No one disclosed leaking shower pan

Q: After buying our home, we discovered a leak in our upstairs shower when water began dripping from the downstairs ceiling. That's when we noticed the ceiling had previously been patched. This means the sellers must have known about the problem, and that has now been confirmed by the next-door neighbor. When we had our home inspection, the inspector ran the shower for about a minute, but not long enough to reveal the leak. Now we're stuck with a repair estimate of $1,500. The seller has moved out of state, and the home inspection report specifically disclaims shower pans. Do we have any recourse against the home inspector or the seller?

A: If the sellers knew about the leaking shower pan and failed to disclose it, they were in violation of the seller disclosure law. Unfortunately, their departure to another state complicates your chances of pursuing legal recourse. For clarification on this point, you'll have to seek professional legal advice.

Home inspectors typically perform their work in accordance with established standards of practice, as set forth by professional associations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors. These standards do not include the testing of shower pans because that is normally done by pest control operators (commonly known as termite inspectors). Leaky showers often cause fungus infection in the wood framing, and that is within the purview of a pest inspection. Unfortunately, pest inspectors often omit pan tests when showers are located upstairs. The reason for this exclusion is to avoid liability for ceiling damage in the event of a leak during the test. Thus, leaking in upstairs shower pans often escape detection in the course of a real estate purchase.

Home inspectors and pest control operators should probably be testing shower pans, regardless of whether they are located upstairs or downstairs. That viewpoint may not be well received by many inspectors, but it is the pro-consumer approach. Shower pan replacement and water-damage repairs are expensive. Disclosure of leakage is vital information to homebuyers and clearly outweighs the risks and inconveniences of water testing. Inspectors may not be obligated to test shower pans, but that position may warrant rethinking.

Q: We are presently buying a new home and haven't decided whether we should hire a home inspector. If so, are there inspectors who specialize in inspection of new homes?

A: The importance of having a new home professionally inspected cannot be overemphasized. It is a critical aspect of consumer protection for homebuyers. This is because all new homes have defects. If you hire a qualified home inspector, defects will definitely be found, and the builder will have to make appropriate corrections.

There are no home inspectors who perform inspections exclusively on new homes. You just need to find an inspector with years of field experience and a reputation for unrelenting thoroughness.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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