Profile picture for laura_happy

On final walk-through, there was dried raw sewage in the crawl space previously not there? Options?

During the home inspection it was not there.  Is it reasonable to ask seller to investigate and fix the problem?
  • October 24 2010 - Amherst
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Answers (21)

Nice to hear that it turned out for you. Too often folks post a single question on Zillow and they're never heard from again. Due to the mistrust of real estate agents, it's always good to have  the perspective of homeowners.
  • October 28 2010
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
Vent pipes for electrical or communications manholes in the street belong in the park-strip, not in people's private yards.  Sewer systems do not have such vents.  The sewer system should not vent at ground level, but only above the house/buildings.

Though you may have a grating on a storm drain system and that may appear to look like a "vent" to some people.  Storm drain water does not go into the sewer system, but is handled separately by the storm drain system.  Most storm drain water travels surface in the street gutters, but will pass under street intersections with "culverts", and may be piped in some areas, and often often ends up in a flood control canal.

Without a photo, I can't guess what you were looking at.  Clean-outs have solid caps or plugs.

I think it is a good thing for people to know what is on their property, so that it can remain functional.
  • October 28 2010
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Profile picture for laura_happy
Pasadenan- maybe my terminology is not correct, but there is a pipe with a vent in it in the yard.  It is perpindicular to the pipe that leads to the town sewer system (at the road).
  • October 28 2010
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
"past the sewer vent in the yard..." -

Sewer vent pipes are on the roof of the house, not in the yard.

Perhaps you meant a sewer clean out?
  • October 28 2010
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Profile picture for laura_happy
I am happy to report this is being resolved! 

We put a camera into the plumbing/sewer and the problem is tree roots out past the sewer vent in the yard leading to the street.  There are two big trees so that was not a suprise.  The reassuring part is the plumbing/sewer was intact, water was flowing through the pipes, and will flow even better when the roots are removed. 

The tree roots most likely caused the back up.  Yearly maintanence to remove the roots will be required; my husband and I do that for our current house now (also in an old neighborhood) and we are okay with that added expense.

The seller will do the maintance before we close which will now be next week.

In all honesty, I think this turned into a major issue when all that needed to happen was the agents talking to each other and agreeing to allow us to investigate the problem.  We wanted to buy the house, the seller wants to sell- this $300 dollar problem should not have been so challenging!  Our agent is rather new at this and I do not think she had the experience to really support us.  The seller's agent is one of the top sellers who specializes in the expensive homes on the Buffalo waterfront, and I think our agent was just run over by her.

Thanks for all the advice everyone, it is much appreciated!
  • October 28 2010
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
"it came through the vent on the floor" -

A heating vent?  There would be ductwork to the vent, and the duct work should be air tight, thus no liquid or other should be going through the duct-work.  Or did it seep down at the edge of the vent trim?

In either case, you either need to inspect the floor, or the duct-work.

And if sewage got into the duct work and you don't clean it out, that can be an even bigger health issue.  And usually a floor heating vent in a bathroom is not that close to the toilet.  I would also be much more concerned about a defective wax ring under the toilet and the toilet not being seated properly.  Sure, it is easy to fix; but the mold, bacteria, and damaged floor is a different issue.

By the way, I wouldn't necessarily blame the seller.  A lot of extra people have been in a home that was listed for sale, and a Popsicle stick flushed down the toilet can have the same effect (or a Maxi-pad), or a very heavy person sitting on the toilet leaning to one side can break the wax seal.
  • October 28 2010
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Profile picture for Bobby Quinn
Extend closing and remedy the situation! 
  • October 27 2010
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Profile picture for laura_happy

We finally have permission for a plumber to come in with a camera and to hopefully diagnose the issue.  That will happen tomorrow, and I will keep you all posted.  Thanks for all the advice!

And for Pasadenan, it came through the vent on the floor.  No visible broken pipes.

  • October 27 2010
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Profile picture for blue screen exile
I don't understand how it could have just "backed up" and ended up "under the house" if the clean-outs were closed, and there are no breaks in the line, unless it went through the floor of a bathroom, which to me is a more critical issue.  I would be much more concerned about checking the floor integrity, and checking for mold.

