Who Is Responsible? - Old House with Big Problems

clover8October 20, 2008


I purchased a home this past July in Rhode Island. Let me state that it is an old home, almost 100 years old, and I had all the inspections done before purchasing. This house was not a foreclosure or sold "as is".

Despite all the repairs that needed to be done (drafty windows, no insulation, partial inaccesible crawlspace, etc.) to the house, I decided to purchase the home. I was very pleased to see the seller had installed a brand new furnace. The inspector checked it and of course, it worked perfectly.

Last week, I had a chimney specialist come out to check both chimneys for cleaning since we hope to start up our woodstove for heat. One chimney has a woodstove insert, and the other chimney is used for venting the flue gases from the furnace in the basement.

On the seller's disclosure, he stated that there was one (1) chimney working and that a liner had been installed in 2001. On the assumption that a liner had been installed, it leads one to believe it was done right, right?

My chimney technician told me that the chimney with the wood stove was not up to code because the liner had not been installed up to the flue tile. He told me it was unsafe to use the woodstove. I was upset when he told me this because we are relying on that woodstove as our main heat source. Ok, so I thought that was the end of it.

Next, my chimney technician inspects the furnace flue and upon removing the duct work that is attached to the new furnace, finds that the entire opening (about 1 ft in diameter) is jammed packed with debris. Not just any debris, but a combination of sawdust, large rocks, soil, etc. He took pictures, and said he had never seen anything like this before. He then thought it was a collapse in the liner and went to the roof to look down the chimney. He put the rod all the way through, so there were no obstructions, but discovered that THAT liner had been improperly installed, and the flue gases (carbon monoxide) were backing up into the basement and kitchen right above the furnace (through an opening in the floor behind the stove for the gas line from the crawlspace).

After cleaning out the debris by hand and half filling a 5 gallon bucket with this stuff, he could see clearly in the duct work. There was no collapse of the masonry, so the mystery is how that debris got there in the first place. It was located in the right angle part of the flue, so even if someone were to pour down the chimney, it would go straight down. But, this wasn't the case because the debris was in the duct work perpendicular to the chimney. Also, he said that the chimney soot on the top of the chimney had creosote, but the debris he pulled out didn't! He said it looked like sawdust and didn't have any creosote. The carbon monoxide detector went off in the basement (I didn't have one there previously) - evidence of flue backup gases. The CO detector also went off in the kitchen as well. To say I was shocked and disturbed is an understatement.

I called the furnace company who installed the furnace in Feb. of 2008 and asked if they saw any of the blocked passage - thinking they must have certainly checked the duct work before installing the furnace. The company said their only responsibility was installing the furnace up to the wall, that was it. My chimney technician said that's a bunch of bull, they should have checked.

The furnace company was very familiar with this house, having serviced it for over 30 yrs. I can't imagine they didn't know about the liner condition. But, maybe they didn't. They were also good friends with the seller.

So, my question is - who is responsible for that? My technician was so concerned he is putting this work ahead of their 1 month backlog because of the CO danger. I'm trying not to use the furnace that much (steam heat, but won't put it on so I don't create more fumes). I can't heat with my woodstove because THAT liner is not up to code. Estimates on the furnace flue liner start at $3,000 (about $100 per foot - steel). I'm outraged that this is happening and would be so grateful for any advice on this.

Just to note, I told my buyer's agent about this, and she said that I can't do anything because the house had to pass a CO test in order to close, so in her estimation, it did. I reminded her that the CO tests were done during early July - when the furnace was not in use, plus the fact that the owner had the house on the market and it was vacant for nearly a year, so even if the furnace was used occasionally for hot water, flue gases from that were minimal. And, therefore, there may not have been an indication of a CO problem at the time.

