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Question DetailsAsked on 6/18/2012

2002 furnace installation is not up to code (and dangerous), but the previous owner never had it inspected. Who's liable for fixing it?

The furnace in the house we just bought was installed improperly in 2002; the metal exhaust pipe was placed flush against a wooden rafter as it exits to roof. The building inspector identified this as a safety hazard during the purchase process last month. The AC company now says that, because the previous owner did not have the initial work inspected by the city, they are not legally responsible. (They may give us a discount on the remedy as a good faith gesture, however) Is this actually the case? Can a company do patently shoddy work and then pass off responsibility because the customer didn't have the city inspect? Any advice or perspective is appreciated.

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10 Answers

Voted Best Answer

You bought the home after an inspection that told you there were issues?
Every state has different laws regarding home purchases, contact your real estate agent to find out what remedies may apply.
THIS IS EXACTLY why you hire QUALIFIED and LICENSED contractors.

CSLB# 824188


Answered 8 years ago by AirTekHP


That question will need to be answered by an Attorney. If itwas my home, I would get it fixed at my cost since you said it is dangerous. No need to risk your family health.


Answered 8 years ago by cloughman


you are the winner of the dodge ball game. If your inspecter saw the hazard, he saw it before you bought the house. You should have made it a part of the deal that it would be fix. since you continue to buy the house the real setate agent should had offered you a guarrantee on the house for the first year. Othertwise you brought the house as is. I will bad mouth that company, word of mouth is a very strong agent, and maybe that company in good faith repair the situation at no cast to you

Ray gonzalez
koolray heating and air


Answered 8 years ago by Raymond Gonzalez


I agree that your actions after the defect was discovered reflect you purchasing the home "as is" in regards to the previous homeowners liabilty. The same arguement is valid for the real estate rep. The argument that the home was not inspected by the city is bogus. IF a permit was pulled and the city did not inspect, so what. If a permit was not taken out by the contractor let the games begin. Call permits and inspections department & file complaint against hvac contractor maybe pull your state Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Division into the mix.All that being said think HVAC company has 2nd defense, is old agreement and you were not a party to it. But they didn't use that one,yet. Cost to benefit is the governing rule here, Make the hvac company's choices cheaper to satisfy you,, then take the lumps, It is too late to threaten after you have taken actions,So look up the business BBB rating if it is good,, let them know you plan on helping lower it for them, Also binding arbitration if the company has signed on, can be a good thing for a consumer. It binds the contractor to its decision but leaves the consumer to take other actions (thru the BBB).


Answered 8 years ago by jccasper


Was this defect requested to be fixed?

Something of this nature should have been fixed prior to your purchase.

However, the HVAC company should have purchased the permit(s) to install the furnace. Once it was installed, the contractor is to call the city inspector to inspect their work and sign off on the job. At lease that is how it is done in Denver.

I inform all my clients to check the local building department for the permits that were issued on this property prior to their purchase. Because the new buyer inherits all the code violations of the house.

The best thing to do now is to have the local building department inspect it and correct any deficencies he notes.

But the most important issue here is your safety. Get it fixed ASAP.

Answered 8 years ago by Homefront Inspection


Depending on the state you are in this answer may not be any good for you. But, i can tell you in the state of new mexico the installing contractor of the heater is still resopnsible for getting the unit inspected. The homeowner past or current is not responsible for that. On that note you know the company that installed the unit so i would push the issue with them. Also you can call the local city inspection office and file a complaint with them. Once again the homeowner is not responsible for getting the permit for work or the inspection..

Answered 8 years ago by Sday


Whom ever took out the permit is the responsible party. This is a good reason why you always need to have work inspected.

Answered 8 years ago by Guest_9510758


Talk to an attorney is always first and best advice advice on something involving a contract that will cost you money, although this may be less total than attorney's fees to resolve. Or, if you used a broker, they may have had you sign a clause to go through arbitration and mediation instead of actual court. Also contacting all the parties involved-- your agent, their agent, the inspection company, etc, to let them know trouble is brewing would be good.

BUT... do I read that an inspector identified it as a hazard, you knew this and went through with the sale anyway? In that case you may have to pay yourself, you should have stopped the process dead to have that fixed before going forward. But if you bought it knowing the hazard and making no objection I am not sure NOW you can be outraged.

If you meant THEIR inspector found it, THEY knew and no one told you, you may have an arbitration or small-claims court or errors and omissions insurance claim material.

PS, I had this happen when I bought my house It was NOT identified by my inspector and my furnace got red-tagged in February and after fixing it I should have demanded some compensation under their warranty but was dumb and let too much time go by. It does seem odd the installers would do the work wrong and blame the lack of inspection. I'd say that's a good reason to use someone else, at least for future work where they are not giving you a discount. Maybe even here even if you pay extra to someone who won't doesn't need a city inspector to figure out if they did it right.

Answered 8 years ago by Guest_9641869


Conflict between the contractor and the owner has nothing to do with you. Don't get distracted by that. If the property, including the A/C, doesn't pass inspection, either make the seller fix it or get your earnest money back and walk away.

Answered 8 years ago by murphy


Don't know if you got this fixed by now or not, but truthfully in most code areas not a big thing.

There is usually some slop in the roof draft hood opening that would allow moving the duct away from the rafter - usually either by moving it over a bit within the roof hood opening, or at worst by cutting out a bit of wood to slide the penetration over a bit, removing the roof jack and cutting away the shingles to allow movement, then replacing the roof jack around the pipe - usually without any modification to the exposed surface shingles at all. This would be combined with fire-rated rafter covering.

Another fix would be within the attic entirely, by a slight duct movement or very minor bending and installing a rated heat barrier at the wood. Exact fix of course dependent on local code requirements, but typically 5/8" water resistant drywall attached to rafter with minimum 1/4" air gap around pipe (if double-walled), or 1/4" airgap to 24 gauge metal shield with 1/4" airgap behind it. Some areas allow less stringent measures for furnace vent more than 10 feet from appliance, in attic, if double-walled vent pipe. Some areas also allow 1/2" asbestos board with 1/4 or 1/2" clearance between combustion duct and framing.

If single-walled flue (which generally requires 18 inches from wood) then the upper section coudl be replaced with double-walled plus rafter heat barrier to meet the code.

All these solutions involve only about 1-2 inch movement of the duct away from the rafter, which should not be too tough to do. Depending on number of bends already in flue, most areas even allow bends, so three 15 degree bends- one well below rafter, then paired dogleg set at roofline to get back under roof jack might handle it, though would still require moving the roof penetration the required distance away from the rafter for installing fire-rated material over it.

Of course, you also have the option of putting a bend in the flue (if allowed) so it is more than the required 9 or 18 inches (typically) from the wood (double or single walled flue respectively), and go through a new roof opening, closing the old one off - can be done wihtout new shingles if careful about locating new hole so old shinles that had been cut are moved to new hole,, and shingles from around new hole are used to invisibly patch old hole location. This requires roofer do new hole location (within designated area) to match shingle pattern, then HVAC installer jogs the flue over to match the new roof jack.

As to whether original installer is responsible or not - in probably most states, assuming they got required required inspection by local building department (if any) they wouldnot be liable to fix it after the initial install job is done. If did not get required inspection sometimes building department will put pressure on them to get it right or threaten to pull their city license (so they cannot get permits), but generally any lawsuit would have to be pursued by the original contracting homeowner - and this in no way justifies a lawsuit, as you are looking at maybe $200-400 work.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Hi Robert. This is Ann from Angie's List. Here's an answer from our Solution Center:

Answered 4 years ago by AGregson

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