Interesting legal problem with home defect

swampwizMarch 6, 2010

OK, here is my story. I very recently purchased an old home (via a realtor) that was renovated. The home was advertised on as, among other things, "in very good condition ... no work needed to move in". Indeed the home is properly painted, with new doors (that indeed did need some adjustment), light and fan fixtures (that had some missing ligth bulbs) with clean but distressed wood floor, etc. There is also a new bathtub (there is only one bathroom.) Imagine the horror when I tried to take my first bath in this tub and the hot water came out ... cold. The hot water was fine for the vanity sink and kitchen, so that was not the problem. On a hunch I tried out the cold water for the tub and it eventually came out ... hot. OK, the problem is diagnosed, and I can take hot baths, but obviously am not pleased that the lines to the faucets were switched.

As for what would be required to fix the problem, the home is on piers, with the bathtub against a wall, so there would only need to be a few feet of digging out the ground to get to it, with the fix being as simple as it seems - just cut the current pipes and reconnect to the other pipes. There is no need to rip out the tub.

Now I should say that I hired a home inspector (recommended by my real estate agent) who up until this incident seems to have done a spectacular job in ferreting out all the little issues (as well he should), and has been helpful in explaining what the remediation for the various issues would entail, and estimating what the cost would be. There was the major issue of water under the house that was a known problem, and I had no problem in seeing that problem as something that, although an issue, was not something that would detract from the house being in move-in condition. (As the price was really sweet, I simply added the estimated cost of fixing that issue, and indeed hired a sand pumping contractor to remedy it for the exact estimated price.) But certainly it must be said that missing the faucet issue must definitely be considered as an incident of malpractice.

For the record, the seller's disclosure statement stated that it is not known if the plumbing system has any defects. Of course, the seller did authorize some idiot plumber to install the new tub, so it would seem that the seller, through her designated assign (i.e., the plumber) did have the ability to know if there was a problem with the plumbing there (of course, this presumes that the plumber was competent) since indeed the problem here was actually introduced by the seller herself (again through her designated agent!)

So I call my real estate agent and complain about the problem. His initial assessment was that this sale was without warranty, especially since I had an inspector do the inspection, that this is really an issue with the inspector. He said that since the sellers (which is actually a corporation which seems to be run by a mother and daughter combo) are "nice people", he didn't think it would be an issue for them to fix it. Well guess what - those "nice folks" don't want to fix the problem! So my agent tells me I need to get the inspector to pay for the repair since it was his malpractice that caused this issue in the first place. Of course, he is having problems contacting the inspector. I should say that during all this time, I have been without my internet and regular telephone (which is an internet phone), and since I have a mobile phone that is pay by the time, I did not want to spend any minutes making any calls (besides, my agent has been doing all the legwork, as well he should.)

Now my position is that irregardless of the malpractice of the inspector, the seller advertized the hosue as "in very good condition ... no work needed to move in", and certainly having the bathtub faucets as reversed would not be in accord with such an advertized claim. I feel that the advertized claim is akin to the seller having made her own cursory inspection that backs up this claim, and that certianly, if there would ever be any defects that any judge or arbitration borad would consider as being contrary to that claim, that these defects would be fixed. While a door that does not fit could be in the realm of still "move in condition", certainly the reversed bathtub faucets do not! In fact it would appear to me that for the seller, in advertizing her product as such, that to not back the claim up with the actual product is de facto commiting fraud.

So I plan on writing the seller one final letter that allows her to fix the problem, with the threat of complaints to any regulatory and fraud fighting governmental organization I can think of, and if it would come to it, a small claims court suit (I would include the inspector on this suit as well.) Also, fortunately for me, since this purchase of this home is in fulfillment of the covenant I have with the Louisiana Road Home Program to replace by Hurricane Katrina destroyed home (i.e., the convenant was established as a condition to get a grant to help me purchase a replacement home, with the requirement that I purchase a home in Louisiana within a certain time frame), this issue is covered by a special fraud task force of the US Attorney's office - a task force that has been tenacious in going after ripoff contractors. My letter will detail the exact steps I will take to rectify my situation.

Now I understand that real villain here is that idiot plumber, who at the very least did not test the faucets (or perhaps did but decided to knowingly commit fraud on the seller by just letting the problem go through. Of course, the seller would have an open and shut case against this guy - but that is not my problem.