Sure, they could have forgotten to close the clean after the last rooter job?  But wouldn't an open pipe be noticed?

And if there was an exposed pipe crack or break, wouldn't that be noticed?

I know that no one goes over everything with a "fine tooth comb", but it seems like there is a higher priority on checking some things than others...

  • October 26 2010
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Wow I am also amazed at the Realtor's unwillingness to help. You did the right thing. Make sure you tell your friends about this Realtor. One unhappy customer can cancel out 20 happy ones. Good luck.
  • October 26 2010
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr
One thing to be aware of...

I am assuming that you are going to get the pipe rooted and then visually inspected (camera sent down the pipe). If the problem was roots, ask the plumber how severely the integrity of the pipe is compromised.

Rooting will "take care" of the problem for a few years. But, if the pipe is severely compromised, you'll be rooting again in another few years. In other words, you'll be looking at sleeving the pipe to restore integrity - and the seller will be long gone.
  • October 25 2010
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Profile picture for sunnyview
Thanks for update! It is always nice to know how things are going. Fingers crossed for you.
  • October 25 2010
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Profile picture for laura_happy
We are going to have a plumber come in and not closing until we remedy this.  Will update with what we find!
  • October 25 2010
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Profile picture for Smart Option Homes
your realtor is getting paid to help you deal with this kind of issue-  call them!  (or call their broker if they are not helping you!)   I would strongly consider delaying the closing-  it could be a Nightmare getting the problem addressed AFTER close-    Good luck-  !
  • October 25 2010
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Profile picture for laura_happy
Thanks for this advice; this is really helpful, especially that we should have it fixed instead of giving that control to the seller.  I will keep you all posted!!!!
  • October 25 2010
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Profile picture for Brian French
It always surprises me when buyer/sellers say that their agent is not helpful in times like these - this is exactly the time when we really "earn" our pay. The pre-closing walk-through clause in your agreement will help you navigate this issue; DEMAND that your agent give you assistance in understanding your rights.

How many days before you close?  Do you have time to investigate and negotiate a settlement?

You certainly have options:  Put the closing on hold, extend the closing date.  I believe that YOU want to take control of fixing the problem.  Letting the seller fix the issue might mean that you get less than a great job done. 

I understand that in your area everyone seems to lawyer-up, but in my area, we would just work this kind of thing out between the parties and their agents

  • October 25 2010
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Profile picture for My NCHomes Team
I would suggest escrowing a portion of the Sellers proceeds with your closing attorney to be used for the repair. The number should be enough to easily cover the repair. You should have the work done so that any warranty that is included is yours. Once the work is completed, you authroize your attorney to pay the bill and return any unspent portion to the Sellers. There should set a time period with the Sellers for the work to be done.
  • October 25 2010
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr

Camera inspection of the sewer lateral is a topic that was broached in these forums about two years ago. Unfortunately, it seems to not be a very common practice - even though the cost is only about $250-or-so.

We had to fix the sewer lateral for my parent's house. In the yard was a bit messy, but not too bad. The section under the sidewalk/street was a whole 'nother story.

We ended up sleeving the pipe, at a cost of about $3K (vice >$20K to dig up the street/pipe, plus being responsible for any damage to the sewer main).

  • October 24 2010
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It could potentially be very expensive to repair, so it's good advice that you contact your attorney BEFORE closing.
  • October 24 2010
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Profile picture for laura_happy
It backed up through a drain.  My guess the pipe certainly has problems, though not sure of the extent (tree roots, broken, etc.).  Our agent was not helpful and told us to contact our lawyer which we will do tomorrow morning

I would think this would be a major change of the condition of the house and pretty normal to ask the seller to investigate and fix the issue- but we have certainly never anticipated this!
  • October 24 2010
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Are you easily able to determine the source of the raw sewage? Is there a cracked or broken sewer or waste line? Is this due to a septic issue or did raw sewage somehow 'appear' under the house?

You certainly should address the issue prior to closing. The reason for doing a final walk through is to ensure the house is exactly the same as when you either wrote the purchase agreement or waived your inspection rights following inspection.

Don't ever count on homeowners addressing issues AFTER closing. They have their money, and you have the house. Only expensive litigation can fix it after the fact.
  • October 24 2010
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