One more thing...at the closing, the seller's ex-wife represented him as power of attorney. She was very obnoxious and rude, to the point of my attorney asking her to stop her rude comments. She threw her driver's license at him when it came time for him to collect our licenses. This is a grown 50-something year old woman. She talked about her doctor husband and the 4 other properties they owned. Her misery was in part to having to bring $15K to the table. Anyways, the point is, she appeared very vindictive talking about her ex-husband and this house. Not to say she would damage the house in spite, but it makes me wonder especially when the technician indicated that it looked like the debris in the furnace had been manually put in.

Please help me. I'm a first time home-owner and love this house. Despite the number of "surprises" that I have found and swallowed the pill on (3 leaky, cracked pipes - kitchen & 2 bathrooms), this issue I something that I can't accept without a fight.

I don't know what my rights are, if any, at this point, but hope someone out there can start me in the right direction. I did waive chimney inspections before purchasing, however, I did it because (1) the seller had stated that a new chimney liner - assuming for the woodstove - was put in in 2001, and normally presuming it was done correctly and (2) a new furnace was in place, therefore I thought the furnace company would have surely checked to make the flue was safe. My assumptions of the above were based on good faith of seller disclosure.

Thank you in advance for any comments or advice. I also posted this on the Buying and Selling Board. Thank you.

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I wish I could offer you some advice. However, I am in NY and we don't have seller's disclosure's here.

I wish we did! I just wanted to say that I feel for you! We also have an old house and had some issues that were not visible until after we owned the house for a couple months. Please just stick with it! It will be hard, but worth it! We also found some pipe issues. those are easy to fix, you just need to take your time.

The inspector should have checked that your furnace was venting correctly. Do you have a report indicating that? I know that is something they will check here. They start the furnace, make sure it is working and check the venting. If your furnace was checked like this you may be able to go back to the inspector and have HIM (or her) pay for the furnace flue repair. Our inspector had a guarantee. If anything they checked and said was ok, broke within 6months the inspection company would pay for that to be fixed.

as far as disclosure statements, I assume that these are a contract and you could sue the PO for the cost of repairs. However, They never said the flue was installed correctly. They could easily state that someone put in the liner for them and they are shocked it is not installed correctly. They could say something similar about the furnace. I think (sorry) that because it was not checked prior to you closing on the house that you have to eat the repair cost.

Adding a chimney liner is not difficult work. I wold have someone come out and do that. (the 3000 estimate seems high, but you are in a different state) You can put the new one in , after verification, pictures or maybe a written account of the old, badly placed liner. We had a chimney mason come out and look at our chimney before purchasing the house. They were able to verify that everything was ok. Once again, if you had this done you should call that person.
best of luck!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 9:00AM
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My understanding is you will have to proove they new about the existing conditions to proove they should have been disclosed.

You should consult your attorney to see if you have any recourse.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 9:08AM
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What a mess. Then again, welcome to the Olde Home club! By waiving inspection of the chimneys, you have probably forfeited any right to comeback at this point and I doubt very much if a responsible atty would take such a case (and leave you still standing afterward). I've had similar situations in the past and have had to eat the costs. The seller's ex does sound like a monster, and possibly did wreck the chimney, but you can't prove it at this point I imagine and she's not going to pay for it. Where is the seller himself though? You might try just appealing to him, though again I would be very pessimistic about getting anywhere with him. Disclosure forms are paper, and sometimes worth exactly that, especially if an issue has not been directly addressed on them, and the sellers did not outright lie. Don't know where the inspector's responsibility comes into all of it, but you could always ask about that. It all sounds very familiar though and just one of those nice surprises you get in an old place. My disclosure form did say there had been a problem with the roof, but the seller told me in person there had been a leak in one place that had been fixed. Turned out there were many leaks, the 'fix' was good for about 5 mins, and I had to pay a lot for a new roof... but because they had said on the form that they were aware of the 'problem' (regardless of what they then told me in person) I had no recourse.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 9:39AM
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I'm sorry you are having such issues. I do not understand however, why you would decline a chimney inspection (especially if you were considering using a fireplace) when you planned on having it done anyway at the start of the heating season and paying for it yourself.

