Home Buying in 92833>Question Details

Sodifficult, Home Buyer in 92833

What are the laws on disclosure of preexisting conditions and can anything be done regarding the following situation?

Asked by Sodifficult, 92833 Mon Jan 11, 2010

I purchased a home in Fullerton, CA on 2/7/07. In negotiations, selling and buying agents agreed to pay 1K each toward closing costs. Later, during home inspection, a few minor issues were found and the bathtub overflowed. We had the homeowner make minor repairs, and the selling agent said they would use their 1K toward closing costs for needed plumbing repairs instead.

About 60 days later, after I moving into the home, the tub overflowed again. I called out a plumber and after a camera guided pipe snake inspection, was informed that the issue was due to tree roots breaking through the main sewage on the property by a property owned tree. He explained my options, including a price of $6500 for correction, and a few other more short term alternatives. I have since had the pipe snaked once a year to avoid sewage backup, and one neighbor informed me that the prior owner had to do the same.

What are the laws on disclosure of preexisting conditions and can anything be done?

Help the community by answering this question:


Here's another route.

Most people don't know this but city of Fullerton has a drain cleaning program aimed at saving trees. If you have city trees in the front yard that are causing the blockage you can get signed up for regular roto rooter service provided by the city for free. There are some conditions, here is what they are as I understand from my home and the ones I manage around town:

-property must have a 4" min cleanout on the front facade of house or in front of any gate
-line must be video inspected by city and must be clear enough for camera inspection
-house must have city trees in front that are causing damage to line

Sometimes this means having to install a $500 cleanout and a paid roto service to clean existing clogs and make line ready for inspection. Still, if you are approved you will be able to have the main line snaked in the future completely free of charge.

You need to call the city and talk with Tony Reynoso and set an appointment for them to check. Talk with them further about the exact requirements so you don't end up installing a cleanout on a house that will never be approved for the program. Best of luck
3 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
Thank you for this answer. I never knew this fact. I will check with the City of Garden Grove to see if they to o are so kind to homeowners.
Flag Tue Aug 7, 2012
Hi again,

Couple things....the square footage issue is probably not something that you can pursue. It depends, but it is the buyer's responsibility to verify square footage.

As far as the previous owner's son doing the work....doesn't matter. Doesn't matter if who did it...the fact is that they had a problem and didn't disclose it to you. In fact....even if they had an issue and did nothing about it....they have to tell you about it. The purpose of disclosures are to let the buyer know everything the seller knows...and then let them decide. You might have still bought the house, but you were not given the opportunity to decide based on ALL the facts.

Regarding out-of-state advice...it's true that agents can be licensed in several states, I actually am myself. But the input they were giving you just doesn't apply to our disclosures....so in this case, they might not be the best source. Frankly...at some point you should contact a real estate attorney and get their advice.

1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 16, 2010
The owner if responsible to "disclose any material defects" that are known to him/her.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 9, 2014
Hi again So,

As fof the square footage or (GLA, Gross Living Area), that should have been clear on your appraisal assuming you had one performed, especially if you financed the property. Look at your copy of the appraisal and see what the appraiser determined he GLA to be. That's about as accurate as your going to get. If the MLS, flyers, etc. showed something different, it's still your responsibility to have everything verified and choose whether to continue with the purchase or not.

At the end of the day, what are you looking for? Do you just want the pipes replaced? or, are you looking for something different, for example the diminished value of the property due to the market conditions?

Thom Colby
Broker & REALTOR
Orange County, CA
Web Reference: http://www.thomcolby.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 16, 2010
Sodifficult, I hope that your new plumbing solution includes plans for replacing the pipes. This issue typically happens with older homes that were built with clay pipes to carry the fresh and sewage water.

For the agents/brokers recommending that the OP ignore the comments of other seemingly non-local agents/brokers, please keep in mind that SOME agents ARE licensed in multiple areas. I know several agents/brokers in this area who also have licenses in CA, NV, FL, and/or AZ. (The reason I know this is that I invest in CA, FL, NV, and some other areas.) So, it would be wise to not assume anything, and simply to address any misstatements directly.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 16, 2010
Thank you all for your information and recommendations. I am very glad that I came across this site in the beginning of my search for possible recourse.

In response to Todd Foust: Yes, I am familiar with this program, which is why I stated that the tree causing the damage is "a property owned tree," though I am impressed with your knowledge of the program. I have already had the pipe inspected by the city and I do not fit the bill.

Joseph Washick, you bring up many great questions, all of which I will look into.

Before I respond to everyone else, I will pull my home file and review all wordage in regards to this matter so I can be sure of disclosure absence, and also locate information regarding the selling agents plumbing repairs. Though, I will mention that the neighbor who informed me that the previous owners had done the same stated that the owners son in law was a plumber, and had it done off the record. I will also try to get a bit more information regarding this.

Also, I thought I'd also mention that the house was advertised and sold as if it had 2,000 sq.ft. of living space, when in actuality it is only 1640 sq ft..

Thanks again for all of your input, I will reply with an update shortly.

Kind regards,

92833 Homeowner/Insurance Agent
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 16, 2010
So -

Once again I agree with Karen. You should pay close attention to opinions from the Agents & Brokers who work in Southern CA rather than elsewhere.

Todd solution is terrific. Before getting into a huge legal battle that will cost you $ 000's - I would check into this program ASAP. Also, make sure your agent is aware so they can assist you. If your agent is no longer in the business (since 30% of CA agents have left RE in this economic downturn) you should talk to that agent's broker as soon as possible.

