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posted: 7/4/2014 12:01 AM

Faulty septic system not disclosed

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Q. When we bought our house, the sellers disclosed that the septic tank was only two years old. They also gave us a report from a local septic contractor that said the system had passed inspection. Recently, we had a sewage backup in our home and have now learned that the septic tank is old and needs to be replaced. We called the septic company that signed off on the system when we bought the property. They said their inspection consisted of flushing the toilets to see if everything drained properly. They never actually inspected the tank. Instead, they charged $165 just to flush the toilets and write a report. Do we have any recourse with the previous owners or the septic company?

A. The sellers are clearly in violation of state disclosure laws for misrepresenting the age of the septic system. If their disclosure about the tank being two years old is in writing, they can definitely be liable for the cost of replacement, but that may involve some costly legal expenses on your part. The first thing you should do is notify them of the current situation to see what they do. If they deny responsibility, you should seek the advice of an attorney.

As for the septic contractor, there is no excuse for conducting a slipshod inspection of that kind. What they did was worth less than what would normally be flushed down the toilet.

Testing the drains inside the house reveals nothing about the actual condition of the septic system. Their job was to excavate the tank, pump out the contents, and conduct an actual inspection and evaluation. The physical condition of the tank needed to be determined, as well as the performance of the leach field. What they did was nothing more than flagrant professional negligence. If they are not willing to accept some responsibility along with the sellers, you should report them to the state agency that issues their professional license.

Q. We just bought a new home and have two concerns about the electrical system. The appliance guy who installed our new electric range says he's never seen aluminum wiring in a new home. Also, some of the lights have dimmer switches, and the cover plates on these switches feel hot. These conditions concern us because we don't want to have a fire. What do you recommend?

A. Aluminum wiring is commonly used for 220-volt circuits for electric ranges, even in new construction. Aluminum is not a problem as long as the connectors are rated for aluminum and as long as the wires have been treated with an anti-corrosion compound. The appliance guy apparently knows more about appliances than about electrical wiring.

If the dimmer switches are getting hot, don't trust them. Have them replaced by a licensed electrician, and be sure to have the electrician check the wiring to the kitchen range.


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