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muck

Legal issue w/ the sale of my home

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Here's the deal ... we've sold our home (closed last Friday). We have a contract on selling our rental house. This is about the rental house.

 

We've agreed on the basic terms. They have an inspector come over. His report says that a bunch of this's and that's are needing attention (but nothing hugh). He suggests that the buyers have the sewer line and the chimney inspected as he was unable to inspect either one.

 

The chimney guy says we need a new flue liner and some other junk ... $2100 to fix. Possibly, it's hogwash, but it's definately a secondary issue.

 

The big issue is the sewer line.

 

The plumber came over and tried to inspect it. He said it was clogged and would need to be 'cleaned out' before he could finish his inspection. The buyer and their agent made a decision on the spot (without consulting me) that they would pay the extra couple hundred dollars to have it cleaned.

 

NOTE 1: We have NEVER had ANY problems with any part of our sewer ... what flushes goes away and never comes back.

 

The plumber reports back that there is a 'blockage' about 10 feet into the yard that he can't get his camera around to finish the inspection.

 

His quote for getting whatever it is that's messed up is $3000 (best case) to $6000 (worst case).

 

The good news: They still want to buy the house.

The bad news: Because we were not consulted, as far as I'm concerned the buyer, the agent and their plumber screwed up something at my house that has never been a problem to anyone and they are expecting me to pay full amount to get this fixed.

The REALLY bad news: If we don't sell it to these buyers, we will have to either disclose the problem or pay to have it fixed (which may result in a HUGE mess in the yard for more than a month.

 

The legal issue (as I see it): Does the buyer (or their agent) have the ability to make repair/maintence decisions regarding a property they don't own without consulting the current owner? And, related to this, if the buyer (or their agent) break anything while considering buying our house, who is responsible for fixing it?

 

I've already left a message with my attorney (who is a GREAT attorney, but is not an expert in residential real estate) that I'll want to talk tomorrow. I've also left message with my agent that I want her to talk to her boss to see if he has any practical advice.

 

Suggestions / thoughts?

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Does the buyer (or their agent) have the ability to make repair/maintence decisions regarding a property they don't own without consulting the current owner?

Logically, this is complete hogwash. However, the law is an ass so obviously you need to check.

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out of curiosity, why weren't you there? I've bought 2 homes, sold 1, and was at every single inspection along the way (for buyers who didnt work out, for homes that i tried to buy and it didn't work out)

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The buyer and their agent made a decision on the spot (without consulting me) that they would pay the extra couple hundred dollars to have it cleaned.

 

They certainly had a right to make sure they did what was neccesary for him to complete his inspection and they were doing the right thing by paying for it but to do so without telling you is nonsense. It would have been a good idea for you or your agent to be present during the inspection but that still doesnt give them the right to do anything without telling you first.

 

 

Because we were not consulted, as far as I'm concerned the buyer, the agent and their plumber screwed up something at my house that has never been a problem to anyone and they are expecting me to pay full amount to get this fix

 

Yes and No ..I agree 100% they should have consulted you before doing any form of cleaning out your sewer line but you would have to prove what they did caused this problem before you could assume you are not liable for any repairs I would think. I would get my own inspector if I were you and have them review the situation.

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Why wasn't I there? My wife and I were getting our family ready to leave for vacation (which we're on right now...well, my wife and kids are on...I'm dealing with this crap).

 

Why wasn't our agent there? I don't know (or if she did tell me, I don't remember).

 

To me, what they did was akin to coming in my house and lighting the drapes on fire and then wondering why we have fire damage...

 

I spoke w/ my dad (who was supervising a master plumber who came and inspected everything yesterday) last night, and he said that best case, the repairs are $2500 and worst case involves spending $6000, plus the cost of us repairing the concrete sidewalk in front of our house that may have to get torn up to re-tie to the city sewer.

 

WE NEVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH OUR SEWER LINE UNTIL THIS BUYER STARTED MESSING WITH OUR PROPERTY WITHOUT OUR CONSENT!!!

 

If I raise a stink, they'll back out of the contract and we're screwed for a couple of months as it'll take that long to repair things and get the house with a sellable curb appeal again. If I raise a hugh stink (i.e., sue the buyers agent and/or her boss for authorizing the work to be done without consulting me), then it'll take a ton of my time and distract me from my work and family for who knows how long. If I capitulate and pay everything they're asking just to get the deal done and to make it go away, it'll cost a bunch of cash.