I does look like all the appropriate inspections had been done, and you would have expected to not have a problem. But, if you are getting positive CO measurements now, then I would not have settled on a blow-off from a realtor that the house "must have passed" a CO inspection. That's called CYA, because sometimes realtors get pulled into lawsuits. You got a NON ANSWER. If it was required by law in your state, you have a RIGHT to see that inspection and the signature on it. Not a blow-off.

BTW, if you have a more modern furnace unit, why don't you explore the possibility of venting it directly through the house foundation? High efficiency units usually can be.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 11:07AM
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Thank you all so much for your responses and your understanding. I truly appreciate it.

I guess I'll have to eat this expense too. I've learned a very important lesson - get ALL inspections done on a house possible and bring all professional experts of the major systems - electrical, plumbing, and heating - in that you know of - before you close.

Like all of you here, this house really "spoke" to me. I admit, I did fall in love with it. I had been looking for over 2 years at houses, and when I saw this one, I knew it was for me. I guess it's a blessing in disguise, despite all these major expenses (even though I'm going broke trying to keep my head above water with it all) because I'm very happy here.

My neighbors have been wonderful too. One neighbor, dropped off a note and homemade jam in my mailbox. Turns out, she grew up in this house. She is 70 and invited me over to tell me stories about the house. I feel lucky to have this living legend of the house I'm adoring and living in! She also included old photocopied photos of what the house looked like in 1937. It had been abandoned for 16 years before her grandfather bought it and looks completely different. Two previous houses were built on this foundation (sadly, they both burnt down), with the first one dating to the 1670s. So, quite an amazing piece of property and history.

I guess I'm lucky in that it somehow found it's way to me because I am taking really good care of it, and in turn, it's giving me some amazing experiences back.

But, that's another post! In the meantime, thank you all again for your advice and support!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 5:14PM
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I wouldn't be surprised if your high CO readings were simply caused by the debris in the flue and might come back to normal once it is cleaned and fired up again. I still think that you should have access to the required CO test results, since it was a condition of closing. There was a suit here locally where a buyer was led to believe a sewerage system was functional when it didn't exist, because a test revealed it 'probably' was. I don't know if the buyer knew it was conditional or not, so I am not passing judgment on either party. I also know of a septic system where the 'test' consisted of asking the PO if they had any problems with it, and taking their word for it. LOL.

I really admire you for seeing what you want, and going for it. All of us who own relic houses have done just that and often against good advise and never regretted it. But it's exactly how the little adage at the top of our forum puts it. "Old houses mended, cost little less than new before they're ended." - Colley Cibber

There will never be enough inspections to ever clear an old home of risk. To do so, you'd have to literally tear it apart and inspect from the inside out and into the spaces in the walls. That's why I've always shied away from paying 'new house' prices for vintage homes, no matter how charming they are. It's a given that most of them have been cobbled up and covered up somewhere along the line, until people like you.......or us........have bit the bullet and put our money where our mouths are. My husband and I could have purchased a grand new house for how much money we have invested in our ancient one. But, we are the envy of a lot of our friends who did that. And we are mortgage free, because we were able to fix our old home up as we had the capital, through the years instead of doing it on credit. Safety first, and as much comfort as you can afford, then on to the eye candy later.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2008 at 1:47PM
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Have you gotten an estimate yet to fix the problem? I would suggest you send an estimate to both the heating company and the sellers, and ask them to "make a suggestion how the cost should be divided, because it would cost many times the estimate cost to resolve the issue through litigation for failure to disclose" and see what they say. They might at least chip in a few hundred dollars! You never know until you ask.

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 10:22PM
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Thanks everyone for your opinions and questions. This post is LONG, but if I can help someone out there learn from my very expensive lessons, it's worth the read. If you are in the market to buy a home, please read this. Below are my answers to some of the comments to the original post (I also posted this on the 'Buying & Selling' forum):

Ikplatow & Sautesmom: My quote just came in the mail today for the double wall insulated liner - cost: $2,214.61. It includes the liner, storm collar, and rain cap. The quote for the woodstove insert installation & bringing that chimney up to code to for the woodstove is: $1,719.68. (Again, this does NOT include a woodstove).

