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Question DetailsAsked on 7/13/2016

Enter your question...Seller replaced the "entire" roof on the home we bought, now skylights are leaking?

Our first home in Tampa, The inspector said the entire roof was shot. The seller agreed to replace it. Insurance required a 4 point. The seller disclosed there was a leak that was fixed. As soon as I moved in, it rained and the roof was leaking by the skylight ( same area that was "fixed") and 2 on the patio. The roofer knew exactly what it was before I told him. His text - "I am 100 percent sure it is the skylights", said they were old, cracked and leaking into the roof. He said someone would come ASAP to re-'seal and Flash. He took full responsibility. Then excuses came. He said I needed to contact the seller about the issue, and that he would put some silicone on them as a "courtesy" but could not even guarantee it through the next rain. He stalled all day, they came late, I was not here. I called and sent texts, "Did they come?" after hours, he replied Yes. Leaking again. He didn't return my call. Roofer and the seller were aware of the issue, I was never told. Big problem here

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2 Answers

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Yeah - likely a problem. I am reading this as a typical contingency item - you made the initial offer on the house, your Home Inspector (or a roofer you had do an inspection) said the roof was shot, you required (as a contingency item) that the roof be replaced, and it was - so far, so good.

Now come the problems:

1) on a reroof usually the skylights would be replaced if they were normal cheapo "flash-in" or flush mounted "roof bubble" ones. If raised curb ones with independent glazing unit (plate or domed glass or acrylic) seal and flashing, then if the actual skylight element (the glass/plastic bubble and the surrounding seal) looked like it was in good shape, might be left in place and the new roof flashed in around the raised curbing. If replacement of the skylights was not specified as part of the reroof job in the contingency item, then they did not have to be done so obviously to save on costs when asked by the roofer the owner would say to leave the old ones in.

2) after the work was done, did your inspector reinspect it and say it looked OK (though it might have but the leak source was not visible) ? Generally, with skylights, one would specify a water test of any skylights during the reinspection as part of the contingency item - but few homeowner's know to ask for this and most home inspectors will not insist on it and actually shy away from it because if it DOES leak then he is counting on the fine print about any contingent water damage covering him from current owner retribution.

3) Unfortunately, here is the biggest likely problem - the reroofing contract should have been required to be phrased so that the reroof job was warrantied for the specified period (commonly 1 year by roofer, shingles/roofing materials variable times by manufacturer) AND that the warranty was to carry over to subsequent owners - meaning you at this point in time. AND that the roofer's warranty include a 1 year (or 6 month of whatever peariod was agreed on) leak warranty for the entire roofing system including flashing and seal around the skylights.

4) However, unless the skylights themselves were included in the warranty (in which the roofer would have had to replace them to reasonably do that), leaking skylights - leaking ABOVE the base flashing - would not be covered. Unfortunately, few homeowner's know or think about that, or know the standard practice with economy couple of hundred $ purchase cost) skylights is to replace them as part of a reroof job.

5) When the reroof was done (and your inspector reinspected it) and the reinspection period under the purchase contract had gone by, the owner's responsibility ended with closing. As of closing you take the house as it stands (subject to any specifically carried-over contingency or escrow contingency items of course) - hence the "final walkthrough" to be sure things are as they were during the initial and any reinspections by your home inspector. However, in a normal unconditional escrow closing, once the closing is accomplished and recorded, the deal is final and there is no obligation between seller and buyear except as specifically spelled out in the contract- and usually that is none except sometimes with respect to owner-financing.

IF the roofer and owner KNEW before closing that the roof still leaked and did not tell you, then you MIGHT have a case against the owner for repair of the leaks and damage therefrom under the principle of dealing in bad faith because he knew the reason for the reroof was to stop leaks - but not under any warranty of fitness UNLESS the contract stated they believed the roof replacement had taken care of any roof leaks.

Another issue ofthe type that keeps attorneys in business - if he disclosed the previous leak as you said but then stated in the contract or disclosure that the "leak was fixed" but it turns out it was not, AND your first opportunity to find that out (first substantial rain being after closing of the purchase) then you might have a claim for him, to have it fixed because it was not actually fixed. Would depend on when your first opportunity to see it leaked still was, how he phrased exactly what was done - like did he say "roofer applied sealant to leaking area" which means a whole different thing than "roofer stopped the leak". And of course if he knew from observation that it leaked after the fix if he did not tell you (as a supplemental disclosure) there might be liability there too.