Again, best of luck,

Thom Colby
Broker & REALTOR
Orange County, CA
Web Reference: http://www.thomcolby.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 12, 2010
Here in Washington State, the purchase & sale agreement requires that the buyer and seller agree in advance whether the seller will be liable for negligent errors in disclosure.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
Sorry to hear about your trouble. I myself did not know about the program in Fullerton. I was glad to learn about that. About your disclosure questions. You should read your 3 page Transfer Disclosure statement with your agent. See if the seller told you about the plumbing problem. Your agent should be helping you with this. I hope you odn't have a $6500 bill but if you do, and it was not disclosed you have avenues you can look at. Call your agent and talk to hm or her.
Connie Bramble
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
I am very impressed with the information and knowledge that Todd Foust shared with you below. I would certainly try his advice first. He's a great agent. I'm proud to work with him at our office.
Bonnie Scribner, REALTOR, QSC
DRE #01447853
Cell: 714.296.0513
Century 21 Discovery
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
Hey Todd....that's really interesting!


Don't listen to agents from other states....they mean well, but our disclosure laws are different from other states. Yes, you are supposed to get a home inspection, but that does not relieve the responsibility of disclosing problems they know about...our forms are very complete and designed to jog the memory of sellers. Sounds to me like they didn't want to disclose it to you.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
Hi Sodifficult,

I am not an attorney. With that said, I can tell you that you probably need to share more information with regard to your original home purchase AND it's likely still you may not have recourse.
When buying a home, a seller must provide a completely filled-out and executed seller disclosure form. The buyer must sign acknowledging the buyer's receipt. Then, a buyer has a right to a buyer's home inspection, statutorily and almost always included as a provision in the sales contract. This inspection permits the buyer to hire a professional home inspector to do a thorough inspection to bring up "flaws" and things that may need repair or at least focus the buyer's attention as to some declining or deteriorating condition. It appears from your details that the bathtub was a cause for immediate attention. The sellers offered to repair the drain and did so. Still, the fix was only temporary as you explain the overflowing tub condition reappeared 60 days later. The necessary repair is extensive and costs many thousands of dollars. Additionally, you claim that the neighbor acknowledges that the previous owner had to do the same (rodding the pipe).
Some questions. Did the neighbor tell you anything more? Did the neighbor ever discuss the problem with the previous owner? Did the neighbor know the person or company that did the repair? Perhaps an old invoice can be obtained or some record of the work completed. Back to your purchase... did you recall receiving a "Property Condition Report" disclosure from the seller? Did that report disclose a plumbing problem? When you found work required at the time of purchase that the seller agreed to fix, did they provide a receipt from the company that did the work? Did they sign an agreement with you spelling out the terms of their repair or was additional language put into the contract? If so, did they finish the repairs to the extent agreed in the contract? Did you discuss with the seller at the closing of your purchase anything more about the cause of the overflowing bathtub? Did you have an attorney represent you at the closing? Is this the first time you are considering pursuing this matter?
Time is of the essence in real estate and that has implications for your case. Protesting a repair item from your closing would require your attention within a reasonable period of time after it happened. Additionally, seller obligations may have been met by mutual agreement with the repair they did. The simple fact is that if you agreed with the seller that their work is sufficient then recourse after closing may be difficult. Contesting the homes condition is a time-sensitive issue of the contract.
You are right. This situation you are in is probably "so difficult". I cannot tell from the available information if you can get help for this problem. If you feel strongly the seller has committed a fraud by non-disclosure then you could possible have recourse. The biggest problem you have is that they did a repair that worked for a little while and years have passed since the closing date of your purchase.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
Sodifficult -

It is best to consult with your previous real estate agent and/or a real estate attorney about the remedy.
Since you purchased in 2007, then ran into problems 60 days later, the best time to take care of discrepancies in disclosed issues would have been best taken care of then. However, the statue of limitations is most likely in tact and therefore an attorney may be the best person to consult with on how to prove the seller had prior knowledge.

Good luck.
Web Reference: http://www.TalkToCJ.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
Hello So -

First, we are not attorneys and you should seek legal counsel on these matters. A Real Estate Attorney is best suited to handle this issue.

Was any plumbing issue disclosed on the TDS-11 (Seller's Disclosure). I would find that document prior to contacting your agent just so you have all of your facts at hand. It's been almost 3 years since you closed and you said you have "the pipe snaked once a year to avoid sewage backup" so have you snaked it 3 times already??? Also, when the bathtub backed-up prior to escrow closing, why didn't you have a video inspection done at that time to determine if there were any larger issues (which obviously there are)?

At any rate, Karen's advice is perfect. Call YOUR agent and discuss with him/her and ask your agent to contact the listing agent - hopefully they can work it out for you.

Best of luck,

Thom Colby
Broker / REALTOR
Orange County, CA
Web Reference: http://www.thomcolby.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
Hi again,

They are required in the diclosures...and you might be able to handle this in small claims....but again, professional legal advice is important.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
Check with any attorney specializing in real estate--with respect to statue of limitations in this regard (if pre-existing disclosures are legally required in your location.) A legal remedy may be more costly than your continued "snaking".

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010

Yes...you have recourse. You need to confirm all the facts with a real estate attorney, since I am not a lawyer. But since the neighbors mentioned to you that the sellers had this type of problem, then it's clear the sellers knew about it in advance, and it should have been disclosed, especially since it's such a large cost.

I would start by asking your Realtor to reach the seller's Realtor and ask for compensation. Then your agent can advise you on what to do next. The money they gave you for "plumbing repairs" does not take away their obligation to tell you all the problems with the home and this clearly is one.

Good luck with this....if you can't get an immediate result from the sellers...get an attorney's advice.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 11, 2010
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