DISCLOSURE LAWSUIT

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I bought a HUD property and lived in it 10 years, systematically remodeling it over that time. The house was 20+ years old and in good condition at the time of sale. The buyer paid for an inspection that turned up a few minor problems that were taken care of prior to closing. We both used the same agent.
6-8 months later I received a certified letter claiming numerous things I failed to disclose. Most of them were minor things like cleaning out the fireplace, laundry vent, repair of sprinkler heads and insect problems. All these areas were viewed by the inspector and nothing was mentioned negatively in the report. I was there during the inspection, the buyer was not.
Anyway, the buyer threatened the agent and the inspector with a lawsiut and they both settled for about $2500 each. Now, almost 3 years later and after several threatening certified letters, she is taking me to small claims court for the $7500 difference. The most expensive item on her claim is the front bathtub that she recently discovered the sheet rock behind the tile was rotted. Over $6000 for this newly discovered problem.
Any advice or opinions appreciated,
BigGq
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Sounds like a blackmail scheme to me. A good lawyer should be able to crush this quickly.
I'm not a lawyer, but I think that you do have to disclose some things if you are aware of them, but if not, how can you? That was the job of the inspector to find problems. The agent and inspector don't want adverse publicity that can affect their livelihood long term so they caved with a little pressure. No reason you should.
Commons sense "should" prevail, but does not always. Shame you have to lose some time and perhaps pay for a lawyer. If I was the judge, you'd win.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

Hi, Good lawyer not only can crush her claim and let her pay the court cost. Sounds like she is a crook. No matter what, it is bit of a headache.
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What is someone obligated to disclose? I don't mean like someone has the right to lie if asked about something directly but is there an obligation to state (or put in writing) every defective thing you know about the property?
Does this apply to used cars too? LOL
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Certain know defects must be listed, like lead paint, asbestos. foundation fault, probably more.

No, because a used car salesman will always tell you the truth.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

In small claims the plaintiff has to prove the case right. How is someone going to prove you knew of a problem if didn't. What if they have a supposed licensed expert testify that there were previous repairs on something like plumbing or drywall behind tile. If you were the 2nd or 3rd owner that doesn't prove anything.
Just some thoughts on this disclosure topic.
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<snip>

Before preparing a defense, you should look into the Statue of Limitations for _your_ state.
I have a feeling, their time has run out.
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I would not give in to her. First of all, she shouldn't have closed unless things agreed upon were completed to her satisfaction. None of the things you mentioned are defects you were aware of (unless you were hiding something). Further, she waited more than 6 months during which time those things could have occurred while she was living there. If she found something like termites, and can show you knew about them, you might be liable for that.
The drywall behind the tile was probably rotted while you lived there but unless you removed the tile for inspection, or there was evidence of leakage, you would not have known about it and would not be responsible for it. It was her responsibility to hire the inspector who signed off on the house for as much as he could reasonably inspect.
She may be bluffing but if you go court be sure to explain your innocence regarding defects and point out the time lag it took for her to contact you. You cannot be expected to provide a lifetime warranty on the house. You might also post this issue on one of the law-advice bulletin boards.
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Counter sue for 7500 for filing a frivilous suit, in 3 years any drywall can leak and rot, you might have a time limit for filing. 7500, what state are you in the maximum for small claim for me is 3500.
Do you have any old bath photos, because 7500 seems excessive for what you describe.
Check out her lawsuit record online or at the courthouse, it might be a busy one.
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Depending on your state, but most limit suits bought regarding this type of action limited to 2 yrs. Then the home inspector should have stated in his inspection that he/she can only attest to visible items or those easily inspected. If she signed off on his inspection she basically said she understood problems could show up later and she didn't hold him liable nor you.
Disclosure is just that. You can't disclose what you didn't know. It is meant to be to the best of your knowledge. Now if for example she hired a contractor who came in and said I talked to the prior owner about the shape of the wall behind tile and he said forget it. Then you should empty wallet now and call it a day. But if you didn't know you can't disclose.
I can't believe the inspector settled. If he is a member of ashi then he uses the contract terms I mentioned above. Getting money out of a realtor what did she have a gun to their head? Anyway good luck on this and don't give in. If you goto court the judge will probably see it as someone who just wants money for things they want to do and are trying to push it off on you. But first check your statue of limitations.
Tim
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The advice to check the statute of limitation time is a good idea. If it hasn't expired, then you should just prepare your defense. From what has been outlined, I believe you will win. Many states now have tough disclosure laws. But, you can't disclose what you did not know and for the plaintiff to prove what you did or didn't know is usually very difficult. In the case of the tub, for instance, they would have to prove that you knew about it. Your defense is straighforward and solid. The buyer did not see it on looking the place over, the inspector did not see it, and neither could you, because it was not visible.
Same thing with the sprinklers. What time of year was it when the place closed? If the sprinklers were not being used because it was winter, etc, then how could you or anyone know if they worked? I'm not sure what a home inspector would even do in that case. He could turn them on to check, but then someone would have to winterize the system again.
They will have to show that the defect was there at the time of sale. For example, if they have a bill showing the insects were treated 2 months after closing, then that will likely be the end of that. Insects can show up anytime, so they better have proof that they paid to have it treated immediately after closing.
You may want to talk to the lawyer that handled the closing for some advice too. However, if it were me, I would not pay for a lawyer beryond that, as I think you will have a pretty easy time of it in small claims. Most of these idiots do a good job of destroying their own case when the judge sees all the bizarre crap they are trying to claim.
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On 24 Jun 2006 04:37:24 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Aren't clogged sprinkler heads only 10 dollars a piece to replace and cheaper than that to soak in a bucket of water?
Do they get clogged with calcium etc. or with grass clippings?
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Do you know for a fact that the agent and the inspector settled? Seems unlikely.
Would be nice to find an attorney experienced in construction defect claims; many will just take the money and piss around.
Cleaning fireplace and laundry vents? Frivolous. Six months after sale .. did she file an insurance claim on the warranty?
Insect problems? What kind of insect problems? No bathroom wall is worth $6,000. Did she do a full remodel? If so, the threat of taking you to court begins to smell like extortion.
Sprinkler heads? All kinds of crap can happen with heads and the rest of the system in a short time.
Before finding a good attorney, I would research the buyers property ownership history .. could be buying and flipping, and making exhorbitant claims against prior owners. Just a thought.
The only place I could think that you stand to lose, on the basis of what you say here, is if you opened up walls to do remodeling, likely would have seen the rot or leak or insect damage, and concealed it again.
You'll probably end up with an attorney who settles for $2,500 and charges $5,000 ....
Good luck
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

