Sellers refuse to repair new damage

Q: The sellers of the home we're buying hired a septic contractor to inspect and pump the sewage system. In the course of this work, they cut two sections from the front entry walkway to provide access to the tank. When they were done, they simply set the cut pieces into place in a way that is unsightly, uneven, and likely to trip someone. When we made our offer to purchase this home it had a nice concrete entrance that was pleasing to look at. Now the sellers and their agent say it is up to us to replace the damaged pavement because temporary removal was required to meet the terms of the sale. Do we really have to fix this ourselves, or is it the responsibility of the sellers?

A: You made an offer to purchase a property in the condition that existed when it was marketed. Because the offer was accepted, that condition has been adversely altered by contractors who were hired by the sellers. Therefore, the sellers should take responsibility for the damage caused by their contractor. It is up to them to restore the conditions as they existed when the purchase agreement was signed.

The excuses offered by the sellers and their agent are unacceptable. Suppose the sellers' chimney sweep had damaged the roof? Would that also be your problem? What if the sellers' painter had cracked a window? Would you then be required to replace the glass? The answers here are obvious, and the current case is no different.

The sellers hired a septic contractor, as required in the purchase contract. The performance of that obligation did not license them to denigrate the property at your expense. Either the sellers or their contractor should restore the property to the conditions that existed when you made your offer. Your agent, not theirs, should support you in advancing this reasonable demand. Hopefully, you have your own agent in this transaction.

Q: The house I'm buying is more than 100 years old, and there appear to be some structural problems. The main support beam in the basement is cracked and has caused some sagging of the upstairs floor. The sellers have installed temporary supports and say that permanent repairs can be done at a later time for about $1,000. Should I consider buying this home or cautiously walk away?

A: If you seriously wish to purchase this home, you should disregard the sellers' assessment of the support problems and have the foundation and framing systems professionally evaluated. Concerns regarding the structural integrity of a home should not be left to chance or to offhand opinions.

The post and beam problems should be investigated by a licensed structural engineer. The property should also be fully evaluated by the most thorough and experienced home inspector you can find. Other problems are certain to be revealed, and the sellers' disclosure statement is likely to be incomplete, given their minimizing of significant structural issues.

• 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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