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Article posted: 10/5/2012 5:42 AM

Real estate agent offended by disclosure advice

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By Barry Stone

Q. An article on your website stated that real estate agents, sellers and home inspectors should disclose neighborhood conditions, besides the usual property defects. I think this is going too far. Disclosure requirements involve things such as plumbing, roofing and electrical problems, not conditions such as low-flying aircraft, nearby factories or sex offenders in the neighborhood.

I also object to the idea that home inspectors should disclose odors because that is subjective and does not necessarily involve property defects. Disclosure requirements are for real issues that pertain to the property. Conditions in the neighborhood can be discovered by homebuyers if they drive through the area and do some research on the Internet.

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A. You seem to have misunderstood the article. Nothing was said about home inspectors disclosing low-flying aircraft or sex offenders in the neighborhood. The main point was that sellers and Realtors who are aware of such conditions have an obligation to provide that information to buyers. Failure to do so can lead to liability lawsuits.

To bring this into focus, imagine yourself on the witness stand as a defendant in a disclosure litigation. The plaintiff's attorney asks if you were aware that a particular condition existed in the neighborhood. Your answer, unless you commit perjury, is "yes." Then he asks why you did not disclose that information, and you say, "The buyer could have found that information on the Internet." The likelihood that such an answer would be acceptable to a judge or jury is pretty slim. In that situation, an ounce of disclosure would have been worth a ton of legal fees.

The common sense standard for disclosure is simple: Disclose everything you know that could be of concern to a buyer. You can be sued for what you don't disclose, but you can never be sued for what you disclose.

As for odors, nothing less than full disclosure makes any sense for a home inspector. Should an inspector say nothing if he smells gas, mustiness, raw sewage, a dead animal, or smoldering? Odors are often the clues home inspectors need to discover significant defects in plumbing systems, gas piping, combustion appliances, site drainage, or other areas of safety and importance.

Always remember the two reasons for full disclosure: It protects you from liability, and it's the right thing to do.

Q. I'm doing a science fair project on dryer lint to determine if it works as insulation. So far, my research indicates it does. What do you think?

A. Any dry, fibrous material can be used as insulation, including dryer lint. The main criteria for insulation is that it contains trapped air.

However, some people make the mistake of terminating their clothes dryer exhaust duct in their attic, believing this will gradually increase the amount of insulation in their home. The problem with that practice is that clothes dryer exhaust also contains steam, and moisture condensation in an attic can damage the framing and promote the growth of mold. So be sure to limit your research to the science fair project.

• Email questions to Barry Stone through his website, housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

Action Coast Publishing

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