[...]
Small claims court for $7500?
What state do you live in that allows such a high value?
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HeyBub wrote:

I live in CA. and the actual amount is $5800 for the front bathroom tile problem and $850 for a new inspections and the sprinklers in the backyard.
Anyone know the statute of limitations for CA. for this type of issue. How can I find out if she has a pattern of this type of behavior?
Thanks!
BigGq
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I live in Podunk, but I can find a whole pile of public records on the net - military discharge, property ownership, mortgages for anyone in the state, traffic tickets, criminal court records, personal property, property taxes, civil suits, wills, etc.
Try your city/county websites for public records. If the buyer has a history of many purchases, I would look at resale prices (it's all on the net here). Call courthouse and see if there are suits initiated by your buyer.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com says...

Apparently quite a few (google is your friend ;): AK ($7500), CO ($7500), DE ($15,000), GA ($15,000), MN ($7500), NM $7500), PA ($8000), SC ($7500), SD ($8000), and TN ($15,000).
--
Keith


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On 23 Jun 2006 19:53:14 -0700, " snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com"

I haven't ever seen a disclosure form, but you may be required to disclose things you know about whether the inspector sees them or not, but only if they are of a high enough level to require disclosure.
I don't think anyone requires that the fireplace be cleaned out, but I really have no idea.
Did your dryer work just before you left. Most dryer vents could probably use some cleaning, but how are you to know how much yours needs it if the dryer works ok?
All sounds like nonsense to me.\\

Small claims court probably neither side can bring a lawyer**, but I'm not yet saying you shouldn't talk to a lawyer before you go.
Court costs are only 10 or 20 dollars.
Did you get sued before or after the 3 years, and what is the statute of limitations in your state, for contracts I guess this is?
If it took her 3 years to find the bathtub problem, I don't think you knew about it.
BTW, small claims court is not much like any of the tv versions. (except maybe Judge Wapner. I can't remember anymore.) It's certainly not like Judge Judy. If you want, you can go and watch in advance of your trial. Although I think in NY my case was heard in a small room away from the main room. (A guy hit my car from behind.)
** at least one who can talk to anyone but you. I'm not saying that would be a good idea. It might look bad to bring a lawyer and it would be expensive, what with waiting time. I only brought it up because a blanket statement that one can't would probably be false.
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If in fact the agent and inspector settled, it was probably done by their insurance companies, over their objections, on the basis that it would cost more than $2500 to defend a suit.
Asking for advice on this situation here is a total waste of time; you will get nothing of value. Do you really think some attorney who knows his stuff will give you free advice in a newsgroup. Certainly not; his business is selling advice, not giving it away. I know a bit about that because I was a lawyer until I retired.
Since she has only sent you a letter, do nothing. If she sues you, contact your insurance company to see if they will defend the suit. If they won't, ask for a recommendation as to a good attorney. Above all, once you have been sued, get an attorney. There are so many things that can go wrong if you try to defend yourself that it is not funny. And I'm not shilling for any attorneys, just saying that without one you will be a babe in the woods.
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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Not@home,
What insurance company do you mean? I sold the home almost three years ago. This is a small claims suit with a set court date. As far as advice, I was just posting to see if anyone had similar experiences. I don't think I'm wasting my time at all. The responses here have helped me to look at this situation in several different ways.
Thanks for your input,
BigGq
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