that you are in that situation. I would assume that the seller is liable but I hope it is not too late if you already bought the home. I wish you the best of luck in getting your plumbing issues fixed. http://www.clevelandpandh.com/Plumbing_Services.html
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 5, 2015
That is really too bad that your new home has plumbing issues. You will want to get them fixed as soon as you can. If you leave plumbing issues they can become much worse. I would find a local plumber to come and take a look. They can offer a lot of good advice and help! Thanks for sharing this information! http://www.bcpsi.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 15, 2014
Wow that is a really tough situation. i am sorry to hear that you have flooding on your new home. Unfortunately, the home owner is always responsible. Unless the sellers lied about it, the buyer is responsible.
mark Leach | http://www.aabsoluteplumbing.com/service-bergen-county.nxg
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 12, 2014
You guys are right, that is a difficult situation. That is why you should always get the whole home inspected before purchasing it. I'm sorry that you weren't able to catch it before though. There isn't a lot that you can do about it now. http://www.safehouseconsultants.net
Flag Tue Mar 24, 2015
I agree, there isn't a lot that you can do about it now. The first thing to take care of is the plumbing issue. Once you get that all fixed up, you can worry about who is liable for the situation. I would probably talk to your realtor first of all. http://www.klostermanplumbing.com/Our_Services.html
Flag Fri Dec 12, 2014
I would definitely take a lot of pictures and call a lawyer. That way, the seller can't get a way with it. I'm glad you found a good plumber. http://www.isslerplumbing.com/Commercial-Services/
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 10, 2014
I am not sure, but I would definitely talk to a lawyer about that. I have a friend who was in a similar situation and I learned from his lesson. When I was in the market for a new home, I was looking around and was in a potential home and the plumbing looked bad to me and I am not a plumber. I always look for those kinds of problems when I buy used.

http://www.valleyrooterplumbing.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 3, 2014
It really depends on when the water line problems started. If there is some way for you to prove that the pipe broke before the contract was signed, then you might have some sort of case. I would consider how much it would cost to pay a lawyer to go after the seller. You might end up with higher attorney's fees than what you would be paying for the repair. Either way, get the problem fixed as soon as possible. Water line breaks can cause serious damage if their left too long. http://www.lavendersedm.com/en/sewer_and_water_line_replacem…
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 3, 2014
Plumbing issues are not things that any new home owner wants to deal with. If I was you I would hire a plumbing service to come take a look at it as soon as possible. You will want to get it taken care of as soon as you can. I would ask around in your area for referrals. Best of luck! http://www.wagonerservices.com/about.html
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 2, 2014
It all depends on the contract and seller disclosures. Was the seller aware of this issue? If so, did he disclose on the transfer disclosure?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 20, 2014
I am not completely sure who would be liable in that case. If you had an inspector go through the house before moving in he could possibly be liable for not catching something like that. I wish you the best of luck and hope you get it all figured out. http://www.optimumplumbingllc.com/plumbing-repairs.html
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 20, 2014
I think that you might be stuck with this one considering that you already completed the sale. They possibly had no knowledge of the damage. If you can somehow prove that they did have knowledge of it, then you might be able to get them to have to pay. I suggest talking to the plumber and anyone else you have come look at it about what you could do. They will be able to tell you how likely it was that they didn't know about it or if you have any options of having them take responsibility.
http://fixyourleaks.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 17, 2014
This situation honestly depends on quite a few things. If the seller had the home inspected beforehand but nothing was said about it, it might be a recent problem since you moved in. However, they definitely should have noticed something this big of a problem with the plumbing and then should have fixed it. So I would talk to the inspector and previous owners to try to get it figured out, and then get it fixed soon so you can use your different machines! http://www.threeriversplumbingil.com/Services/
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 17, 2014
I think if you didn't get an inspection done before buying the house you are liable for the plumbing issues. I don't think you can pin that one on the sellers. You should have checked the house before buying it. You could maybe talk to a lawyer if you think it's not your fault. http://www.alcoronadoplumbing.com
Flag Tue Nov 25, 2014
I would tend to say that if it were a clog in the drain or something, you might not be able to seek action against the seller. If it's an overall drain problem (which it sounds like it might be due to the flooding that happened), the seller is probably liable, if they didn't disclose it before the sale. Whatever the case, you should get drain repair as fast as possible before the problem escalates. http://www.pmurraycontractors.ca/en/products_and_services.html
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 13, 2014
It really depends whether they knew about the problem. If you got the house inspected and it didn't reveal any problems, then I don't see how the sellers would have known. I guess that's one major downside to buying houses that have been lived in for a while. I think your'e most likely stuck with having to fix it. I would suggest getting a few more quotes. See if anybody gives you a better quote. Hopefully this problem is smaller than it looks right now.
http://www.kentysonplumbing.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 30, 2014
I know that plumbing should last a long time. This is, of course, assuming that everything was done correctly by a professional. If it was done hastily or haphazardly, it can have problems for ever. I personally think that as long as you hire a contractor, you can have some assurances of that plumbing's reliability.
http://www.greenlifeplumbers.com/Plumbing-Services-Riverside…
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Oct 27, 2014
Wow Heather, that is unfortunate.

