Q. We bought our house about two years ago, but we did not have a home inspection. Since then, we've found problems that were not disclosed by the sellers or their agent. The worst of these is an addition that was built without a permit. The roof on the addition has major leaks, and the shingles were installed without felt underlayment. Do we have recourse against the sellers or their agent for nondisclosure?
A. Most homebuyers are aware of the importance of hiring a home inspector before they buy a home. And most real estate agents advise their clients accordingly. If you bought your home without having it inspected, then one of two errors took place: Either your agent failed to advise you to hire a home inspector, or you failed to heed your agent's advice.
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At this late date, you may or may not have recourse against the sellers or their agent for nondisclosure. However, it is possible that the sellers had no knowledge of the permit status of the addition, depending on whether they owned the property when the addition was built. The agent, as well, may have been entirely unaware of the unpermitted addition. On the other hand, the sellers may have been aware of the roof leakage, depending on when the leaking began.
Regardless of who should have disclosed what, it is strongly recommended that you now hire a qualified home inspector. The time for full disclosure of the condition of your home is long past due. Whether or not you pursue issues of nondisclosure, you need to know what the defects are and what should be done about them. After the home inspection, you will have a clearer idea about what the seller should or could have disclosed. If known defects were withheld from disclosure, the question of recourse can be discussed with an attorney.
Q. We have lived in our home for 23 years and lately have seen bits of paint or popcorn ceiling material on our furniture, directly under our heating vents. The amount of this material seems to be increasing. Should we have the air ducts cleaned, and if so, who does this kind of work?
A. Cleaning the interior surfaces of old air ducts can be beneficial because it can eliminate health hazards such as dust mites and mold. This can be done by a licensed heating contractor, a chimney sweep, or a janitorial service. However, if the particles on your furniture appear to be acoustic ceiling texture, then you have a problem of a different kind.
Back in the days when acoustic texture was sprayed onto ceilings, the person applying the material would usually allow the spray to coat the interior surfaces of the air duct openings. The over-spray that is in your heat registers has probably lost its adhesion and is now falling onto the furniture and floor. The problem with these loose particles is that they may contain asbestos fibers. A sample of the material should be tested by an environmental laboratory to determine whether it is an asbestos containing material. If asbestos fibers are found, the over-spray inside the ducts should be removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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