 

No matter what decision I make, none of them are any good.

Edited by muck

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well, muck, i don't think their inspector CAUSED your problem. the drain may have been working OK for you, but that doesn't mean there isn't a legitimate problem in the line that legitimately affects the saleability of your house. i can't blame them for wanting to check it out, either, kudos to them for hiring a thorough inspector. he didn't cause the problem, he revealed it, which is exactly what they are paying him to do. he tried to camera the line, got stuck, tried to clean it out, and found the problem. it is a bit odd that they hired a plumber to snake it out without your knowledge or consent. but let's say they call you and say our guy can't camera the line, we need to try and snake it out so we can see what the problem is....what, are you gonna say no? and on what basis? i also don't see how you could possibly sue them, unless you can prove that they caused the damage that needs to be repaired, which of course they didn't. i'd say your best bet is knocking a few grand off the sale price. they can either have it repaired before they move in, or wait a while until it really starts causing them problems.

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I doubt very seriously that an inspection would have caused whatever problem exists. My take is that you may have been on the verge of having a problem that the inspection caught and it sounds to me like you're crying over splled milk.

 

Sorry - just my two cents.

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Az and CR may very well be right ... but how are we ever going to know?

 

If you have an older car that works great and then you start screwing around with the engine when there are no problems present, don't be surprised if it doesn't work the same when you put it back together.

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if anyone is responsible, its the buyers' agent.

 

complete the sale and sue the agent and his broker for the amount it cost you.

Edited by dmarc117

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Az and CR may very well be right ... but how are we ever going to know?

 

If you have an older car that works great and then you start screwing around with the engine when there are no problems present, don't be surprised if it doesn't work the same when you put it back together.

 

Sorry to hear about your hassles, muck.

 

But, what kind of logic would have you automatically assume that they CAUSED the problem? What's the nature of the problem, exactly? Do you have any reason to think the plumber screwed up your sewer line? If I were buying a car from you, am I liable for the head gasket blowing if I open the hood to check the engine?

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plus, see if they can tell if its a problem due to fatigue. if so, you may be out of luck.

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are there any documented cases of a roto-rooter CAUSING a mainline to corrode and be blocked with dirt and/or roots (probably what we're dealing with here)? if so, maybe you have a point. but i doubt there is any such possibility. so your comparisons to burning your drapes, and/or tinkering with a car engine and screwing it up would not seem to be valid.

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Just talked to my agent.

 

Her words: "The issue is that the problem wasn't found during the inspection. The problem was found during work that was performed without your authorization. If they would have come back and said that the line is clogged and it'll cost $300 to clean, you (Muck) could have told them that you'd escrow $300 at closing to pay for the cleaning. But, because they had unauthorized work performed, it's a big grey area about whose responsibility it is." My agent is still waiting on talking to her boss.

 

McNasty ... if the engine blows a gasket when you open the hood, it's on me. But, if you ask if you can take it for a test drive only, and end up cruising it over to your mechanic, and the takes the engine apart to reveal some sort of weak piston shaft, and then try to hang that on me ... that's where I have a problem. You would have performed unauthorized work to something that you didn't own. Now, if you had asked me if you could have your mechanic disassemble the engine, and I say, "ok, at your cost", then the fix very well may be on me (if I'm comfortable that your mechanic didn't actually damage the engine while taking it apart).

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this is like a big game of jenga....the buyer pulled the piece, let him suck on it.

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this is like a big game of jenga....the buyer pulled the piece, let him suck on it.

 

Scenario #1: I raise too big of a stink, and the buyers walk ... and I have to pay for the fix and probably have to wait a month or two to get the house back on the market. Without a doubt, I want to avoid this.

Scenario #2: I play nice and hope that the buyers will cover part of the cost of the repairs.

Scenario #3: I play sorta nice and tell the buyers that I'll cover as much of the cost of the repairs as their broker will through discounted commission.

Scenario #4: I agree to pay the cost of the repairs simultaneous with going to the state realtor board in an effort to have the agent and her broker reimburse me for the costs that I incurred due to the actions that appear to me to be illegal and unethical (but may not be, because as we know, the realtor business is full of all sorts of wierdness).

