Q. When we bought our house, our home inspector found a list of defects, and we submitted a request for repairs to the sellers. The items to be replaced were leaking dual-pane windows, rotted window trim, and corroded pipes in the attic. The sellers hired a contractor to make the repairs. When he was finished, we got a copy of his $5,700 receipt stating the repair work was completed.
Since moving in, we found that five of the windows were not replaced, the rotted window trim was patched and painted, and the pipes in the attic were wrapped with duct tape. We called the contractor, and he refused to provide receipts for the materials he supposedly purchased. So we hired our home inspector to review the discrepancies and write a follow-up inspection report. When he came to the house, we discussed all of the problems in detail. Two months passed till he sent us his report. Instead of addressing all of the items that were not repaired, he sent a copy of the original inspection report with some added written notes, and he did not list all of the unrepaired items. How should we deal with this mess?
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A. When repairs are done as a follow-up to a home inspection, there are usually some discrepancies. In most cases, these involve varying degrees of poor workmanship or a lack of building code knowledge on the part of the repair person. Your situation is obviously more serious. The contractor appears to be operating a fraudulent business, pretending to replace defective building components and charging the sellers for work that was not actually done. This kind of activity should be reported to the state agency that licenses contractors, and punitive measures should be imposed.
Equally disappointing is the substandard performance of your home inspector. He may have done a competent job on his initial inspection, but his follow-up inspection was nothing to be proud of. Making you wait two months for his report was inexcusable. He should have provided a written response within a few days, and that response should have been a newly written addendum to the original report, listing all of the conditions that had been repaired correctly, those that had been repaired incorrectly, and those that had not been repaired at all. That is what a competent, ethical home inspector would have done.
The sellers also have a stake in this situation. It was their responsibility to have certain conditions corrected, according to the purchase agreement, and they may have believed that all work was performed accordingly. However, the fact that they hired a dishonest contractor does not relieve them of the responsibility to complete the repairs. You should inform them of these circumstances immediately. If they are not willing to help resolve the matter, a letter from an attorney may persuade them. However, if legal action becomes necessary, it can probably be handled in small claims court, without significant legal expense.
• 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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