Do I have any recourse against the seller or home inspector for a leak that was not disclosed and missed?

Asked by Neil S. Velleman, Huntingdon Valley, PA Tue Feb 3, 2009

I purchased a home about 6 weeks ago in Montgomery County, PA. Yesterday, we discovered a very bad leak that appears to be coming from the shower into the closet of the laundry room below. Based on the amount of mold on the wall and the damage to the wall, it seems that this has been a problem for a very, very long time. I had a home inspection prior to purchase and he also missed it. Do I have any recourse against the seller or the inspector, or do I just have to go through my own homeowner's insurance?

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Joe Michalski, , Philadelphia, PA
Tue Feb 3, 2009
While it is true that inspectors are all required to carry E&O Insurance, it is not likely to be used in this case (plumbing repair about $200-300, drywall repair about $150-250: Typical Insurance deductible limit $2500). The real question you need to determine is what the condition of the area was on the day of the inspection. Maybe there is a photo or description of it in the report?

Is it reasonable to assume that the area was obscured from view? Is it possible that the leak is newer (mold can grow quickly) and was not present or was very minor at the inspection? Is it possible that the shower was not used frequently enough by the previous owners to produce the leaking effects that you noticed? Or, is it simply bad luck that it recently broke under your new ownership?

If there was an attempt to conceal the damage (new paneling or drywall or recent paint) then that would indicate the owners knew and did not disclose it. If there was no indicaton they atttempted to cover it up, then it is quite possible they did not know of it and could not have disclosed it (you can't report what you don't know about).

Similarly, if no one saw the damaged area at the inspection or final walk through, or if the area was obscured from view at the inspection, then it is very possible that the condition wasn't able to be seen by the inspector.

If you determine that the inspector reasonably should have identified this problem, then you should review your inspection contract. Most inspection contracts have a clause that tells you what to do in event of a claim - typically they say to call the inspector and offer him the chance to view the condition as soon as possible after you discover it (DO NOT GET A REPAIR DONE BEFORE THE INSPECTOR REVIEW). The inspector can then respond to your complaint and you can work out the matter between the two of you.

Of course, as others suggested, you always can contact a real estate attorney for a legal opinion on the matter. My help is simply anecdotal and from a practical standpoint as an inspector.

In case it helps you, I have received calls from clients with similar concerns after they move in. Most times, I am able to help them understand why their concern wasn't able to be identified during an inspection. Often, it doesn't make them happy (it's not the "I'll pay for it" answer they were looking for) but at least they understand what happened and why, and why it wasn't noticed on the inspection(sometimes it is, and they just ignore it - but that's another case entirely!!! ;-) )
4 votes
Terrence Cha…, Home Owner, Allentown, PA
Tue Feb 3, 2009
You will need to contact an attorney. Getting a vague answer to a vague question won't get anyone anywhere. Please get in touch with a real estate attorney. Also, anything said here should not ever be construed as legal advise.

All that being said, I don't see why you wouldn't be able to take action with the previous owner and/or the inspector. When looking at the home, was the closet filled with stuff and you were unable to see everything? This may have been the case with the inspector. Also, what about the final walk through? The home should have been empty then and you could have noticed something then.

I am not trying to point the finger back at you. I am just bringing up what they will ask. Perhaps the homeowners really did not know the damage was there until moving out day. Perhaps the inspector could not get to that area to inspect.

Sorry I could not give you a definitive answer, but this really should go to an attorney.

Terrence Charest, e-Pro®
Century 21 Associates
905 Easton Road
Willow Grove, PA 19090
Cell (Preferred): 267.614.1494
Office: 215.659.5250
Fax: 215.659.5550
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2 votes
Carol Rice, Agent, Lake Mary, FL
Tue Feb 3, 2009
Contact a Real Estate Attorney is always a good and safe answer, but try to resolve the problem with the Home Inspection company first. Give them an opportunity to make it right. They should also have Errors and Ommissions insurance that will cover them if they need to use it.

P.S. Now is a great time to buy a vacation home in Orlando, FL!! Call me...I represent the BUYER!!
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1 vote
John Burns, Agent, Souderton, PA
Thu Mar 5, 2009
Get out your agreement for sale. Go to the back page. Look for mediation. Did you waive mediation ? let me know .
0 votes
Gita Bantwal, Agent, Jamison, PA
Sat Feb 7, 2009
Read the inspection report first and see if there was any hint of moisture being present.Bring it up with the inspector and also talk to your agent who can talk to seller's agent.Get an estimate and see if the inspector and seller will pay or get an attorney. Good luck.
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0 votes
This is what I was going to recommend. Talk to the inspector about whether or not there were signs of damage. Does the shower work other than the leaking? You're going to have to get it repaired either way, so you might as well start by getting your insurance on the line.
Jenn |
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