Logic: This inspector was recommended to me by my buyer's agent. She has used him in the past, and really trusted him. She also said that he is part of the ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) and since RI doesn't require a license to be a HI, being part of that organization was a bonus. So, I went with him.

I didn't check his references. I should have, but I trusted he was responsible. As far as the report, it's a boiler plate report. VERY general. The only recommendation that was worth anything was getting the upstairs bathroom tub drainage pipe realigned, since it wasn't positioned down, and drainage was painfully slow in the tub.

Funny thing is, when this was brought up to the Seller as a negotiation point, he said he'd take care of the problem himself. Well, after a few days, and messing around with it, my realtor informed me he changed his mind, and for me to go ahead with getting a plumbing professional quote. He probably saw all the work that needed to be done, or had someone look at it and told him it was a wreck, and decided to leave it alone. Except for the massive amounts of caulking he put down the drain (still don't know why) to help remedy the problem.

Yes, I understand now that I should have had chimney inspections done, as well as the mold checked. I took what was listed on the Seller's disclosure as not the red flags it should have been. In addition, a few friends of mine who saw the house with me before I bought it, told me that the "odor" was probably due to pet odors, as previously mentioned by my buyer's agent. They said that all I would have to do is get the hardwoods sanded and poly'd and I'd be fine.

The first thing I did before I moved in, was - you guessed it - had the hardwoods sanded & poly'd. $1500 later, the moldy, musky smell was still there.

The cracked pipe in the kitchen was NOT obscured by anything. It was an empty under-the-cabinet space. I guess he didn't put his flashlight on the pipe to see it. I didn't know that, I assumed - again - that the HI looked at it. Nope.

Same deal with the knob & tube. Not obscured by anything. The first thing my electrician did when he came in my house was say "how the hell did the inspector miss this???". Plus, another tell tale sign that you've got K&T is by the light switches themselves (which I didn't know at the time). The "clicks" of the switches when you turn them on and off require more effort to push and make a clicking noise, unlike the updated ones. My electrician said that's a dead give-away. Even if my inspector didn't see it, could he have not at least informed me of the possibility that the old house had knob-and-tube wiring? I didn't even know what K&T was until my electrician told me. The things I know now that I wish I knew only 4 months ago...

As far as speaking with the HI, I have not yet. I will tomorrow. And there is a reason why. I have taken pictures of everything, just to get several opinions to make sure I wasn't biased and for them to see for themselves what the extent of the problems are. I have been keeping my real estate agent who sold me the house up-to-date on everything. I don't think she quite believed me until I had her over today and showed her the house. She was shocked. I sat down with her and showed her the pictures I took, and again, she was shocked and kept shaking her head in disbelief. She agreed that the K&T and the crack in the kitchen pipe should have been caught.

Before I called the HI, I just wanted to make sure I was in the correct perspective on all of this, and she confirmed that I was. So, I'll make the call tomorrow and ask him some questions.

In the inspection report, as far as liability, it states:
"Inspector's Liability for mistakes or omissions in this inspection report is limited to a refund of the fee paid for this inspection and report." So, I'm going to try and get my $750 of the inspection fee back.

And no, he did not supply me with a copy of the inspection agreement before the inspection. I didn't know he had to or else I would have asked. Again, I bought this house alone, with no family around to help me work this out, so I didn't know any better at the time.

Just to give you an idea of how lacking this Seller (the doctor) was in terms of his house (and living in it with 4 children), neighbors came over after I moved in to introduce themselves, and offered their help. They told me the previous owner was very neglectful of the property, and that several neighbors complained to him about the foul stench from the raw sewage leaking out onto the street from a pipe in his yard. He had a cesspool up until 2 years ago. Well, the neighbors had to ask him 3 times, with the final time threatening to call the Health Department about this, in order for him to do something. At that time, he finally got a septic system in place of the leaky cesspool. That's just one example of many that I've heard. I won't bore you with the rest.