Unfortunately, most contingency items are item-based, just saying what is to be fixed or replaced, not performance based. Like it might say "replace water heater" not "cure low hot water flow issue to provide not less than 10 gpm of 130 degree water from new water heater of at least 45 gallon capacity and brand C,D, or E" or such. Or might say - "replace roof" rather than "replace roof with X brand 30 year 235# shingles in such and such color and model and Y brand water barrier, Z brand ice and water shield for 6 feet up from all roof edges and transitions, type Q drip edge at all roof edges, and new galvanized A thickness flashing at all flashing points, to provide a water-tight roof with installer leak-proof warranty for 1 year covering current and any future owners and manufacturer warranties of not less than F years." Therefore, under the simple form replacing the roof with anything that meets local building code meets the requirement of the contingency item, and does not even guarantee a leak-proof product so as long as any leak was not discovered before closing the owner would normally be off the hook.

Note they only had to reasonably and honestly BELIEVE the fix solved the problem - as long as the replacement/repairs specified in the contingency items were done and BELIEVED to have solved the problem the owner is off the hook, whether or not the problem was actually fixed. The roofer is off the hook with YOU anyway unless his warranty carries over to the benefit of subsequent owners, because his contracto was with the owner, not you.

You could talk to your realtor and attorney about this, but unless you KNOW the owner and roofer knew it still leaked after the repair but before closing, almost certainly a losing battle for you I would say. Not much chance of a win regardless unless you can prove the roofing flashing/seal to the skylight is the source of the leak.

One other remote possibility - if the owner (not just the roofer, as he has no legal relationship with the buyer, at least prior to closing even if he offered a carryover warranty) knew about the leaking at or from the skylights and failed to disclose that on the real estate disclosure form (assuming your state usesd such) AND did not believe the reroof would solve the problem, you might have call for a claim against him. (Yeah - a lot of IF's in that).

As for repair - depending on type of skylights, I would have a reputable third party (skylight/glass replacement company, independent roofer or your home inspector) do a water flood test on the skylights and determine if the leaks are from the skylight unit itself (glazing unit, glazing seal, or frame seams) or at the base flashing/mastic. If at latter, IF a roofing warranty carried over to you as the buyer, then roofer is on the hook to seal it right at no added cost. If in the frame or glazing unit, then your call on replacing or repairing the skylight but undoubtedly at your expense.

Obviously, if the plastic or glass is broken the only right fix is replacement. Glass glazing can generally be replaced fine in most but not all models - plastic generally depends on availability of matching part but can sometimes be replaced with flat glass or skylight rated acrylic. Means cutting out the glazing seal (usually with utility knife or gasket puller and sometimes means drilling out pop rivets or tack welds too) and the glass/plastic and replacing both. If the specific type of seal is no longer available or does not match the replacement glazing, commonly one of two things is done - replace it with a urethane mounting sealant like is used on automotive windshields, or delivering the glazing in a surrounding custom-fitten metal frame which is then mounted on the top of the skylight frame and sealed/flashed/pop riveted to it. There are also replacement "glazing caps" which can be custom fabricated by skylight manufacturers and some glass replacement shops, which fit OVER the existing frame like a hat (after removing the existing glazing unit) and flash to the sides of it - basically a slightly oversized cap unit on top of the existing frame or curb unit. Not known or readily available everywhere, and does make the skylight unit slightlky more conspicuous.

Now $ - some good window/glass repair places can fix a skylight for about 50-100% of the cost of a new unit install plus about 1/4-1/2 the cost of a new skylight unit, others run up to almost the cost of a new one - which may not save $ but does eliminate tearing into the roof to put a new unit in.

Other alternative is new units, installed properly - which generally means pulling back the shingles around the area for about a foot or two all around the base, to provide for proper interfacing of the water barrier and the base and curb flashing and mastic sealant (and ice and water shield in many areas - I recommend ALWAYS using it regardless of climatic area).

