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
Any advice or opinions appreciated,
Sounds like a blackmail scheme to me. A good lawyer should be able to crush
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.
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
Does this apply to used cars too? LOL
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.
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
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
Check out her lawsuit record online or at the courthouse, it might be
a busy one.
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
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.
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
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
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
Do you know for a fact that the agent and the inspector settled? Seems
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 ....
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
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?
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
On 23 Jun 2006 19:53:14 -0700, " email@example.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.
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.
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
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,
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