Mariend: I'm just went to the town hall today to see if the chimney liner that the Seller claimed as being installed in 2001, had a permit pulled on it. In RI, a permit MUST be in place to install a chimney liner. Guess what? NO permit was pulled.

The chimney company that came out last week seems on the up-and-up. I checked references on them, and also checked their website to see what professional and ethical organizations they belong to. The tech also states that they have to pull a permit on any chimney work they do. So, they are accountable to do the work correctly. Even the town hall permitting staff had nothing to say but great things about this chimney company.

As far as the blockage in the furnace flue, my realtor that came over today to see all the problems stated that the oil company who installed it (who she highly recommended to me) most likely saw the problem, reported it to the Seller, and told them they would have to have a chimney liner put in. Given the cost of chimney liners, it leads one to believe the Seller looked the other way, and hoped to sell it before anyone noticed.

I feel confident that after today having my real estate agent over to see all these things, all my documentation, pictures, quotes, etc. I can reasonably ask the HI for my fee back. That's the only thing I can do at this point.

I've also called the oil company who installed the furnace, to speak with the gentleman who personally installed the furnace. All the other times I've called (before the discovery of this problem) he was happy to call me back, and even came over on a Saturday morning to explain how my steam system worked. He has been servicing this house for 30 years. It wasn't until I called and told the secretary today that digital pictures were taken by the chimney company about this problem, did she put me on hold, and came back to tell me they would be out to my house first thing in the morning. Guess that got their attention.

As a side note: the chimney company said this is probably one of the worst cases they've seen of this blockage and they have over 20 digital pictures they took last Wed. when they came out. One of the staff I spoke with said their company has seen this before, and new homeowners were able to report this and get reimbursement from the Seller. She assured me that their company would back me up 100%. She also emphasized to please use the furnace as little as possible until they come out to do the work. Hard to do with needing hot water for bathing. I now sponge bath and take a quick shower every other day, and use my electric space heater at night for an hour for heat. The chimney company is even willing to help me with financing this since I don't have the nearly $4,000 that this is going to cost.

I have an appointment with my lawyer tomorrow to inform everyone involved about this litigation. I'll keep you all posted.

Well, I've written a book. In the very least, I hope someone reads all of this, and learns from my mistakes.

Thank you all again for your help/advice/comments. It is very well appreciated.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2008 at 11:57PM
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I feel for you because we went through something similar in a home we bought in Houston. I learned one very big lesson: NEVER use an inspector suggested by the realtor!
They are self-serving and work together to get houses sold.

Whatever you do, don't wait long. If you do need to seek a legal remedy, don't let the statute of limitations expire and don't let your lawyer drag his feet. Our lawyer waited too long, and we ended up having to sue him, instead. I hope you can get your problem solved.

If any repairs need to be made, be sure they are done satisfactorily before you close the deal. Our seller left money in escrow to repair the foundation, we closed on the house, and after the sale, the foundation contractor destroyed our brick fireplace/chimney. Our lawyer dilly-dallied, and the foundation contractor disappeared. We ended up having to sell the house "as is."

The inspector recommended by the realtor failed to adequately inspect the septic system. It turns out it could never be fixed, because there wasn't enough land for a septic system to work properly.

This house was a white elephant until the bitter end, when we ended up giving it away.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 12:40AM
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If you planned on using the chimneys in an old house for wood burning you should by all means have had a seperate inspection done by a professional chimney sweep who is qualified at also doing inspections. The better ones have a camera that allows them to see the entire chimney top to bottom. If that were done you wouldn't be creating this post now. Oh well,,hindsight!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 9:17PM
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Using the buyer's inspector for your house is kind of like using your husband's attorney for your divorce... betcha won't do that again :-).

