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posted: 7/20/2012 1:30 AM

Home inspector: Sellers failed to make repairs

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Q. We purchased our home six months ago and hired a home inspector who was referred by our Realtor. The inspector identified a list of problems involving plumbing leaks, roof damage, ungrounded electrical outlets, a faulty heater, and more. The agent promised in writing that these issues would be repaired before the close of escrow. That was months ago, but none of the defects have been addressed. We also learned that someone was murdered less than 50 feet from the house. What can we do?

A. Closing escrow when the repairs were not completed was a big mistake. The document that promised completion of repair work before the close was your position of strength. At that time, the sellers were anxious to finalize the sale, and you had just cause to stop the process. Now the picture is very different. The sellers have your purchase money and have moved on to the next chapter of their lives. If they haven't done anything about repairs in six months, it seems unlikely that they will do anything at all, unless other types of pressure are applied. But attorneys are expensive, if you should have to go that route.

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An alternative is to complain to the agent and broker about allowing the escrow to close without the contingencies having been met. If they are unwilling to take some action on your behalf, you can file an ethics complaint with the state agency that issues their real estate licenses.

When the repairs are finally completed, you should hire your home inspector to confirm that the work was completed in a professional and acceptable manner.

As for the nearby homicide, you may need to consult an attorney for clarification of the disclosure law. Although it may be required to report deaths that have occurred on the property, the law may not include locations that are near the property. Unless this is the kind of neighborhood where murders are likely to take place, that issue may not be a basis for concern. However, each person has to deal with his or her own feelings in that regard.

Q. Our house is 50 years old and has an abandoned water heater in the crawl space. It is located in a pit that was dug into the ground under the house and there is no way to remove it without making a hole in the floor of the house. The fixture is no longer connected to the plumbing system and is gradually turning into a pile of rust because of groundwater. How will this affect a home inspection when we sell the property? Will it be an issue?

A. The crawl space under a house is a highly unusual place for a water heater, but this does not mean that removal is necessary. If the fixture has been disconnected from the water lines and from gas or electrical connections, whichever applies, it can probably continue to rust away without adversely affecting the building. A home inspector will probably mention that the water heater is abandoned in a pit below the building, but he probably will not recommend removal, depending on related circumstances that may exist.

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

Distributed by Action Coast Publishing

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