QDEAR BARRY: The house next door has a central-heating system that is noisy at the roof vent. It's not so bad during the day, but at night it wakes everyone in my home. Recently, the house was listed for sale, so I wrote a letter to the agent and informed her of the problem, hoping that someone would have it fixed. She acknowledged receipt, but nothing more was said. After the house sold, I spoke to the new owner. She said the agent had never mentioned the noisy heater vent. How could the agent have failed to disclose this after receiving my letter? -- Mike

ADEAR MIKE: Agents and sellers are required to disclose any conditions that could concern a buyer or that could hurt a buyer in any way. The agent who received your complaint, but failed to disclose it to the buyer, violated that requirement.

This omission was foolish and unethical because it subjects the parties to the transaction to potential liability. For all the agent knows, you might be inclined to litigate the matter or to be unpleasant in any number of ways, thereby subjecting the new owner (and the agent) to problems. Yet it appears she chose to withhold the information.

The agent has certainly earned a complaint to the state licensing agency. Setting that matter aside, however, the simplest solution to the entire matter may be to share the furnace repair costs with your new neighbor. That would eliminate a problem for both parties and establish friendly relations.

DEAR BARRY: We recently bought a house after having it inspected. The first week, we had problems with the heating and air-conditioning system. An inspector from the home-warranty company told us that the system was mismatched -- the outside unit was too large for the inside one. When our home inspector looked at the system, he said the outside unit was malfunctioning but did not mention the mismatch of the components. Now he says that home inspectors do not determine whether these fixtures match, that his job is to identify functional defects only. Is what he says true, or is he liable for replacing the system? -- Douglas

DEAR DOUGLAS: Home inspectors identify and report operational defects and physical damage when inspecting heating and cooling systems. Recognizing when exterior compressors are not matched with main air units requires a higher degree of familiarity with such systems than is common for home inspectors.

Overriding this issue, however, is that your home inspector discovered a malfunctioning compressor. That was a serious disclosure that warranted further evaluation by a licensed heating and air conditioning contractor before you bought the home. If that had been done, the mismatched units would have been discovered before you bought the property, and the seller might have been persuaded to pay for repairs. A determination of home inspector liability would depend upon whether he recommended that repairs be done before the close of escrow.

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 Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

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