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Article posted: 9/27/2013 12:35 AM

Buyer finds undisclosed concrete in shower drain

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Q. Ever since I bought my home, the shower has drained slowly. From time to time, I've had to use drain cleaner. But recently, it has gotten really bad, so I finally called a plumber. He said the drain is blocked with concrete and there is no way to get it out. I called three other plumbers, but they said the same thing. The recommended repair involves tearing out the shower pan because the house is built on a concrete slab. My home inspector said nothing about this when I was buying the home, so I assume the previous owner used drain cleaner before the inspection. Is there any way to fix this without tearing out the shower pan and replacing the drainpipe?

A. If several plumbers have come to the same conclusion, a new drain line is most likely what you need. However, it may be possible do this without tearing out the shower pan. The procedure for doing this would be unusual, so ask your plumbers about the feasibility of this suggestion.

Step 1: Remove a portion of the concrete slab from the bathroom floor next to the shower stall. Step 2: Excavate a hole that is deep enough and wide enough to provide work space for the plumber. Step 3: Dig a tunnel from the hole to the drain connection under the pan, fully exposing the portion of the drainpipe that needs replacement. Step 4: Replace the impacted portion of the drainpipe. Step 5: Backfill and compact the soil in the tunnel and hole. Step 6: Patch the hole in the slab floor with fresh concrete.

Slow draining of the shower pan should have been disclosed by the sellers. If, as you suspect, they cleared the line with drain cleaner before the home inspection, there is no way your home inspector could have discovered the problem. You can try to pursue the matter against the sellers, but it will be your word against theirs. It would probably be best to accept the loss as experience and let the matter go.

Q. My question involves Realtor ethics. An agent bought a home from one of my friends. The home inspector she used is someone with whom she is having a personal relationship. Based on the inspection, the seller reduced the sales price. The agent also refers this home inspector to her clients. Is this an illegal or unethical practice?

A. Using or referring a home inspector with whom one has a personal relationship is not illegal. It could be regarded as unethical if the relationship is not disclosed, but it may not fit the strict definition of "unethical" behavior as defined by the Realtors' code of ethics. If the inspector was the agent's spouse, that would be a clear ethical violation, but with informal relationships there may be no definite standards.

In the area where I do business, there are two agents who are married to home inspectors. These agents never refer their husbands to inspect their own transactions. Ethical agents should apply this standard to other personal relationships, but there is probably no legal requirement to do so.

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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