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posted: 3/26/2011 2:00 AM

Buyers, sellers question liability after closing

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Q. My husband and I purchased a condominium about three months ago, our first home. We thought everything was fine but we just received a notice from the association stating that we owed them $100 for an inspection they did before the closing. We made a few calls and it turns out that every seller must have their condominium inspected before the sale and the seller is supposed to pay $100 for the inspection, which apparently was not paid.

We asked why this was now our responsibility and they said it was because it was not paid at the closing and we are now the owners. We did not have an attorney for our closing and are wondering if someone took advantage of that. Do you think we have to pay this?

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A. Look at the paid assessment letter you received at the closing. This is the representation from the association as to the status of the seller's account. The letter will tell you through what date the association dues are paid and will further indicate any other obligations due the association.

More than likely, the letter provides that $100 is due the association for the inspection. By not insisting the seller pay this fee at closing, you inherited the obligation. In the event there is nothing on the paid assessment letter regarding the fee, I would argue with the association that this is not your obligation as you had no way of knowing this fee was outstanding.

Presuming the fee is on the paid assessment letter, you could try writing a letter to seller's attorney explaining the situation and requesting the seller reimburse you the $100. Probably won't happen but it's worth a shot.

Q. We sold our home and the buyers did a home inspection. They gave our attorney a list of 12 things they wanted fixed. Rather than fixing anything, we agreed to give them $1,200 at closing.

About a month after closing, our attorney received a letter stating the buyers were unhappy because we did not disclose mold in the basement and they wanted $2,000 to fix the problem. This issue was raised by their home inspector and we thought that was part of what we paid for. They claim the mold problem exceeded what the inspector found and it was going to cost way more to fix than originally thought.

Our attorney says he does not handle these disputes and we can't believe we have to deal with this. What should we do? We did have water in the basement a few years ago but were not aware of any mold issues. Any suggestions?

A. You need to review two documents, one, the inspection report your purchasers obtained before purchasing your home and, two, the estimate or report from the company proposing to remediate the current problem. If it appears that the problem the purchasers are complaining of is similar in location and extent to what was uncovered during the home inspection, my position would be you would not be liable and that this issue was addressed through the credit given at closing. If the current problem is in a location remote from what the inspector uncovered, or if the problem is of a far greater magnitude than indicated on the inspection report, the resolution is a little more complicated. To prevail against you in a lawsuit, the purchasers would have to establish the condition existed at the time of the sale (probably not hard to prove) and that you were aware of the problem (more difficult to prove).

Hiring an attorney to resolve a $2,000 dispute is generally not cost effective. Do your homework and if it appears you could have some liability, try to negotiate with your purchasers. You could also request the purchasers allow you to obtain an estimate to correct the problem. Estimates for mold remediation vary wildly.

•Send your questions to Attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by e-mail to tdr100@hotmail.com or call (847) 359-8983.

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