QDEAR BARRY: When we bought our house eight months ago, we asked the inspector for his opinion regarding rust at the base of the bathtub. He said this was caused by water dripping from the shower curtain. This week we learned otherwise. While we were remodeling the master bedroom, we discovered moisture on the wall opposite the tub. Upon further investigation we found leakage beneath the tub. We also have learned from the neighbor that the seller had previous leaking in this area, once causing flooding of the house. The warranty company refuses to repair the problem. Who is responsible for this mess? -- Nicole

ADEAR NICOLE: More than one person may have liability for your predicament. It sounds as if your inspector made a faulty judgment in assuming that the cause of the rust damage was water dripping from the shower curtain. This opinion may or may not have been justified, depending on what evidence was apparent then. On the other hand, careful scrutiny of the area might have led to a more accurate conclusion.

The sellers had a responsibility to disclose past flooding. However, they may have thought that problems, having been corrected, no longer warranted disclosure. This is an error made by many sellers, sometimes resulting in serious conflicts after the sale of a home.

At this point, it may be possible to get the inspector or the sellers to take responsibility, but this is not a clear-cut situation. The leaking is a long-standing condition, not a new one, and from that perspective it would seem reasonable for the sellers to share in the repair costs. You can try to negotiate a settlement or test the matter in small-claims court.

DEAR BARRY: When the buyers of our house hired a home inspector, our agent insisted that we not be home during the inspection. We had wanted to be there to point out some issues to the buyers and to comment on conditions found by the inspector. Somehow, this seemed to be an unreasonable requirement, and we want to know why this was necessary. After all, it's our house. Please let us know your thoughts. -- George

DEAR GEORGE: For openers, it is neither necessary nor required that sellers vacate during a home inspection. However, agents often ask that sellers not be present. They do this to enable buyers and inspectors to speak freely about the condition of the property.

Additionally, agents try to avoid direct encounters between buyers and sellers, fearing the possibility of disagreements or emotional exchanges that might jeopardize the sale. Nonetheless, it is your right to be in your own home.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

Distributed by Access Media Group