It's too bad that we are not in Southern California - this would probably make a good case for Judge Wapner or Judy or whoever, and we would all get paid to hash it out in front of the camera!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok. I assume that it is not simply a case of the faucet knobs needing to be switched? In other words, the right handle produces cold...and the left produces hot?

If not, just switch the knobs. If indeed the hot is plumbed to the cold and vice versa, do you know for certain that the plumber installed new piping, or did he just take out the old tub and replace it with a new tub?

Last but not least, was the water turned on at the time of the inspection?

What does your home inspection report state about the bath tub faucet?

More info is needed in order to offer a relevant opinion.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 5:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, the left puts out cold, the right puts out hot.

The plumber connected the bathtub to the lines. I would think that it is his job to assure that he properly hook up the lines irregardless of what is arranged there.

The home inspection had no notation about this issue.

The water was turned on, and the water heater was available to be turned on.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 5:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't think you have a case against anyone. The inspection report if you read your document usually has a disclaimer at the bottom of it that says they are not responsible for anything missed.

May I ask why you did not catch this problem yourself when inspecting the home for purchase? Did you not run the water from each faucet? You wouldn't buy a used car without making sure all the buttons worked why would you not do the same with a house?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 5:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This seems like an inconvenience, not "fraud" or "malpractice". Idiot plumber, maybe.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 7:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You are making a mountain out of a molehill. My in-laws had their kitchen lines backwards, too. And it was a house built before 1920. I have no idea how long it had been that way, but it didn't put their undies in a bunch. (I suspect my FIL replaced the faucet at some point and messed it up and was too lazy to fix it.)

You had the opportunity to try all the faucets. Evidently you didn't. It will probably end up costing you more in time and aggravation trying to figure out how many people to sue and drag through court. Get an estimate, present it to the sellers, and ask them to fix it. If they say no, then you have to decide how much effort you want to put into chasing down all those you consider responsible.

If it were my house, I would consider it to be one of the quirky things about an older house, and would make sure the faucets were prominently labeled. And if there were guests using the tub, would also TELL them that hot and cold are reversed.

A "defect" is if the roof is a sieve, or the sewer lines are backed up, or if it has aluminum wiring. This is an annoyance, not a defect.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 8:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Why does an advertisement (in my neck of the woods we don't spell it with a z, but YMMV) pop up? And what on earth do the reversed water lines have to do with your phone service??? What am I missing here?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 8:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You are making a mountain out of a molehill.

That's the understatement of the year!

Well guess what - those "nice folks" don't want to fix the problem!

I wouldn't fix it after the sale either. It is really not a "defect" but simply an annoyance as others have stated. My aunt and uncle had a faucet in their house that was "backward", and everyone just go used to it. I have stayed in hotels with reversed water lines, and believe it or not did not insist on changing rooms! Turns out that I was able to bathe just fine by turning on the right tap for hot and the left one for cold. I have suffered no ill effects.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 9:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree, much to do about nothing. It has no impact on value or usage. I would be very surprised if you found an attorney to take your case.......and then I do believe it would be thrown out of court and leave you stuck with ALL the legal fees.

All the other side would have to do is put an appraiser, plumber, and realtor on the stand (and none involved in the purchase). The appraiser would say market value not effected, plumber would testify both the hot water and cold water work properly, the lines are just crossed and the realtor or broker would give a professional opinion if the situation would be a factor in the home not selling.

If you said you got 3rd degree burns because the water temp was set too high and also on the wrong faucet, then I think people would be more inclined to agree there was cause for a case.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 10:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Maybe I'm wrong...but I think this poster can't be it a joke? Certainly no fraud here! Probably the only thing I see the OP -- if it's a serious post -- getting out of this is a refund of his inspection fee if the inspector is liable for not finding the plumbing issue.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 11:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Advertising is 'puffery' and does not normally create an actionable claim.

"Our car is the best" means nothing.

The faucet works, and while it may actually violate the plumbing code, it may have been that way for a very long time.

Most likely is that when the new fixture was installed it was hooked up exactly the same as the old fixture, preserving what may be a very old error.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 9:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

It's OK for you to stiff folks by immediately filing bankruptcy, but not OK for folks to cause you a little inconvenience via small issue inthe house you've actually managed to convince some poor schmuck to sell you. And then file bankruptcy? In what way isn't that fraudulent?