Scenario #5: To be determined after my agent talks to her broker about possible options, and if I don't like those, then after I talk to my attorney.

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Scenario #1: I raise too big of a stink, and the buyers walk ... and I have to pay for the fix and probably have to wait a month or two to get the house back on the market. Without a doubt, I want to avoid this.

Scenario #2: I play nice and hope that the buyers will cover part of the cost of the repairs.

Scenario #3: I play sorta nice and tell the buyers that I'll cover as much of the cost of the repairs as their broker will through discounted commission.

Scenario #4: I agree to pay the cost of the repairs simultaneous with going to the state realtor board in an effort to have the agent and her broker reimburse me for the costs that I incurred due to the actions that appear to me to be illegal and unethical (but may not be, because as we know, the realtor business is full of all sorts of wierdness).

Scenario #5: To be determined after my agent talks to her broker about possible options, and if I don't like those, then after I talk to my attorney.

 

 

#4

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Just talked to my agent.

 

Her words: "The issue is that the problem wasn't found during the inspection. The problem was found during work that was performed without your authorization. If they would have come back and said that the line is clogged and it'll cost $300 to clean, you (Muck) could have told them that you'd escrow $300 at closing to pay for the cleaning. But, because they had unauthorized work performed, it's a big grey area about whose responsibility it is." My agent is still waiting on talking to her boss.

 

McNasty ... if the engine blows a gasket when you open the hood, it's on me. But, if you ask if you can take it for a test drive only, and end up cruising it over to your mechanic, and the takes the engine apart to reveal some sort of weak piston shaft, and then try to hang that on me ... that's where I have a problem. You would have performed unauthorized work to something that you didn't own. Now, if you had asked me if you could have your mechanic disassemble the engine, and I say, "ok, at your cost", then the fix very well may be on me (if I'm comfortable that your mechanic didn't actually damage the engine while taking it apart).

 

muck, we're talking about two different things, apparently. You're arguing about where to hang the legal responsibility, which, frankly, is a lot more practical than me arguing over some nebulous sense of "fairness".

 

Just remind me never to buy a car from you, you shysty bastage. :D

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Honestly, I'd be fine if we could do something where the buyers agent discount their commission by 1% (from 3% to 2%), we pay the next $2k (in addition to passing on the discounted commission to the buyers) and the buyers pay anything else. I simply don't have time to hassle with all sorts of legal issues, etc.

 

A clean and simple transaction is significantly preferred to one that is complex and full of angst.

Edited by muck

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if anyone is responsible, its the buyers' agent.

 

complete the sale and sue the agent and his broker for the amount it cost you.

 

again, he would have to prove that the agent CAUSED the damage to his line. as best i can tell, that's a losing proposition.

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again, he would have to prove that the agent CAUSED the damage to his line. as best i can tell, that's a losing proposition.

 

I believe that there is a 50.1% or greater possibility that the plumber did not cause the problem.

 

However, I believe that the agent had a duty to allow us to give direction as to whether or not we would authorize the cleaning (i.e., the work) to be performed. I've had a hard time coming up with a worthwhile analogy, but maybe it's a little bit like an illegal search and seizure. The evidence gets tossed out and can't be held against the defendant.

 

However, this is a real estate transaction and nobody is looking at doing hard time.

 

So, the best solution (for everyone) is to probably have everyone wear a portion of the cost and be done with it.

Edited by muck

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Is there another inspector that you guys could bring in for a second opinion?

 

If it comes down to being a very large expense, I would offer to split it 50/50 with the buyers. Seems like a fair compromise. I'm no lawyer, but I'm guessing you won't get too far with an attempt to "go after" the buyer or their agent for causing the problem.

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if this is about who has to pay the $300 for the plumber to come snake out the line, then i agree, that is not on you, and if i were you i would probably refuse to pay that -- just as they have to pay their own inspector. but that doesn't make them responsible for the cost of repairing the damaged old sewer line on your property, just because they found it.

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I take it you didn't have a realty lawyer?

The agents boss is just another realtor, probably, so if I were you I'd be shopping for a realty lawyer...NOW!

Edited by rocknrobn26

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