Obviously, decision about repair versus replacement is a tough decision - depends on available funds (likely low at this time), your climate and especially likelihood of strong driving or downpour rain or backing up of water due to roof icing/glaciering, and how long you expect to live in this house. If you plan on moving with or to new job every few years the answer might be very different than if you just retired or are about to and this is your "forever home". What will be damaged by leak matters too - if your 1400's persian run and DaVinci painting are right below the skylight that would probably affect the decision.

Since still leaking, easy test (if raining off and on) would be tarping over the skylights with padding on the edges and corners (so tarp does not rip in wind) and heavy tarp, well duct taped low down on the frame or curb of the skylight, totally covering the glazing unit. If still leaks after that, then the problem is in the base flashing and sealing with the roof. If that stops the leaking, then frame or glazing is the leak point. This would give you some info and hopefully stop the leak till it can be fixed correctly.

If this turns out to be YOUR problem, due to lack of warranty or the skylights being the leak point, in reality careful work with gasket cutting tool, urethane windshield sealant, and for metal frames seam sealer, can usually provide 10 or more years of satisfactory searvice, provided all the decayed or deteriorating/cracked seal material is removed. And don't be too shocked about the cost of the sealant - good (Dow or 3M similar) seam sealer runs about $35 for about a 10 oz tube (probably enough for several seams needing sealing), and the urethane glass embedding compound (or urea silicone for plastic/acrylic skylight units) runs about $20 a caulk tube. In some configurations a butyl tape (really putty tape) is used instead to embed the glazing unit into. Biggest problem with a repair is knowing you have someone who is going to do it right (which might take a couple of hours if frame pop rivets or seals have to be removed to redo the seals) rather than just slather some sealant on and call it good. And getting any warranty on it is highly unlikely.

You said nothing about size of skuylights, but if normal between-rafter (nominal 18" or 2 foot wide by 3-4 feet long) typically at least $500 and commonly closer to $1000 each for new ones installed in normal asphalt composition shingle roof, so you have potential $ exposure here but not catastrophic (hopefully). Repairs if feasibly probably $250 range total (I think you said 3 skylights leaking ?) for resealing/caulking, probably more like $250-500 each if glazing unit has to be replaced or glazing cap has to be put on in lieu of existing glazing unit.

One last thought - part of the problem here might be a roofer tryhing to fix a skylight - base flashing and sealing he should know how to do, but problem with a leaking slylight frame or glazing unit is really a Window or specialty skylight contractor's area of specialization.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


Thank you for the reply, The roof warranty is in our names. The Roofer knew about the leak problem when he did the work. I was at the house one day with my electrician and the seller would not let us in the back area where the skylights are. very strange, it had rained earlier.

Answered 3 years ago by MelanieG


Hmmm - sound suspicious like you say. Tough thing would be to PROVE the owner knew it was still leaking AND intentionally concealed it from you - in a court case (like small claims court) you might be able to weasel that out of the roofer if he could testify that the owner knew about the leak. Really a gray area as I said through, depending on the phrasing of the roof replacement contingency item, depending on whether or not the skylights were or were not included in the reroof description. Might also matter if the skylights were removed and replaced during the roofing as to whether they are considered part of the "roof".

And of course likely (assuming there is no major decay in the attic from the leakage) not a large claim to justify a regular civil lawsuit, as opposed to small claims.

I would talk to your realtor, and after that maybe an attorney about your choices and legal standing even if the attorney does not end up representing you in court. It may be that your attorney will talk to his attorney and get him/her to convince the Seller that it is in his best interest to covear the repair cost - of course, by that time you would have to have a firm bid for the work in hand to have a $ amount available.

Again, whether the leak is at the base of the skylight where the roof meets it (which would be a seal that the roofer should have redone with the reroof), or is up on the skylight frame or glazing (which roofer presumably would not have done anything to) will make a difference - and untill a flood test is done to show WHERE the leak is you lack the proof to tell the roofer that it is his problem to repair because it is at the base seal/flashing, which if his guy came out and resealed and did not solve it should be torn up all around and redone correctly from scratch - here is a rundown on the normal skylight base flashing details showing tying into the water barrier, then using ice and water shield, with metal flashing above that - the family handyman shows the metal flashing but not the water barrier/underlayment and ice and water shield under that -

IF you can convince the roofer that the leak is at the base, then the warranty applies and you are not having to deal with the owner - though maybe a good idea to file a notice of claim against him in case.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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