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Repairs as a condition of sale not performed properly - discovered after closing. what to do?

Hi,

Wondering about a mess that I'm in and hoping I can get some advice.

I just moved into a home that we purchased.  One of the conditions of purchase was that the sellers were to remediate the source of water leaking into a crawlspace as identifed by our inspector.  The sellers hired a contractor and he worked on a old vent that he thought was the source of the leak.  We agreed the work was done and closed.

Two days after closing, it rained quite hard and we found a huge amount of water in the crawl space.  Long and short, we have a broken drain line and a sump that basically ejects rain water into the crawl space which drains back into the sump.  The repairs will total several thousand dollars.  Of course, we feel that the condition of sale was not met - in fact verification of this fact would have required rain on the day of closing to confirm. 

So we're left wondering if we have any reason to expect the seller and their contractor to take any responsibility for this situation.



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September 09 2012 - US
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Answers (11)

The contractor usually covers any defects in workmanship and should correct this problem, especially when it was identified by the inspector and the seller acknowledged the problem.
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September 11 2012
I would contact all the parties involved with the deal first.  Maybe you can work out a solution without getting attorneys involved.  If that doesn't work then I would contact an attorney to see what your options are.  Good Luck and keep us posted with what happens.
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September 11 2012
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Hi,

All around I really appreciate the advice and insight.  Let me start by saying that this is a learning experience all around.

1) As I read through the comments I realize that our agent failed us.  As our attorney said, "real estate agents talk like lawyers, but they aren't lawyers".  None of the safe guards were put into place nor was the deal structured to make responsibilities and liabilities clear.

2) The inspector did identify the source of the water correctly.  The contractor did not remedy it correctly.  We walked through and confirmed that work had been done but it was the wrong work.

So, an expensive lesson for us.  We could probably go and seek legal remedy but it may be much more trouble than it's worth.
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September 11 2012
1.st, Did your contract for purchase have a "repair escrow"
2.nd Inform your Atty. in writing of the current existence of a "remedied problem". Do this in writing.
3 rd, Ask your Atty for his E&O claims solutions.
4. Did you pay your inspector to verify the remediation of the issue prior to closing.

Be prepared to have the problem fixed out of pocket.
Get 3 estimates detailing the cause and extent of the issue.
Negotiate the lowest price in writing from each of these contractors. Do this in separate estimates.

Present this to your Atty, and ask him, how am I to proceed to recover these damages.

As far as Some would assume here that your Agent or broker is at some level of fault. That would only be established if  Your Agent or broker was an expert who guaranteed another's work, received undisclosed proceeds in the performance of the remediation, or had a vested interest in causing your harm. In as much as you have stated, "it would have had to rain on the closing day" I assume you did have a walk through prior to closing but did not have a repair escrow established. 
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September 10 2012
Indeed, I would love to know what is the advice of your buyer agent.  I also would like to know if the Home Inspector misidentified the source of the leak, and the contractor fixed what he was told to fix.
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September 10 2012
Sorry for your troubles but, thanks for posting your question on Zillow.com!

I am assuming you did not have an agent working for you or they were REALLY bad?  There is this thing called a "walk-through" that is done before closing to make sure the house is in the condition it was when it went under agreement and that items that were agreed to be repaired were.

If you have the repairs on an addendum or in writing & signed by both parties, you have legal grounds to go after the sellers.  Consult an attorney.

Best of luck to you.
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September 10 2012
Absolutely the best approach here is to talk to a real estate/contract attorney. The real estate agent may or may not have known of the issues.
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September 09 2012
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The contractor should have some liability/exposure, so it can't hurt to talk to them. It may not be "free", but a legit contractor should stand behind their work - especially when it fails at the first opportunity (since it should have been verified before signing it off as done).
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September 09 2012
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As it goes - once the deal closes, the agents have little at stake other than their reputation.  So not much help there.

Of course we can probably never prove (and have no reason to suspect) that we were deceived.  I just think the contractor didn't really investigate the problem thoroughly and without rain, there isn't anyway we could have been sure.
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September 09 2012
This is an issue best answered by an attorney. But my guess is (not legal opinion) they would most likely be liable if they knowingly deceived you into believing the repairs that were made were indeed the source of the water problem. Of course proving what was known by the previous owner and/or the contractor is the red herring.

You didn't mention what state you reside in, but in many states buyers and sellers sign arbitration agreements. If you opt to go the legal route, I would recommend arbitration (assuming both parties had previously agreed to arbitration. It is far less expensive than a lawsuit. And you may discover that the previous homeowners might agree to shoulder a portion of the cost. But there's no guarantee.
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September 09 2012
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What does your REA have to say? After all, they're the pros and are supposed to earn their commission by stepping in when things go wrong.
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September 09 2012
 
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