Q. I bought my house 3½ years ago. It and all the other houses on the block have flat roofs, but mine is the only one with shingles. During the last storms, my roof leaked badly, causing interior damage, and the insurance company denied my claim because of shingles on a flat roof. This defect was not disclosed by my home inspector when I purchased the property. I was told that he is liable for this omission. Is that true?
A. For a home inspector to sign off on so glaring a defect as a shingled flat roof is scarcely believable. You should check the inspection report again to be sure that nothing was said about it. If your inspector missed that disclosure, he probably missed much more that you don't yet know about. In that case, you should have the property reinspected by a home inspector with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness. Then you should present these issues to the first home inspector, and find out if he is insured for errors and omissions.
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Q. Our condo has two leaky windows, and this has caused interior moisture damage to the sills and drywall. The leaking occurred because of deteriorated caulking on the outside of the building. This was reported to the homeowner association last year, but it didn't do anything about the caulking until leaks and damage occurred in three units. According to the bylaws, the HOA is responsible for maintaining the exterior, including windows, but they refuse to pay for the interior damage caused by the leaking. They say we and our neighbors are responsible for those repairs, according to the bylaws. Is this true?
A. It is commonly understood that condo owners are responsible for interior maintenance and repairs. In this case, however, there are extenuating circumstances. The HOA board members were negligent in their responsibility to maintain the windows. Therefore, they should assume liability for the consequences of their inaction.
If they don't agree, you and your neighbors (those whose interior were damaged), should jointly take the HOA to small claims court. Most reasonable judges would rule in your favor. That would be a good lesson for those who run the HOA. It might even wake them up to fulfilling their maintenance responsibilities in the future.
Q. We've been remodeling and renovating our home for more than two years, including the landscaping. Now we'd like to have our home appraised to be sure we have enough homeowners insurance, but we're afraid this will cause an increase in our property taxes. What is your advice?
A. The appraiser you hire will be working strictly for you. The report will be for your eyes only. Appraisers are in business to provide a service to whomever hires them, whether that be a homeowner, a homebuyer, a mortgage lender, etc. They determine the value of property and provide appraisal reports to whichever person or business is paying them. No one else gets a copy of the report without the permission of the appraiser's customer, and that exclusion applies to your local tax assessor.
• 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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