problems after closing

house-sadAugust 30, 2011

Hello all. I'm a new member to this site, but I've been lurking for awhile.

Two weeks ago today I closed on a home in a small town in the country. The house is old, but it's perfect for me. I love old homes and know they can come with a lot of problems so I got a home inspector that specializes in old houses, and am satisfied with his report. I really wanted to go into this transaction knowing as much as I could about what needed to be fixed and how much it would cost.

One of the terms stated in the P&S agreement was that the seller was to deliver a septic system that passed the Title V inspection. (The house is in Massachusetts.) Well, the inspection came back with a conditional pass because the sink in the basement wasn't hooked up to the septic system. The work was supposedly done by a local plumber who was hired by the sellers' realtor, and the documentation saying that the system passed was sent to my lawyer, who I emailed twice asking him to verify that the system passed unconditionally. In one of the emails I asked him to send me a copy, but he never did. However, both responses from him stated that the Title V was clear.

On the day of the closing, there were numerous issues, including an old propane stove that should have been removed but wasn't until the last minute. A few days prior to the closing I had also noticed that in the back part of the property, a black pipe surrounded by brown odorless liquid had emerged. I pointed it out to my realtor who thought it might be from the drainage pipe in the floor of the basement, and I also described it and my concern about what it was to my lawyer.

Anyway, at the closing, my lawyer handed me a packet of papers, including the deed, the plot lines, and the Title V etc. Needless to say, there was a lot going on. A few days later, I happened to look over the papers I was given, and it turns out that the septic still has a conditional pass!

I emailed my lawyer and asked him what's going on? He tried to tell me that the plumber's itemized bill was sufficient indication that the septic passed unconditionally. But I knew better. I called the person who did the initial inspection who told me that the board of health agent for my town needed to issue a certificate of compliance. So I called him and he said he would notify town hall, and I needed to stop by with the itemized plumber's bill describing what work was done and I'd get the certificate. But when I called town hall to tell them I was stopping by, I was told that they could not issue a certificate because the plumber did not get a plumbing permit, which requires that the town's plumbing inspector come out to make sure the work was done properly. Meanwhile the pipe in the back is oozing more brown sludge that has now developed an unpleasant odor.

I emailed my lawyer, asking him to respond immediately, letting me know that he's taking care of this mess. That was on Friday, and I haven't heard from him since then. I've approached three other lawyers, in an attempt to get this resolved. One, who is not in the immediate area, asked me to send him all the info, which I have done, and I haven't heard from him at all. Another lawyer said he didn't want to go up against another lawyer in the area, since it's such a "small bar associate," but he did refer me to other lawyers who are not in the immediate area. I spoke with one, who said that she thought my lawyer sounded like he was really busy and didn't have time to respond, and besides, she gets $300 an hour, and do I really want to spend that much money on this?

So what should I do? I'm so sad, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I love the house, but this situation is making me sick.

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My heart goes out to you.

We live in MA also and after putting in 2 septic systems in our last home, we just purchased a home that's on public sewer, too much aggrevation.

It seems to me that your lawyer dropped the ball and/or was inexperienced with Title 5 issues (was he your lawyer or the lawyer for the mortgagor?) A conditional pass is obviously not the same as a pass. Did you finance the property and if so, what document was provided to the bank? Usually if a conditional pass is given, the bank will require an escrow held until a firm pass is obtained.

You state the listing agent sent documentation of a passing system to your lawyer? Exactly what type of documentation was it? If the listing represented the home to have a good Title 5, s/he may be liable, as well.

Additionally, Title 5 does not guarantee a working septic system, it certifies compliance.

Here is a link that might be useful: MA Title 5

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 6:14AM
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I should have offered you a possible solution, sorry.

I'd email your attorney (and cc the mortgagor if the attorney was an agent of theirs) and essentially outline what transpired, including the fact that P & S called for full Title 5 compliance and you are now in a pickle because the system isn't compliant.

I'd also email the listing agent (and his or her broker!!!) and advise the same.

Let them both know that if this situation isn't resolved within 2 weeks (or a similar timeline), you will be making a complaint report to the respective boards, as well as seek recompence for damages suffered.

In the meantime contact the BOH agent in charge of Title 5 issues in your town. Inform him/her of the situation, makes friends with them and see what insight they can offer.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 6:44AM
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It might be time to find another attorney.

You can also file a formal complaint with the bar against this one.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 10:32AM
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I'd stop emailing people and get in their face. Not sure why everyone thinks that emails are the only way to communicate these days. As you are experiencing, emails are easily ignored.

I'd be at the attorney's office raising a fuss until he took the time to talk to me!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 12:39PM
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If you really want to make a "stink", bring a jar full of the stuff oozing from your backyard!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 12:54PM
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Thanks all for the support and suggestions. Besides posting here, I also sent a threatening email to the seller's flakey realtor who was supposed to be shepherding this through the proper channels.

Well, that got the ball rolling. This morning, I got a call from my realtor, and emails from the seller's realtor, the seller, and my lawyer, all assuring me that whatever needed doing would be done. That's no guarantee, but at least I'm not being ignored! I'll make sure to post a follow-up once this mess is sorted through.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 1:14PM
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I'd stop emailing people and get in their face. Not sure why everyone thinks that emails are the only way to communicate these days. As you are experiencing, emails are easily ignored.

Well, for one thing, with email you have everything in writing, no worry about anyone denying what they said.

Glad things are starting to happen, house-sad.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 3:22PM
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Besides emailing, if you talk to them, document everything, when, where, who, why etc.
I would keep paper copies of everything that you send, and is sent to you Then take it off your computer. Put everything in a safe place and tell no one. Keep the email addresses, both on the computer and on paper. Find out what time limits you need to stay within. I would not threaten, just state facts what needs to be done and who (what agency) and the code numbers and information, from the code book. Your city hall must have code books and they are avaiable for you to read and copy. Make sure they are current and up to date.
Good luck
PS Relative was inspector in Los Angeles County which is one of the strickest countys in the states and their code books were always avaiable for anyone to review.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 3:52PM
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"code books and they are avaiable for you to read and copy."

Most of the codes are actually copyrighted material and may not be freely copied.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 4:09PM
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"Most of the codes are actually copyrighted material and may not be freely copied. "

Not true at all. Once a code is adopted as part of a local law, it is a matter of public record. You can request a copy. Their may be a per-page fee though and the code books are long.

Of course, you can't represent your local law as the national code and then sell your copy.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 4:23PM
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About 4 years ago, my daughter & sil bought a rural property. A plumber informed them that he thought septic was not up to code (and that the county official shouldn't have OK'd theinspection). Long story short, they hired an attorney & the septic company offered to re-do septic.
Good luck

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 6:07PM
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"Not true at all. Once a code is adopted as part of a local law, it is a matter of public record."

Not true at all.

The code books are normally copyrighted by the authors, and many not be duplicated, even if they are made into public laws.

Most codes are adopted be reference, not by p;lacing the entire code into the statute law verbatim.

Try and find a copy of the NEC or plumbing code directly copied into the statute law.

The code making 'authorities' (National Fire Protection Association for the NEC and numerous other codes, UPC and IPC for plumbing codes, ICC for mechanical and soe others) earn there money by selling printed copies of the code.

There are a number of companies that license priting the code books to aid distribution, but they are all paying copyright fees.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 7:01PM
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Ugh, the saga continues.

Did the flakey realtor do the right thing and take a check for the plumbing permit to town hall? Of course not! She put it in the hands of the seller (well, former seller), and as of yesterday, no permit had been filed. I sent another vitriolic email to the aforementioned realtor and copied the cast of characters involved.

I got an email from the realtor asking me not to contact her directly anymore, and an email from the seller who said he sent the check to the plumber a week ago. I also heard from my realtor who offered to help guide this along. I took him up on his offer, however, he never really follows up on anything he promises to do without a great deal of reminding. So I'm not expecting any miracles.

In the meantime, I called the Board of Health agent for my town, and he's coming out to look at the sludge on Monday. Oh, and I got a lengthy email from my slime-ball lawyer who's still insisting that he's right and the septic system is compliant. What an ass!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 8:53PM
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You need to be communicating to both of the agents Broker In Charge.

Why did you move forward on a home that had raw sewage oozing up from the ground?

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 6:51AM
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Not only the Broker, but the corporate office as well (if it was a Coldwell Banker, Century 21, etc). Forget about the agent, she's evidently useless and clearly dropped the ball.

As to your attorney, I'd file a complaint with the bar. If he isn't familiar with Title 5 regs, he shouldn't be doing RE closings in MA. And if he doesn't recognize the difference between a conditional pass and compliance, he shouldn't be an attorney period.

I'm also curious about your mortgagor (if applicable), they accepted a conditional pass at closing? Did you contact the closing attorney?

Something is really wrong here, as it's *extremely* unusual for a bank to allow a closing with a conditional pass and no escrowed funds.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 10:13AM
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NCREG, although Title 5 does not guarantee a functional septic system, the system must meet certain criteria to pass. One of these items is that there is no sewage oozing up from the ground (duh.). Usually the inspector will ask the HO a series of questions, in addition to a visual inspection of the home and grounds.

My problem with this is that HOs frquently lie and/or misrepresent and unless the inspector (who is paid by the HO) is extremely diligent, issues get missed and fall into the lap of the new HO. It would be very easy for a HO, knowing that sewage bubbles up from the ground to limit the amount of water, etc, introduced into the system prior to Title 5 testing and/or a walk thru.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 10:25AM
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Good points, NC and pauline,

When I first noticed the pipe and the liquid, which was prior to closing, it did not look like sewage. The liquid didn't smell, and I even took a small vial of the stuff and closed it up to see what it looked and smelled like after it sat for awhile. It was odorless, and the dirt separated from the liquid, which was clear.

The listing broker used to work for a large firm in the area, but left to work for herself about a year ago, so there's no one over her head to complain to. She's it.

I bought the house outright, so there was no bank or mortgage company to stop the sale from going forward. And I, like a fool, believed my lawyer when he said the septic system was compliant and didn't check the paperwork at the closing.

That's the bad news. The good news, I hope, is that the seller has been in touch with me, via email, so there's a record of our correspondence. He told me that he would take care of the problem if it turned out to be sewage leaking onto the property. He's a pretty upstanding guy, has ties to the area, and says he wants to resolve this amicably.

I never thought of myself as naive. In fact, I consider myself to be fairly jaded, and I'm not a trusting person at all. But if this situation continues to deteriorate, I may have to rethink just who I am.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 6:36PM
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