Is Full Disclosure Required for a House Fire?

ntl1991January 26, 2011

Hello. I live in Rhode Island and purchased my 1948 Colonial-Style 3-Family in 1997. While n the process of renovating 2 kitchens (1st and 2nd floor) and 3 bathrooms, and separating the hot water for each floor, I had to have new hot/cold water lines sent to the 3rd floor. After the contractor was all done, he told me that he found some evidence of fire damage while running the copper lines. He said there wasn't any damage to structure or anything like that.

It seems like a bunch of seemingly-random observations are coming together. The house is sided with white vinyl siding. If you look at the back of the house, the siding around the stove area and kitchen cabinets on the 3rd floor, and a little into the 2nd floor has newer siding (it's a different color). Also, the original baseboard trim is missing from the wall behind the stove, and the original casing is missing from the window over the kitchen sink. Also, the kitchen walls are 1940's-tiled, but the wall behind the stove has no tile on it. On top of that, the kitchen cabinets on the 1st and 2nd floor were original, while the cabinets on the 3rd floor were newer (early 90's-ish) wood models, along with the same era fixtures. The 1st and 2nd floor also had original tile backslashes, where the 3rd floor is just painted drywall. On top of this, the 3rd floor kitchen has wires sent up on the outside of the house, whereas all the other rooms have their wires in the walls.

I'm guessing there was a stove-fire that spread a bit into the rest of the kitchen. When I purchased the house, there was no disclosure of a fire, or anything at all, for that matter. I'm not really worried about structural problems or anything like that, as I've had the house for 14 years without running into any problems, but shouldn't sellers be required to disclose this information? I haven't fully renovated the 3rd floor kitchen because it was newer with the cabinets and all, but when I do eventually renovate it (stripping it to the studs like the kitchens and baths), do I have to eat the cost of replacing things that were fire damaged?

I'm going to be visiting the town hall to see if any permits were taken out to repair fire damage. Are house fires recorded by the city or fire department? Would insurance companies have this info on file? I'd like to confirm what actually happened.



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Do you have the disclosure form from the sale? Does your state form have a section for fire damage?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 8:58PM
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Yes, I have the disclosure form, and their is a section for Fire damage, but no fire history is listed.

I've done a bit of research, and it seems that the RI State Fire Marshall keeps the records on fires and "all the facts concerning the investigated fires, and all reports of the investigations as the fire marshal may cause to be made, including statistics as to the extent of the fires and damage caused thereby, and whether the losses were covered by insurance, and, if so, in what amount."

I think that information will provide a little insight about what happened up there. Once I have dates and info like that, I can check for permits at the city hall.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 9:29PM
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Couldn't the fire go back to the third (or fourth) people who owned the house and never been disclosed, so that the people you bought it from never knew about it at all, or else just forgot about it (a one time event) when disclosing things to you?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 6:16AM
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Were disclosure laws in effect 14 years ago in your state?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 9:57AM
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"I'm not really worried about structural problems or anything like that, as I've had the house for 14 years without running into any problems..."

Why would you even care?
If it was completely repaired and has not been an issue it is pretty moot.

Youre area may not have even had disclosure laws 14 years ago and it sure sounds like the fire was longer than that.

How many times has the house changed hands since it was built?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 10:22AM
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After 14 years you are likely way past the statute of limitations even if you could have originally gone after them.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 2:00PM
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You've had the house for 14 years without problems.

I see no need to waste my time researching something like that... but hey, it's YOUR time and effort, not mine!

And if you find out there was a fire 20 or 30 or more years ago... what?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 2:20PM
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