Pot and kettle?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 4:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Nice catch holly. A link to another post from the OP, wherein he explains how he is going to purchase a home, then file bankruptcy and wants to know if putting a shed in the carport will add value.

Here is a link that might be useful: Previous thread by OP

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 6:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hey, he did let the missing light bulbs slide!

The crossed hot and cold is not uncommon. When plumbers do their hookups facing the tub from the plumb-in side, they forget that it's reversed on the other side. I had a building partner who constantly made this mistake with doors, windows, etc. He eventually moved back to his first career and rose to become school principal.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 8:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

HI's are indeed responsible for things they miss...and in a state that licnses the profession..such as LA and NY, they can be held accountable.

However, the OP states:
"The home inspection had no notation about this issue.

The water was turned on, and the water heater was available to be turned on"

If the water heater was not turned on, no sane HI would turn it they are not required to do so. That is the responsibility of the seller. Why? Safety reasons; it may be turned off for a very good reason...gas leak, water leak, etc.

No hot water, no way to know that the lines were reversed.

I agree with others here...this whole story is basically absurd.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 11:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Typically, in a home purchase, you make an offer contingent on an inspection. You get to pick the inspector. You get a fixed window of time to get out of the deal based on the findings of the inspector. If you go through with the sale, and find something later, you are typically SOL.

"Not doing a good job" isn't fraud. Really though, it sounds like your inspector did an acceptable job. If the water heater wasn't on, there is no way that he could detect this problem. That would be like trying to blame him for not finding an electrical problem when the power was off. If you wanted him to inspect a certain system, you had to make sure that it was available for inspection.

Overall, it is time for you to start taking responsibility for your life again. Katrina was 5 years ago. Obviously, it was disaster for millions of people, but it is well past time you should be sitting around shouting "victim" with your hand out.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't think this is a joke either, not a "rant" that long. All I could think of as I was reading this was "You've got to be kidding me!".

Learn to turn the right faucet on when you need to take a bath.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 1:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think that the OP committed fraud by erroneously titling this thread as an interesting legal problem thereby causing me to click on the thread title with the expectation that I would, in fact, read something interesting. Whom do I sue to get back the minutes of my life that I lost while reading that inane rant?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 3:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Are you kidding me?! Jesus, my 3 year old whines less. If you are conveying the same attitude toward the sellers, realtor, & inspector, as you do in your post, no wonder nobody wants to do anything. Did you not try things out for yourself before buying? Either live with it or hire a plumber to fix it.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 3:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

bethesdamadman, gardenweb is part of NBC Universal. Sue them for allowing the rant, they have deep enough pockets :-)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 3:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And NBC/Universal is now majority-owned by Comcast. Maybe I can get some free cable out of them! ;-)

Oh, wait. Now that I am in Vegas, my cable company is Cox. Oh, well.

Nevermind. :-)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 5:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I quit reading the OP about halfway through but couldn't resist looking at the replies. Thanks for making me laugh, bethesdamadman.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 5:36PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Do buyers prefer table & chairs or island in kitchen?
We are getting our house in order before listing it...
An offer to purchase when house not on the market
This has not happened yet, but I want to be prepared. Our...
Figuring out who is a good Real Estate Broker?
I want to explore the market right now and get out...
prairiemoon2 z6 MA
Emotional rollercoaster of home selling
Lately, this process of having my condo up for sale...
Hall bathroom with claw foot tub, garden view but no shower.
We have a 4 bd, 3 bath house that I am getting ready...
Sponsored Products
Saarinen Oval Dining Table
Design Within Reach
VP Home I-Cubes Purple Storage Baskets (Pack of 3)
Purrfectly Relaxed Wall Plaque/Garden Statue - 1200
$31.99 | Hayneedle
Wynwood 16" Wide Ceiling Light with Sheer Gold Shade
Lamps Plus
Kalora Deluxe Black Plaid Carved Rug-L088/7117 160230
Beyond Stores
Deluxe Teak Shower Seat
Signature Hardware
Thumbprintz Nautical Nonsense White Blue Starfish Throw/ Floor Pillow
Zig Zag Giclee Novo Table Lamp
Lamps Plus
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™