Home Buying in 80203>Question Details

Nephret52, Home Buyer in Denver, CO

Is a seller or real estate agent responsible for serious bug infestation after a sale in NY? It was not discovered by the Home inspection we pd for

Asked by Nephret52, Denver, CO Thu Aug 28, 2014

We just purchased a country home on 10 acres of land in upstate NY (for $219000) on July 18, 2014. We had a home inspection done prior to the sale that made no mention of pests. The inspector was recommended to us by the sellers' real estate agency. We have spent $850 on Orkin to combat a bee and carpenter ant infestation in just the past 2 weeks. It is going to require much more time, labor and $ to get under control. Do we have any recourse against the real estate agent, the inspector or the seller ? We (and Orkin) have found TONS of ways for these bugs to have nested and entered the home, and considerable damage from the carpenter ants that we will have to have repaired.

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You would need to prove several things (like the Seller or the agent KNEW of the infestation, and that it materially affected the value of the home), and it is probably not worth your time or effort (or money!). As an owner of a country home in New England, I can tell you I spend $800 per year on Orkin for a variety of pests, it's just the cost of owning a country home. Enjoy your private retreat and don't sweat the small stuff. Best of luck...
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
As to any legal recourse--an attorney can better answer such a question, therefore consider a consultation...
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
Sorry to hear that you are dealing with this unwelcome surprise after purchasing a new property.

A pest inspection is typically a separate inspection than a general overall home inspection. When I lived in the midwest the lenders required a pest inspection due to the high activity of termites and other wood destroying pests. (I was a licensed in pest control for a brief time in Iowa) Out west. the inspection is not required by lenders, but is optional. Since a general home inspector is not typically trained to inspect for pests, it is likely that they have a disclaimer in the report that limits their liability for this among other things.

Each State has their own rules and laws for these types of things. Contacting a attorney that specializes in Real Estate in New York for a consultation is your best option. Attorney fees can add up very quickly, so you need to understand what you expect to get out of the pursuit of this matter. Be ready to take a lot of time, and spend hundreds of dollars in attorney fees. Decide if its worth the effort to pursue vs. what you will get from taking the matter to court.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 30, 2014
I can feel your pain on this issue. You should probably direct this question to an attorney that specializes in Real Estate transactions. There is a term used in the industry called Caveat Emptor, (Let the buyer beware), which means that the buyer takes the risk regarding quality or condition of the item purchased, unless protected by warranty or there is misrepresentation. Your best chances are if there was misrepresentation. That would be difficult to prove, but your Attorney would have more to say about that. Good Luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 2, 2014
I believe The seller and Broker can only be held responsible if it can be proven they withheld a material fact. The inspection fee might be refunded though.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Aug 29, 2014
If pest infestation is discovered after the close of escrow, it is recommended to contact the home warranty company to order a pest control company to do the work. Of course, check with the home warranty company to see if they cover it.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
The inspector probably should have caught the damage from the ants. However, every situation is different. If you really are interested in going into this, you should speak with a real estate attorney. You can likely get a free consultation with one to discuss the case.

Claire Reynolds || http://www.homeinspectionassoc-ma.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
Nephret,
Agents aren't pest inspectors and unless they have direct knowledge of the infestation you can prove, can't be responsible for it.
Seller's are obligated to complete disclosure forms about what they know about a home. If a roof leaked, they should disclose it and then disclose that they had it repaired. If a seller knows about pests, they should disclose it and what action they've taken to resolve it.
Inspectors, at least in my state, must be licensed both as building inspectors and pest inspectors. They should have caught this regardless of who suggested them. They are a licensed third party and owe everyone a duty of professionalism.
Buyer's have an obligation to investigate during their due diligence and/or inspection period. They are the ones who should be paying for the inspection(s) and should only sign off on this portion if they are satisfied that all that needed to be done was done.
In my opinion, you have three potential targets, four if you can prove prior knowledge by the listing agent. The owners if they should have known, the inspector if they were licensed and competent and yourself for not investigating more thoroughly.
If you want to pursue this further, speak to an attorney and get their advice. Provide all of the documents, inspections, contracts etc and see what they say. You'll probably have to file a small claims action based on your current expenses, but if it gets worse their could be more. The attorney will tell you the strengths and weaknesses in your case and hopefully the truth. Best of luck and sorry for your troubles.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
Home Inspections should report evidence of obvious pest infestation and damage, unless hidden behind walls, under flooring etc. But please keep in mind the standard home inspector's report will cover the condition of the home's heating system, central air conditioning system, interior plumbing and electrical systems; roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.

If activity was noted by the inspector, he would have made some notation referring your to consult a pest control expert to inspect the property thoroughly.

If the infestation and damage are blatantly obvious you might possibly have some recourse with the inspector.

It seems if the infestation were very obvious you and your Realtor would have noted an issue.
The seller's provided a serller's disclosure on the condition of the property, if there were known problems it should have been noted. ...... You would have to prove they know and did not disclose.

If you have recourse, the amount you spend in extermination/repairs propbably will not exceed the costs of an attorney. In your postition I would be frustrated, but you do have some responsibility in due diligence prior to purchase. For instance, in an area where there are termites. you should have a termite inspection.

This scenario reiterates to my why I should not order any inspections for my clients, but provide a list of reputable inpectors to my buyers for them to make the choice.......
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
Buyers should chose their own inspectors usually recommended by their own agent (the buyers agent) not the seller s agent. Any inspector should be able to see damage from carpenter ants unless it is hidden behind a wall or ceiling. Your buyer agent should be assisting you, if you bought without an agent, you may need a lawyer to review your case. You will have to prove the seller lied on the seller disclosures and the inspector did not do their job.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
Here in Texas we routinely get a pest inspection as part of the home inspection. Many of our home inspectors are licensed to do both. I am surprised that the home inspector would not have found evidence of the infestation, you might try addressing the issue with the inspector or their company.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
The seller is gone, you own the house and when you closed you accepted it in whatever condition it was in. The home inspector doesn't look for bugs, though good ones would have noted the damage and mentioned it. You should have had a licensed exterminator inspect as well for Wood Destroying Insects. This is a routine inspection and personally in twenty five years I've never once had a buyer not have this done. I've lived in a number of areas and the price has always been roughly $75.

Your agent doesn't' sound like a particularly knowledgeable one, but then we're only getting your side of the story and I'm sure they have their side. Pursuing them is possible, but you may find it a waste of time and money.

Carpenter bees are common and will reappear every year as long as there's wood on the exterior of your home, they generally don't cause excessive damage and are more of a nuisance. Carpenter ants can cause extensive damage over time.

For more about what home inspections do and do not cover, read the link I've attached below.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
We are sorry to hear about your situation. Generally, agents will recommend that buyers take advantage of all possible inspections available when purchasing a property. Beyond a structural inspection, this includes, well & septic, pest, radon, etc.

Buyers that elect to not take advantage of these options do embrace a much higher risk for encountering problems after their purchase. Unfortunately, you may be finding yourself in a position of needing to seek the services of another professional....an attorney!

Just keeping it real!

Good luck,

Bill
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 28, 2014
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