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 6:08AM
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Mr.Havac: Yes, you are right. I regret not having the chimney's inspected, I really do. But, on the Seller's disclosure for the fireplace, the Seller clearly wrote that the entire chimney was relined in 2001. I assumed (we all know what that makes me) that since the chimney liner was only 7 years old, it was fine.


I went to the town hall and a permit was never pulled for one, and the chimney inspector I had over here 2 weeks ago saw with the camera that there was none.

So, although I regret not having it inspected, I feel that the Seller did mislead me by lying on the Seller's disclosure.

Yesterday, boyfriend and I got to the task of pulling out the old wood stove. It was easy since there was no flue. We just pulled it out. The mess we found was disgusting. We found pink insulation all around the fireplace, which was charred and covered in ashes and leaves and debris. And sadly, we found 4 deceased squirrels and 1 deceased bird. The previous owners never had a chimney cap. Aside from that I found a nickel dated back to 1946.

We vacummed the entire inside of the hearth. Aside from it having creosote buildup, it's looks ok.

My chimney sweep quy is coming over in 2 weeks to clean it, install a UL stainless steel liner with storm collar and chimney cap. We've run out of money to get a woodstove, but at least it will be up to code when we finally get one.

Lucy: And yes, I agree with you 100%. I will never make that mistake again of going with my realtor's inspector friend to do the home inspection. It was an expensive lesson, for sure, but I'll never, ever make that mistake twice.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 7:57AM
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Buyer stated chimeny was relined and there was no liner? That's grounds for the buyer to have to pay for the new liner.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 8:45AM
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"Buyer stated chimeny was relined and there was no liner? That's grounds for the buyer to have to pay for the new liner."

Cost of lawyer vs. cost of liner.

Most RE disclosure laws are actually pretty toothless since the only way to recover $$ is to proceed to court.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 8:50AM
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You are right. I've consulted a few lawyers on this already and they said the same thing. I do have a case, but in terms of recouping my cost for lawyers fees AND for the repair, it is unlikely.

Its a shame buyers are forced into this position. So, basically a Seller can write anything he/she wants on the "Disclosure" and know they can get away with it because the chances of it being brought to court are unlikely due to prohibitive court costs.

Very sad and unfair.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 10:24PM
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Why don't you sue them in small claims then? All you will need is the contract and to pay a chimney repair expect to come testify to the fact that there is no liner and as to how much it would cost to put in a liner per the description in your contract. It would be over and done with in a few weeks, no lawyer fees involved.

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 4:58PM
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You might consider calling the regulatory agency in charge of overseeing seller disclosures and just talking it over with them. In my state it is the Attorney General. I think most seller disclosures are probably wording that "to the best of the seller's knowledge...." For example, we have an asbestos disclosure in my state, but if the previous owner does not have personal concrete info. that there is asbestos, they are not required to disclose. As a lay person, they are not experts.

That said, don't let this detract from how much you love your house. Look at it this way....you can fix this the correct way and know that it was done right.

My seller ripped out the entire security system between final inspection & closing. When I told my agent about it she gave me some lame talk too. They don't want to be bothered. They have their money.

If there is a just God in heaven....your seller's furnace in their new house will mysteriously turn off the day before relatives come for the holidays :-)

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 5:27PM
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Sautesmom: Thank you for the suggestion. I didn't even think of that! I've never done this before, but I will certainly pursue this avenue.

It is certainly going to create some waves in this small town. When I went to see if a permit was ever pulled for the installation of the new furnace that the Seller had installed a few months (Feb. 2008) before he put it on the market, the town said "no". When I told them about my ordeal with the chimney flue, showed them the digital photos and the photos the chimney company took, they told me (this was last week) that they would have to condemn my own house!

I was in tears at the town hall when they said this, and told them I have no other place to go, and that the chimney people did scrape out all the debris, enough to start letting the flue gases escape. The chimney company said this would be sufficient until they got out here on Nov. 13th to put in the new liner.

So, I asked the building inspector to please come to my house and see that I was ok, and not to throw me out. Long story short, he did, and saw that the debris was scraped out. And therefore, that's why I'm still here.