It actually requires, that a Buyer generally do their own inspections before the purchase
and close of escrow. Clearly, when the break happen is tough to prove, hence sadly you are stuck with
it.

Check with local plumbing companies, if the sellers had called them out in the past, and then not disclosed it.

Also, go through the Contract that was signed.

Hopefully, you got a home warranty, to cover such repairs which is typical at closing and buying a home.

Best regards
Ruth
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 9, 2014
She probably got her answer already as the question was asked 2 1/2 years ago.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 9, 2014
That depends on what was in the home inspection files. The inspector should have found it and put it in there. Sometimes things get missed though if not done by a person who is trained to look for potential future breaks.
Michael Foster http://www.patontheplumber.ca/
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Aug 22, 2014
The same thing just happened to us, except with our downstairs dishwasher. It flooded the entire basement. We did have a home inspection, but they never caught anything. They seller also never said anything about it Did you ever figure out what to do?

Dean Reese | http://www.thedraindoctor.ca
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 6, 2014
No. I'm assuming you had the home inspected prior to closing on it and if there were any liability it may lay with the inspector, however you need to understand that at the time of the inspection no issue may have existed. Things do go wrong. If you didn't have it inspected then you've got no one to blame but yourselves (again assuming the leak existed prior to when you first noticed the leak. Once you've closed on a home you own it.

One last word, the prices you quoted sound excessively high and I would encourage you to shop around.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 18, 2014
Did you have a second opinion from another plumber? I would have second plumber come give you his opinion before jumping to conclusions. Sometimes the problem isn't as bad as you originally thought. There are lots of plumbing services that would be willing to do this.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 20, 2014
Contact your agent as they have all the details about your transaction. Did you have an inspection? Was it discovered on the inspection? What is the inspectors guarantee/warranty? Did you purchase a home warranty? What coverage does your warranty have? What did the seller disclose on the "Seller Disclosures" regarding any plumbing issues? Have you contacted your home owner's insurance to inquire about coverage?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 8, 2014
I agree, contacting your agent is a good idea. I would imagine that they might know what to do. I think they might be able to get some help from the sellers insurance. At this point, though, you might just have to pay for it. http://www.blountsspeedyrooter.com
Flag Mon Jul 21, 2014
How frustrating. I would go back and review disclosures and review the inspection report. As one of the respondents indicated, most inspectors will run a dishwasher, which might have revealed the problem. If you have any questions about liability and recourse, you may wish to consult with an attorney as the folks giving you advice here are Realtors rather than attorneys. However, in general, if the seller didn't know about a problem then they can't disclose it. As a buyer, you have the opportunity and the responsibility to do due diligence, which includes having a thorough home inspection. And some buyers choose to have a camera drain line inspection in addition to the basic home inspection. If you have a home warranty in place, you may wish to see if that will cover the problem as well,.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 8, 2014
This is a prime reason why buyers are always encouraged to take advantage of an and all inspections available and a good reason to avoid opportunities that are "AS IS" contracts.

If you have conducted inspections and done your part, it's unlikely that the seller is liable unless they knowingly mislead you by providing inaccurate information.

Issues of liability are always best addressed by an attorney.

Good luck,

Bill
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 8, 2014
I am so sorry to hear this!! When does it seem that things happen in a home - right at the time of a move. Did you have a home inspection preformed before you purchased the property? Was there any notation at that time for a problem? In Virginia, a seller cannot hide and cover up a problem they know about. Doing so can create liability for the seller.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Dec 8, 2013
nope... did you get your $500 disclosure check at closing... ???

