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posted: 4/20/2012 5:06 AM

Home inspector: HOA refuses to repair foundation

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Q. We live in a condo with foundation problems. Repairs were supposedly done before we bought the unit, but these were not done correctly. Now we have cracked walls and some doors that do not fit. The homeowners association refuses to make repairs. They say the process could cause interior damage to the adjoining condos, and this would not be for the "greater good." Is there anything we can do, short of hiring an attorney and having an expensive legal battle?

A. The choice to wage a legal battle or to find a reasonable solution depends on a willingness to be reasonable. The people on the board of the HOA don't seem to realize this. They should accept their responsibility to repair all exterior defects, including foundation problems. Their "logic" in denying this obligation could be applied to any exterior repairs they might choose to avoid.

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As far as "greater good" is concerned, structural integrity affects the reputation of the property overall, and this serves the greater good of all owners. As for "interior damage" to other condos, it is the responsibility of a competent building contractor to conduct foundation repairs in ways that minimize such damage. If unintended damage should occur in the course of the project, interior repairs should be included in the scope of the work.

If the HOA will not accept this responsibility, an attorney may be needed to convince them.

Q. We sold our home two months ago and repaired all the items in the buyers' home inspection report. But one thing was never mentioned. Years ago, the garage doors and roof gutters were dented during a hailstorm. The dents were small but were plainly visible, so we didn't think to mention them in our disclosure statement. The buyers' home inspector also made no mention of them in his report. Now the buyers are demanding replacement of the doors and gutters. Do you think we should have to pay for this?

A. If the damage is merely cosmetic and was openly visible to everyone, including the buyers and their inspector, then the demand is unreasonable. Hopefully, the buyers will not try to push the issue. At worst, they might take the matter to small claims court. If that should happen, show the judge the home inspection report, the purchase documents, and detailed photos of the garage door and rain gutters.

Stick to your guns. It doesn't appear that you did anything wrong.

Q. When we bought our house three years ago, there were two cracks in the foundation. Our home inspector said the cracks could be repaired with epoxy. Now we have five cracks, and the original ones have gotten bigger. We also have some settlement cracks in our ceiling. Did our home inspector miss something? What can we do?

A. The home inspector's error was his recommendation. Unless he is a licensed structural engineer, he had no business advising epoxy for foundation repairs. Instead, he should have advised you to consult a structural engineer for further evaluation of the cracks.

You should have an engineering evaluation of the foundation as soon as possible. Then you should notify the inspector of his error.

• Email questions to Barry Stone through his website, housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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