The town did call the chimney company to make sure that I am getting the work done on the 13th, and they will be sending out the town inspector again to make sure its fine.

Since then, I've talked with the chimney company and they seem very distant in talking about my situation, and tight lipped. Before all this, they said, "we've had this happen to many new homeowners and helped them out." Now, it's "good luck". I hope they will agree to appear in court if I ask to pay them.

If not, I do have all their documentation, diagnosis, and pictures they took of both chimneys. Now, the town is involved and I think they are scared that they will get fined. They did say that the furnace company could easily get their license suspended since they never pulled a permit.

I'm not looking for trouble, or get anyone in trouble. But, I'm also paying now $4,000 for other peoples mistakes: the furnace company, the Town, and the Seller. I'm sure I won't be popular around here if/when this goes down, because it seems as if they are all friends, but I also can't be paying for others mistakes.

Suzyq2: I just downloaded all the information from my Attorny Generals website in order to make a claim. I will absolutely do that tomorrow. Thank you so much for the suggestion.

I'm so sorry the seller did that to you! Wow, I guess this craziness does happen to others. My realtor had the same reaction. It is so unfair.

And yes, I'm hoping karmic payback comes back around to hit the Seller. He is a very wealthy and prominent doctor in New England with 4 other properties in the state. It blows my mind that he could be so careless about this. But my neighbors did tell me that he also didn't change his leaky cesspool until the neighbors asked him 3 times and threatened to call the Department of Health. The raw discharge was creating a huge (literal) stink in the neighborhood and coming out a pipe from the house onto the street. It is beyond me how he could ignore this until forced to do something. He had 4 children living in this house. For their health - at least - he should have been more proactive. He just got the new septic system in last year after 17 years of living here. Unbelievable.

Well, I thank you both very much for your great suggestions, advice, and support. I will post back to let you know how I'm proceeding with them.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 9:20PM
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Just keep in mind that even after winning in court you have to get payment.

If your time is free, you can try and explore small claims. Make sure you can get the work done for the small claims limit, and be prepared to have a hard time collecting.

It often takes another legal go round to attach something the person has if they refuse to pay.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 7:20PM
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Sorry to hear of your troubles. I'm not sure who over sees real estate transactions in your state or if you have a real estate commission or not. My state does and I'm under the impression that when a real estate agent takes down the conditions of the home, usually in the form of a disclosure statement, that they also take some responsibility. At least when things go wrong as soon as you move in. Your home was almost condemned shortly after your purchase. The way the real estate commission here works is that if something goes really wrong, and if the agent's ignorance was legally the fault, they pay the claim instead of you needing to hire a lawyer to go to court. I'm not saying agent was at fault because I don't know what their responsibility is when they in turn disclose the disclosed facts about the condition of the home. I know they say you must have these inspection reports done, but I would suggest calling your state and asking. It is surprising that since you bothered to pay a buyer's agent and she was made aware of what happened to you that she did not forward you to the proper authorities herself.

I'm hoping a real estate agent or attorney will blend in here as I don't really know the facts of which circumstances the commission would pay someone or what the agent's responsibility is when accepting the disclosure statement.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 11:41PM
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Well, it would have to be a lawyer from Rhode Island, and since it's a very small state, the likelihood of them reading this is....?

Clover8, I did do a little research for you, and there is a legal clinic for your state, although I doubt they would cover your problem exactly. But they do have a housing section, so maybe at least if you call them they could point toward some lawyers who would have more expertice and experience than the ones you already spoke with. If you are being threatened with condemnation, that is a WHOLE different ballgame than small claims court (unless the amount to remedy is less than $2,500---and how much would just the permit cost??? If the total is less than that, then still go small claims)
And I can't imagine that your sales contract WOULDN'T include attorney fees for such a breach, so any attorney would be taking it on contingency and would get paid in the judgment, so you would have nothing to pay out of pocket.

Here is the legal aid website for housing in RI:


Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 5:11PM
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