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Question DetailsAsked on 6/11/2017

what recourse can I take regarding repairs to a home that I just bought 3 weeks ago?

just bought a home 3 weeks ago and have already had electrical problems, pool issues now a ceiling that has water damage from a leak that has probably been leaking for quite some time. What recourse can I take?

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3 Answers

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Unless you can prove that the previous owner knew of the issues AND knowlingly concealed them by not listing them on the real estate disclosure, not much. Talk to your realtor about this for explanation or read up on disclosures and hidden and latent defects in newly purchased homes on realtor.com, and of course for specifics you would need an attorney experienced in real esatate transactions, but below are the general things you need (and you need all of them) to have a chance of being able to productively pursue a claim agains the previous owner:


1) a legal requirement for a disclosure (state law or in the contract) - generally, only owners who have occupied the house themselves in the past 1-5 years (depending on state laws) have to do one, so rentals/lease units and ones held by lenders (REO's - foreclosure units) and ones held by Estates and Bankruptcy trustees do not, not having occupied it, have to do a disclosure - or only a very limited one - unless otherwise required by the contract. Every real estate transaction should require a disclosure statement - most items might be stamped UNKNOWN or similar like in a REO, but every effort should be made to getone done - and for a rental or lease unit should require a disclosure of known issues from the tenant as well as the owner, but that has to be stipulated as a term in the contract as part ofthe initial offer contract.


2) issue has to be one which the disclosure form would require disclosure of - not all disclosure forms require all types of disclosure, so basically if he did not see a place on the form asking fairly specifically about the issue he could fail to disclose it without liability in most cases - there are some pretty weak disclosure forms out there


3) the previous owner had to know about the situation AND know it to be an issue or defect at the time of disclosure, AND then failed to disclose it. If there was a problem but he had it fixed - say a leak - if he had it fixed or fixed it himself and believed it was fixed (even if it actually leaked again or continued to leak) unless he KNEW about the leak continuing it would not be his fault for failing to disclose it.


Roof leaks commonly have this sort of situation - say he knew about a leak, had a roofer fix it preparatory to sale, but the heavy rain or melting snow or icing condition that caused it did not recur before the disclosure/sale date (or not enough to make it evident inside the living space) so he thought it was fixed - hence in most states he does not have to disclose it because most forms require disclosure of CURRENT issues, not historic ones which were fixed. This latter one catches a lot of people - say the house was lsiding down the hillside or the foundation has a major crack in it - and he had it repaired or stabilized (even if the repair was not professionally designed or adequate) as long as he thought, or had been told it was adequate, then he would be off the hook.


I remember readin about one of the famous Pacific Palisades cliffside houses in SoCal where it recommenced moving and collapsed down the cliff within a week or so after bein purchased for a few million $ - the previous owner had experienced cracking on the cliff side of the property and pool leakage aggravating the situation, and a contractor or engineer (unclear from the article which it was) told him not to water on that side and to drain the pool, which he did - and had no further issues for more than a year so he thought the issue was solved - put DO NOT USE tags on the sprinkler branches on that side of the house and on the pool piping and called it good, and did not disclose the prior issue on the disclosure - which did NOT require disclosure about PRIOR problems or ground movements regardless of whether they had been resolved or not. New owners did not ask why the Do Not Use tags - tested the pipign and it worked so they started watering and filled the pool and presto - within days the pool was dramatically losing water, which further aggravated the slide and resulted in total house destruction in the landslide. Court held that because his ground movement problem had been looked at, a remedy provided and followed, and it worked for a year + - that as far as he was concerned it was "solved" and he did not intentionally conceal its existence with the intent of facilitating the sale (he legitimately felt the issue had been satisfactorily, TO HIM, resolved) so it was no longer a discloseable issue. This is a MAJOR disclosure form flaw - requiring disclosure of only current defects or flaws (and usually does not define or indicate WHAT type of situation qualifies as that) rather than ALL significant defects or problems during prior owner residency and the measures taken.


