I just read your article while doing some research on who can be held liable (e.g. property listing agent and/or seller) in the sale of a home in which an updated master bath completed months before the home was placed on the market now has water leakage from the shower area.
I have purchased such a home and now have a complete mess on my hands because of the inferior work done by the owner/seller’s boyfriend.
I did have a home inspection done and specifically asked the inspector about the master bath shower. He said nothing negative about it and noted that it was okay in his report.
Closer to closing, I did question why the new walk-in shower was not being used, as that was something I noticed when I was there on three or four separate occasions. I was told no one used it “to keep it clean for when I moved in.”
I went a step further to ask the listing agent for something in writing stating everything was working properly and there were no issues with the new shower. The listing agent then came back with a different response: The owners were using the shower and there were no issues at all. She apologized that she had been mistaken on her initial reply. She texted this information to me.
I raised the question once again, prior to closing with my real estate attorney and he stated that if an issue arose after closing, I had recourse — specifically under Section 23 of the real estate contract. I went ahead with the closing.
Not later than 30 days after moving in and using the new shower on a regular basis, a waterline appears on the first floor ceiling just at the spot of the newly installed shower area!
Bottom line: No application for permits was completed. No inspections were done. No contractors were used. All modifications to the home (I subsequently found out there were more) were completed by the boyfriend.
After hiring a licensed plumber to evaluate the leak, the entire new walk-in shower area needs to come out, be inspected and be brought up to all applicable codes. The estimated cost is between $10,000 and $12,000, and possibly more, depending on what they find after opening up the walls and evaluating all the work.
Being a survivor of a rare form of blood cancer that is currently in remission but that forced me into retirement on SSDI due to the harsh chemo and stem cell transplant, I cannot begin to afford to address the fix for this issue. Stress is my biggest enemy in trying to remain in remission. This unbelievable situation leaves me with a stress level hard to keep in check.
When one just wants a place to call home, have some sense of independence and normalcy, and be close to their specialist for ongoing medical issues, an event like this can almost break one’s spirit.
I find it extremely disheartening that there appear to be no real remedies other than a civil suit against the seller who now, by the way, lives in another state. And, in order to file suit, attorneys require retainers (again $5,000 for a retainer is not an option), and if a judgment is awarded, collecting on it is yet another hurdle to overcome.
I believe the listing agent had full knowledge of this illegal rehab and in fact went so far as to “stage” the property. I realize this is the latest and greatest in marketing properties to sell, but it’s also being used as a cover-up of potential or not-so-obvious looming issues.
Here’s my question: Can a listing agent and the firm she represents be sued for covering up problems in the home?
The other disheartening aspect of this is the lack of our society’s moral and ethical compass. And the irony in all of this is when I began to meet my new neighbors, I was told by one that I was the envy of the block because of the updated master bath area. I wonder if they envy me now. Some were well aware that this work was being done without permits and inspections and no one thought it their responsibility to make a call or even say something to their good friend and neighbor. How pathetic.
Thanks for allowing me an opportunity to tell my story, and if you have any insight or information that might be of help, I would welcome it with open arms.
We are so sorry that you have to go through all of this while you are in remission from a serious form of cancer.
While it would be nice to know that you are protected on a home purchase by taking every precaution and asking every pertinent question, the truth is that people are not always honest and ethical. The word that comes to mind in your case is “fraud.”
You can certainly sue the real estate company if you know that your agent knew, or is likely to have known, that there was a problem with the shower. If she changed her story to cover up the problem, that’s awful and possibly illegal. You may want to sit down with the managing broker for the real estate firm and discuss the situation. It’s possible that the firm might want to settle the case and may offer to help you out financially in exchange for not filing a lawsuit. But the key here is whether the agent knew about these problems and didn’t tell the truth when asked. That may be something hard to prove.
If they do not want to be reasonable, then you will need to consult a lawyer, who can advise you on your options with regard to suing the real estate agency.
We understand that it’s expensive to engage a lawyer and that many attorneys in this situation would not want to work on a contingency, in which you pay them a percentage of the case proceeds if you win. If you truly cannot afford a lawyer and cannot get any advice from a local Legal Aid clinic, then you can try to file papers yourself and sue the seller and perhaps the broker in small-claims court.
Most states have seller disclosure laws. These laws require the seller to give you a form outlining items that they know to be a problem with the home. Those same seller disclosure laws provide some relief for buyers who have purchased homes from sellers who have failed to disclose items or intentionally lied to purchases. That relief may come in having the seller pay for the damage as well as your attorney’s fees.
You’re right that it could be hard to collect from an out-of-state seller, but if the seller has assets, it might be worth it. If the seller sold the home, came out with nothing and doesn’t have much to his or her name, you might not want to spend the money pursuing a claim against the seller.
Regardless, each of these options will carry a specific amount of stress, and if that’s what you need to avoid in order not to get sick, then perhaps you will be better off simply paying to have the problem fixed or not using that shower until you’ve scraped together enough cash to do the work.
Good luck, and let us know what happens.
Ilyce Glink is the creator of an 18-part webinar and e-book series called “The Intentional Investor: How to Be Wildly Successful in Real Estate,” as well as the author of many books on real estate. She also hosts the “Real Estate Minute” on her YouTube channel. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact Ilyce and Sam through her Web site, ThinkGlink.com.
Catch up on some of Ilyce and Sam’s previous columns: