Return to the Buying and Selling Homes Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
When does a seller's responsibility end?

Posted by Busybee04 (My Page) on
Sat, Jan 12, 13 at 5:47

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I'm feeling a bit rattled right now and hope someone here can give me a reality check.

A year and a half ago, we sold a home we had lived in for over 20 years. A year prior to putting the home on the market, my husband and a friend with several years of roofing experience replaced the roof. Our old roof had some issues with ice damming, so they installed ice and water shield to deal with that problem. We indicated all of this on our disclosure form when we listed the house. We paid for 2 home inspections;one before we listed the house, so we could have a heads-up on potential problems and start fixing them, and another when the buyers made an additional inspection a condition of their purchase.

This is the third winter for the new roof. For the first winter, we were still in the house and had no problems. Last winter, the new owners were in the house. It was a record snowfall year for our area, but to our knowledge they had no problems with the roof. This past October our area had extremely high winds with many homes sustaining roof damage. In December we received an email from the new owners indicating they were having problems with leakage and asking for the name of the company that had replaced the roof. We suggested that the roof might have sustained damage during the high winds in October, or possibly the problem might be similar to something we had experienced a few times while living in the house: two or three times we found a small amount of water (2 - 3" in diameter) that was easily wiped up. Quite honestly, it was so minor and happened only a couple of times so we didn't even think of it when we filled out our disclosure form. It was only their email that reminded us of the experience. Further communication from them stated that a couch and rug had been ruined by what they indicated was almost a steady stream of water coming from the ceiling. We let them know we had never experienced anything close to the severity of what they were describing.

This evening we got an email from the buyers that sounds like it might have been written by a lawyer. They describe massive dripping coming from several different points in the ceiling. (To clarify, the dripping we experienced occurred only in one spot, and that was under a popped-up portion of the roof totally segregated from the rest of the roof.) They also listed the water damage to their personal belongings as a result of the dripping. They will "be contacting two separate licensed and bonded roofing companies to investigate the problem and provide us bids to rectify any issues that exist which are contributing to the condensation as well as repairing any latent damages." Once they receive the bids, they will contact us to discuss a resolution. They state their anticipation that we will "participate monetarily in this resolution". With several inches of snow on the roof, it will be impossible for a roofing company to inspect for wind damage, so I don't think they are even considering that as a possibility.

Is this buyer someone who wants to pay for a 30+ year old home yet expects the guarantees and convenience of new construction? To my perhaps old-fashioned way of thinking, when you buy a house you buy any problems that develop. The few times we had to wipe a bit of water from the floor barely registered with us. The problem was so minor that there wasn't even any staining on the ceiling from where the water dripped. We answered all the questions on our disclosure form honestly and completely and paid for two inspections. Are we liable for not mentioning something so inconsequential that we didn't even remember it until we got the buyer's email?


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Why do the new buyers even have your email to contact you? It has been a year and a half since the sale of your home. I would say they are on their own now. Who knows what they may have done to the home in that amount of time to cause this or other things in THEIR home. If you disclosed the fact you had the roof replaced don't they already know who did the work? My advice to you is get a lawyer yourself and don't reply to any more emails. They may be on a fishing exposition to see if you will pay for a new roof. NancyLouise


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

First, I am not a lawyer so my advice is simply based upon my personal knowledge, common sense, and experience. Second, laws vary from state to state.

It's been a year and a half according to your post. The house, and any problems, belong to the new owners. That was the case the day you closed the property. They would have a very difficult case trying to get you to pay anything or proving you knew the roof would leak. The roof came with no warranty. The time for them to ask who installed the roof was during the buying process. If they had a problem with a do-it-yourself roof, that was the time to address it.

Again, given all you wrote, the winds, the length of time, etc. I would not worry about it. The only "mistake" you made was responding to their email with the new information on the 2 or 3 times the roof did leak while you owned the home. Even that, over 20 years in a home, is forgettable. Did the minor leaks occur before or after the roof replacement? If they occurred prior to the roof replacement, the new owners have even less of a case against you. You could easily argue that you thought the issue was fixed with the roof replacement and didn't even think about it.

I would recommend that you do not respond to any further emails from them. While a short response to their first email asking for the names of the roofing company might have been kind, DO NOT give them any more information going forward. You were not obligated to respond to that first email. Again, DO NOT respond to any further emails. You might even set your email up so that any emails from them go into your junk folder or are blocked completely. Don't be intimidated by the "legal" sounding language of their emails. Perhaps they have friend that works in a law office and gave them some language to use. I doubt they contacted a lawyer. Do not respond. They are trying to bully you and hoping you might cave. Ignore them.

If you absolutely feel you must respond, a simple sentence or two is all that is needed. "I'm sorry. I can't help you with that. Best wishes, Busybee." Respond that way one time. Then ignore them.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

I'm sure it is scary, but make no further contact with them.
Stay out of it.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Laws vary from state to state. That being said, generally homes are sold "as-is". Unless you made certain warranties or affirmative representations then the buyer takes the home in condition on day of closing. That being said, if there was a defective condition that was known and fraudulently withheld then there is a potential cause of action.

Just to be sure, go back and read through the disclosure questionnaire carefully and make sure there wasn't a statement that could be interpreted as fraudulent.

Sellers: never ever ever discuss the condition of the house after the purchase. As a general rule, the buyer has had all the opportunity to insect and do the proper due diligence prior to purchase and back out if need be. Don't give then a reason to come after you for fraudulent misrepresentation.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Laws vary from state to state. That being said, generally homes are sold "as-is". Unless you made certain warranties or affirmative representations then the buyer takes the home in condition on day of closing. That being said, if there was a defective condition that was known and fraudulently withheld then there is a potential cause of action.

Just to be sure, go back and read through the disclosure questionnaire carefully and make sure there wasn't a statement that could be interpreted as fraudulent.

Sellers: never ever ever discuss the condition of the house after the purchase. As a general rule, the buyer has had all the opportunity to insect and do the proper due diligence prior to purchase and back out if need be. Don't give then a reason to come after you for fraudulent misrepresentation.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

do not respond to any emails from them or from anyone that contacts you on this matter.Same with phone calls, letters or anyone that comes to your door. Nothing. Ever again. Not even an attorney.

However, if you get a lawsuit, you must respond else you lose by default. See below.

Too bad you put, in writing, that you had drips a few times. This is why you should never respond. Ever.

Let's hope that in your email that you did NOT specify if those drips were before or after the roof replacement.

Regardless. If you get a lawsuit or severe enough demand letters, then you should discuss with an attorney. Bring copies of your email to them and copies of the disclosure form. Plus any newspaper articles that you can find the talk about wind damage and roof damage in October.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

You should have ignored them from the start.

Years is long enough to find latent defects, and this sounds more like storm damage that anything else.

Tab shingles can be lifted in very high winds (and sometimes broken off) resulting in leaks.

It is a maintenance problem for the owner to check after a storm.

Unless the letter is threatening legal action, ignore it.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Agreeing with everyone else. First, how did they even get your email info? When I was working as a Realtor, I never, ever gave out my clients info to the other party. Sure your name and signature appear on the contract but not usually your email.

Don't respond to anything else. Personally, I would contact an attorney with the emails and responses and have an attorney respond to the email, they will send a letter, or they will tell you to ignore and wait for the buyer to take action against you.

I have heard of cases of buyers winning lawsuits for undisclosed things but after a year and a half? Never that long out. I am not saying it is impossible but it seems like if the roof had a serious defect that it would have had an issue before this point.

I would say that they need to contact their homeowners insurance and make a claim.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Thanks to everyone for your input. I could feel my blood pressure go down as I read the responses. :-) I only wish we hadn't answered their first email - lesson learned! We have been in contact with our agent and from now on any communication from the buyer to us will go through her and we will no longer respond directly to the buyers or their representatives, but will only respond through an attorney.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

I'm glad you feel better, but my instincts tell me it is wrong to even get your former agent involved. Your best option is no response, even through your FORMER agent. Unless you get a letter from an actual attorney you should ignore them completely.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

I agree with exactly what rrah said. Don't get anyone else involved, don't respond to their emails anymore. You have no obligation to them, they are in the wrong.

My husband has a very effective tactic for dealing with situations where people are asking for information that they then want to turn around and use against us. He simply repeats "I don't know" over and over until the annoying person gives up. Works like a charm.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

the answer to the question "When does a seller's responsibility end?" is at closing...


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Homeowners insurance should cover this. We had a non leaking roof replaced due to hail damage on 20 year old cedar roofing. It isn't your problem that they didn't get the roof inspected after the winds. That said, don't respond to them.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

"I'm sure your insurance agent can help you with your questions." And leave it at that.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

This is all really terrific feedback. You are going to be OK. Place this issue in the lap of your lawyer. They do come in handy, attorneys. It is nice to know there are people in the world who shoulder more than their share of responsibility--and we want you to stop that--but still, your sense of duty heartens me. I hope you feel better. OK Rose


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Two home inspections before closing certainly should have taken the roof out of play as an issue, if ever it had been, I would think.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

" It is nice to know there are people in the world who shoulder more than their share of responsibility--and we want you to stop that--but still, your sense of duty heartens me."

It all to easily turns into someone getting screwed.

There are a lot of folk that will do anything to get someone else to pay for their mistakes or problems.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Update: Our agent has been very helpful and contacted the buyer's agent to get names (inspectors, etc.) we need so our attorney can do a conflict of interest check. The buyers and their agent continue to insist that this is condensation despite the fact that they admit there has been no inspection of the roof to rule out damage after a record breaking snowfall last winter (the snow load caused structural damage in many older buildings and they admit they did not clear the snow from the roof) and record high winds last fall. If they continue to insist that we have to pay to fix whatever problem they're having, by state law our next step will be mediation (non-binding).

Question for anyone who is science minded: Can a condensation problem get worse on its own, without additional moisture being present? We put a normal amount of humidity into the air with showers, laundry, cooking, etc., and we got an accumulation of about two teaspoons of water when the dripping occurred. It doesn't seem possible that they could have continual dripping for nearly a month from multiple points (even when outdoor temperatures were in the 40's)-obviously a much worse situation than we experienced - without excessive humidity present inside the house. Their agent is trying to convince our agent that it is the same problem that somehow got worse, but that just doesn't make sense to me. Please let me know if there's some scientific principle at work here that I'm missing! Keep in mind this house is in a region that experiences cold, dry winters. The 40 degree temperatures we experienced in December were unseasonably warm, and there is no possibility that outside humidity is causing condensation inside the house.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Thank you for the update but this is crazy. You have not done anything wrong and you are not responsible for their roof leak. You and your agent need to stop communicating with these people.

Under what grounds do they propose to extract money from you for problems with a home you sold three years ago? It doesn't make any sense.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

IGNORE THEM.

COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY.

All you have to do at this point is say the wrong thing and you may lose in a later civil suite.

Get an attorney (if you do not have one).

Tell them that ALL further contact MUST be in writing through your attorney.

Tell your agent your attorney is now handling the matter.

That alone is often enough to drive off people like this.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Do what Brickeyee says.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

The next step is not mediation. They have to sue you to get that far. That means they have to hire an attorney (who will tell them they have no case), pay the attorney because he knows they have no case and he won't take it on contingency, and risk being out lawyers fees, time money and effort.

Do not spend one minute trying to thik about what could be causing their problem, it is not your house, they purchase it as is, unless you made some warranty to them, which is highly unlikely.

The only conceivable case against you is fraudulent misrepresentation. So unless you did that, your ony response should be "my attorney's phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx, he'll be expecting your call, good day". That is it. Zero other communication is necessary or warranted. Your attorney will inform you I'd you have something to worry about.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

"The only conceivable case against you is fraudulent misrepresentation. So unless you did that, your ony response should be "my attorney's phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx, he'll be expecting your call, good day". That is it. Zero other communication is necessary or warranted. Your attorney will inform you I'd you have something to worry about."

If you did fraudulently misrepresent, your only response should be "my attorney's phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx, he'll be expecting your call, good day" as well!


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Please listen to folks and stop engaging them in any way.
IMO you're making it worse.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Thanks for all the comments, but it seems I didn't make myself clear: we are NOT engaging these people, except that our attorney instructed us to get names of inspectors from them so he could do a conflict of interest check within his firm. On our attorney's instruction our agent sent their agent a simple request for those names, with no additional comments. The additional comments have come from the buyers and their agent and were directed to our agent, but neither we nor our agent responded.

Laws vary from state to state and in our state, mediation does not require a law suit. It is set up to avoid law suits, and mediation wouldn't require them to hire an attorney. So it is very probable these people will request mediation since we have no intention of paying them anything unless required to do so by the court, and we have to go to mediation before they can take us to court. Of course our attorney will advise us at that point; right now I'm just trying to get my mind around any possible details we might have to present during mediation (rather than pay the attorney's hourly fee to get those details!).

I appreciate everyone's advice to ignore the problem, but with some of the crazy court decisions I've seen, we have to at least consider the possibility that a judge could rule we have to pay half of a $40,000 total roof replacement. Not likely, but certainly not outside the realm of possibility. Sorry, but that's hard for me to ignore, despite the fact that I know we did nothing wrong or dishonest.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

$40,000 for a roof? WOW!


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

I am curious about what state you are in.?

Thank you for the clarifications.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

The buyers are not going to hire a lawyer and sue you. They are using free methods...and mediation is one of them.

Can you refuse mediation in your state? I had someone that was totally wrong wanting me to pay something. They tried mediation rather than a lawsuit. I refused to go to mediation and it was not required.

I knew the other party was totally wrong and I wasn't going to pay them one penny or have them try to talk me into paying one penny. I figured if they want to pay the fees to make a real court case,then we would deal with it at that point. They never sued me. I suppose they were hoping I would fold at mediation and give some money.

Like OP probably will, as already hinted.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

Sweet Tea: I don't know if we can refuse mediation. Good question; I need to get an answer for that one. I'm hoping our situation plays out the way yours did - once they realize we're not going to be intimidated and they are at the point where they have to put up some money to take us to court, they might suddenly realize they don't much of a case.

NC RealEstateGuy: That was our response when we got the bid a few years ago. The total was to cover any hidden problems the roofers might find after tearing off the shingles so it probably wouldn't have been that much in the end. But I suspect these people are going to go after a bid that would give them the best built and most well-insulated roof in town, so that number is probably close to what they'll be looking at.

rrah: Sorry, but I'm not comfortable saying which state I'm in. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I don't want anyone to be able to identify me if this turns into a lawsuit.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

I understand not wanting to identify your state. I am just curious as to which state would require/force mediation of the type you described.


 o
RE: When does a seller's responsibility end?

RE law is almost entirely state law (outside of federal discrimination law and some other limited items) so the state really matters.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Buying and Selling Homes Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here