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posted: 8/10/2012 5:01 AM

Poor drainage prevents inspection under the house

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Q. When we purchased our home, the termite inspector found plumbing leaks under the bathroom. But the home inspector did not inspect under the building because there was water on the ground, and he said this would be unsafe. He recommended ground drainage improvements to enable further inspection, but we went ahead without further inspection and bought the property. That turned out to be a mistake. Within days of moving in, we had a major sewage backup in the bathrooms. It turns out that we have rusted-out drainpipes and lots of roots in the main sewer line. We believe the sellers knew about these problems but said nothing. What should we do?

A. If the pest inspector found leaking under the building, he was not deterred by water on the ground. Perhaps the home inspector was too squeamish and should have done the same. Groundwater in a crawl space is an inconvenience for a home inspector, and no one except a small kid enjoys crawling in the mud. But it hardly qualifies as a significant safety hazard.

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On the other hand, if the water on the ground was from leaking sewage, the inspector was wise to stay out, and the pest inspector probably should have done the same.

If the seller claims no knowledge of the problem, proving otherwise could be difficult, but it seems unlikely that the plumbing problems just occurred for the first time. Sometimes a neighbor has knowledge of past plumbing problems. This is something to investigate by asking around.

You need to obtain a repair bid from a licensed plumbing contractor. Hopefully, the costs will not be excessive. If repairs are expensive, you should get some legal advice regarding seller liability.

Q. The buyer of our home wants to do his own inspection. Our concern is that he wants to get up on the roof. Our home is very high off the ground and the roof pitch is steep. He also wants to climb into the attic. I'm concerned he may fall and hurt himself and/or damage something while in the attic. We don't want to offend the buyer, but we have a great concern. What do you advise?

A. Perhaps you could have the buyer sign a liability waiver stipulating that he will hold you blameless in the event that he is injured during his inspection and that he will pay for anything that is accidentally broken. To ensure that this would be binding, you should obtain a legal form from a lawyer.

Another option is offering to split the cost of a professional home inspection. When compared with the cost of an attorney, it might even be worth it to pay the entire inspection fee.

That aside: If your buyer believes that he is qualified to perform the same evaluation as a professional home inspector, he is very naive. It takes years of full-time inspection work to become truly qualified as a home inspector. If your buyer wants to experience undisclosed defects after the close of escrow, he should go ahead and do his own inspection.

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

Action Coast Publishing

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