In general, it is also does not require that owners provide a copy of any disclosure(s) THEY received when they bought the house, which might indicate things that were subsequently fixed by him which might bear looking at in the inspection. In an ideal world, the title would have all subsequent disclosures and home inspection reports, building and Planning and Zoning permits and such attached to it, but not even California does that, so you are commonlyi buying a pig in a poke - which is why a good home inspector is very important, even though many types of things (especially if repaired and patched over) will be missed by that type of an inspection too.


4) in most states, the above failure to disclose had to be intentional and/or with intent to conceal it - so unless a glaring thing he has the opportunity to say - oh gosh, that's right - I remember a problem with that some time ago and I never got around to having it fixed because it was not an issue to me. The typical disclosure form also fails to spell out what sort of thing has to be disclosed - so what some people might consider a defect or fault the owner can say seemed normal to him.


5) the issue has to have been NOT disclosed in the disclosure statement or otherwise in the transaction - if there is some indication of an issue (current or previous) in the transaction or its documents prior to the disclosure cutoff period, then generally he is in the clear - whether or not the situation is actually "fixed" or not. Ditto if the flaw or condition is clearly evident - by cracking or staining say - or would normally be expected to be detected by a competent home inspection.


This can get tricky - I have seen disclosures disclosing "shrinkage cracking of soil around home" when the problem was actually expansive foundation conditions, and "cracks in driveway and walks" when the actual cause was ground movements and instability - so the disclosure was "honest" but did not disclose the known or suspected source cause. Unless you could PROVE the Seller intentionally concealed the true issue he would be in the clear in that type of case because he did disclose the evidence of the issue.


I have also seen a number of instances where the home inspector either failed to see the evidence of the issue or did not recognize it as a significant factor - or used the typical CYA phrasing in his report and recommended further examination by an expert (HVAC tech, plumber, electrician, structural or geotechnical engineer, etc as applicable), but the evidence was there and "reasonably discoverable" so even if it was not disclosed it should have been by a visual inspection, so recourse to the Seller would be very difficult if not impossible.


6) then of course, you have to be able to prove all the above cases to win - and even then likely (unless you can prove intentional fraud) you will still end up paying your legal costs so will end up receiving a good less than the total damages.

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Note if you got a Home Warranty with the purchase some or all these issues MIGHT be covered by it, if you can convince them to actually pay for the repairs.


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You did not say specifically what types of issues you had - the above list obviously sets a high bar to recourse against the prior owner, and the courts generally require at least a pretty good indication of intent to defraud or of intentional concealment of a major (or a lot of) defects/flaws to take action against the previous owner - caveat emptor (buyer beware) is the normal legal philosophy.


Would be just an opinion - but if you want to provide more specifics on exactly what your problems with electrical, pool, roof were (using the Answer This Question yellow button right below your question) I will give you my 5 cents on whether I think you would have a prayer of proving the case against him even if you could prove he did know about them - also if I think your Home Inspection (you did have one, right ?) should have caught them.


Unfortunately - could be you just got a lemon house - there are some out there, like certain cars, which seem to be almost cursed, or maybe are just of the age where significant and frequent issues are becoming the norm.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD

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Votes

Yes we did have a home inspector. Honestly a lot of these issues should have been caught by him. The pool was conviently being fixed the day the insprector was there. our garage lights did not work, and the electrician was baffled at first to how the electrical even worked in the garage. It took him a while to figure it out but are now working. Back light same thing, bathroom leaking upstairs above the garage. I believe this house is definitely a lemon.. this is our first home buying experience and it has not been a good one. Thank you for your input and knowledge on the situation.

Answered 1 year ago by afarr

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Votes

Well - hope that after you get these issues out of the way (and it is real common to have some "must-do" immediate issues with a newly purchased home), your home will behave and not cause you issues for awhile after that.


The electrical issues it sounds like you are getting in hand OK - and the pool hopefully was fixed. As far as the bathroom leak - commonly, unless you can see a leak source in the bathroom (leaking pipe under basin or such), you have to look up underneath - by opening up the underlying ceiling or using a fiber optic scope (commonly takes 1/2-3/4" hole which is easily patched with spackle) to look up under toilet and tub/shower to identify the source.


You can find a LOT of previous questions with answers on tracking down and repairing bathroom leaks in the Home > Plumbing link under Browse Projects, at lower left.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD




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