Say.... if I bought a used car from someone off the side of the road-, I got into an accident, and then wanted to sue the last owner of the car because I just bought it-. Where do you think that will get me?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 22, 2013
Unfortunately unless the previous owners knew about this problem and did not disclose it they are not liable. Did you have a home inspection before settlement?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jun 15, 2013
what will if you did not have an inspection done but the pumbing is been on going problem due to a tree, and we have only been in th ehouse one week and cannot even do the washing
Flag Wed Apr 16, 2014
hey we bought a house been in it two weeks are sink is backed up called home warrenty they sent out a apprentix plumber with no licence that is saying the house is not of code. he said hes boss told him over the phone day two of no kitchen sink and denied home warrenty claim. hade a great company to insect house what do i do now.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 13, 2013
Call your agent and ask them to go to bat for you.
Flag Sat Jun 15, 2013
This is a most unfortunate turn of events. One would hope that the seller's had no idea of this problem. The first thing that comes to mind is, did you indeed take advantage of your opportunity to conduct all relative inspections?

Was there any evidence of water intrusion that was notices during your visits or inspections? Was there any indication of this type of problem on the "seller's property disclosure?" Was this a regular sale? Was the property occupied up to the closing date or left vacant for a period? Have you spoke with your agent about this? Are the sellers aware of your problem?

There are so many question! The responsible this to do would be to offer to assist you if not totally, in part by offering to pay a percentage of the repair bill. In the event this is not the case, I would strongly recommend seeking the advice of an attorney.

Good luck,

Bill
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 11, 2013
$2,000-$5,000 for the repair? Something is very much incorrect with a such a huge variable, especially for a single line replacement,

I always scratch my head when I see situations like these posted on Trulia, for unless a professional has ALL the information pertaining to your purchase, they are not in a position to provide you with useful information.

Questions regarding liability should be directed to an attorney. Check with the state bar association and they can refer you to an attorney who specializes in real estate law and will provide to you a consultation for little to no money.

Also, I recommend looking into purchasing a home warranty. It will not cover this situation, but will offer you future protection.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 11, 2013
How did the inspector check the dishwasher if he didn't run it? I've always seen inspectors run dishwashers & check all faucets...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 17, 2013
You should have gotten an inspection before buying the house. You can't really do anything but pay for the plumbing repairs yourself. It sucks, but you bought someone else problem. Maybe you can get your insurance company to help out. http://www.goldcoastplumber.com.au/
Flag Mon Jan 19, 2015
So you seller just admitted that he didn't winterize an empty home nor did he have adequate heat to keep pipes from breaking?? I say both seller and certainly inspector we're negligent and hiding behind the as is is cowardly and lacks character.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 20, 2012
The home inspector may be liable too - the inspector should have hooked up the washer and run the dishwasher as part of the pre-purchase home inspection. He was negligent not to inspect those items. You could write to the inspector and ask him to pony up some money. The inspector may have professional liability insurance to cover a situation like this. I hope this helps.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat May 12, 2012
I'm not getting some answers that imply that, if the seller knew there had been a problem, the seller may still be liable. Doesn't Warrenton use the same seller disclosure form as other areas in VA (which is pretty much a disclaimer..)? Even if there was work performed on the house prior to the purchase, the seller could have assumed the work resolved the issue. If the seller wasn't asked and therefore didn't lie, then how could she possibly go against the seller? It's something that could be inspected (I've seen inspectors our water down the discharge tube on the washer) but most don't. It's unfortunate and happens to all of us but I don't get some answers that imply that there is a way to get the seller to now pay unless maybe you could prove that he hid it. I don't think I've sold a house that didn't have something happen after closing (even one's I've bought). It's unfortunate but as Vicky says, it is part of the landscape of owning a home. Heather, I'm truly sorry about this happening but I'm also confused at the answers!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 7, 2012
The seller is an investor and I believe has his own plumber who does work at his properties for him, but I could try. The plumber seems to think the pipe has been broken for a while. I am still waiting to hear back from my realtor, once she hears back from the seller's agent.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 5, 2012
This would probably be considered a "patent defect" . This means it would have been possible for you to discover the problem before closing.
However, if the seller in someway made it difficult for you to discover the defect they could be liable. For example, the seller can not lie about the problem if they were asked directly about it or by not allowing you to perform a home inspection.
I hope this helps.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 5, 2012
We had a home inspection, but the washer was not hooked up and he did not run the dishwasher to see it flood. He is saying there was no way for him to know about it, and it may have broken do to cold weather.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 5, 2012
Did you have an inspection? Was the pipe broken before you purchased the home? If so, can you PROVE the seller knew about it? If so, they may be liable. See an attorney.
If it happened after, you are. A home warranty would be helpful in this case.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 5, 2012
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