Q. Before I bought my home, the home inspection showed no major defects, and no problems were listed on the disclosure forms from the seller or the Realtors. Since moving in, I've found numerous problems that should have been disclosed. The sellers said the kitchen was remodeled with permits, but that was untrue. Extension cords were installed behind the kitchen cabinets and inside one of the attics. The access to that attic was nailed shut and concealed, so it was never seen by my home inspector. The more I look, the more wiring violations I find. To top things off, the trees that surround the house are all diseased and will need to be removed. This will cost thousands of dollars, leaving the property looking barren. According to the neighbors, the seller knew about this. I don't want to get involved in a lawsuit, but I don't know what to do. Please advise.
A. If the sellers gave false disclosure about a permit for the kitchen remodel and said nothing about the substandard electrical wiring, then they would appear to be guilty of violating state disclosure laws. Another possibility is that they hired an unscrupulous contractor who falsely reported having taken out a permit and who did substandard work, unbeknown to the sellers. These are points that should be clarified. However, nondisclosure of the tree situation indicates that the sellers' motives were not good.
In your place, it would be reasonable to demand that the purchase be rescinded or that all of the defects be repaired at the sellers' expense. An ultimatum should be given to the sellers, pending possible litigation, and the Realtors in the transactions should be notified of these concerns. However, you should discuss strategies with a good real estate attorney before proceeding.
Hopefully, you can find a good attorney. As with Realtors, sometimes you get a good one, and sometimes you don't.
Q. We recently removed the popcorn texture from the living room ceiling in our 1974 home. Unfortunately, we didn't think about the possibility of asbestos, so we didn't wear protective masks. When we learned about possible asbestos, we sent samples to a lab and found out that our ceilings contain 5 percent chrysotile asbestos. We have discontinued the popcorn removal, but our main worry is whether the asbestos exposure may affect our health. What do you advise?
A. The popcorn ceiling removal you've done thus far may or may not have contaminated the air in your home. For confirmation, you should have an asbestos inspector send air samples to a lab. If you use overnight shipping for the samples, you can have the test results in the morning. In the meantime, you can spend a night or two in a local motel.
Once you receive the test results, hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to complete the asbestos removal. Hopefully, the work you have done so far has not contaminated your home with asbestos fibers.
Studies involving the adverse health effects of asbestos involve people who have had high levels of exposure for long periods of time. Whether short-term, low-level asbestos exposures are harmful has never been confirmed.
Correction of previous column:
In a recent article, it was stated that a forced air furnace is not permitted to be installed in a bedroom closet. However, installation in a bedroom closet is legal if the closet has a listed, gasketed, self-closing door and if the combustion air supply is drawn from outdoors.
Thanks to Michael Moore, certified building inspector for the city of La Habra Heights, California.
• 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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