Author Topic: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.  (Read 20583 times)

AlanStache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1890
  • Age: 40
  • Location: South East Virginia
Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« on: January 12, 2016, 04:54:15 PM »
I bought a house ~5 months ago and recently we have found water stains in two places in the ceiling, I have confirmed the roof leaks above these stains within the attic.  The ceilings and walls were all painted after the sellers moved out presumably covering up old ceiling stains and indicating the sellers knew about the roof and did not disclose the problem in the sale documents. 

The home inspection did not find the leak nor any other problems with the roof.

The roof is ~15 years old and at best would be ok for a few more years, the roofers I have talked to all agree it is not worth fixing (there are also less obvious signs of leaks and trouble in other areas - The home inspectors indicated nothing specific about the roof in the report - verbally they said I could get 5+ years out of it).  A new 50 year roof will run me ~6.5k.

I emailed the closing attorney Sunday and have heard nothing back yet.  Will call them Wednesday (tomorrow). 

Do I have any hope of recovering anything from the sellers?  Might it be best to go to small claims court, I am not sure where the sellers are located now?  How do I determine what to ask for?  I get the feeling that I am technically right and should be owed some damages but it will not be worth the fight and pain. 

I would like to get the roofers swinging hammers sooner than latter but dont want to destroy evidence.  I have pics of the stains and discolored areas within the attic.

Any and all thoughts and suggested courses of action are welcome.  thanks much!

sjc0816

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 246
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2016, 05:45:04 PM »
If there are visible water stains, how was this missed during the inspection?

lakemom

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 400
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2016, 07:11:34 PM »
1.  Just because its leaking now does not mean it was leaking 5 months ago
2.  Many people paint the entire house to put it on the market.  Doing so does not alone indicate that they were covering something up.
3.  IF the inspector missed OBVIOUS signs of water damage then he/she may be liable/partially liable for the costs of repairs.  We had and inspector pay for termite damage in a previous home because of this.

AlanStache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1890
  • Age: 40
  • Location: South East Virginia
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2016, 06:27:17 AM »
If there are visible water stains, how was this missed during the inspection?

I dont believe  there were visible signs when we moved in on the ceiling, within the attic I would suspect the wood was discolored.  Hard to say as it had not rained before the inspection. 

1.  Just because its leaking now does not mean it was leaking 5 months ago
2.  Many people paint the entire house to put it on the market.  Doing so does not alone indicate that they were covering something up.
3.  IF the inspector missed OBVIOUS signs of water damage then he/she may be liable/partially liable for the costs of repairs.  We had and inspector pay for termite damage in a previous home because of this.

But yeah so the inspector and seller can point fingers at each other. 

I have no way to prove what was there on the day of the inspection but I find it very unlikely the leeks are a new problem.  Proving this in any way would be hard.

Papa bear

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1207
  • Location: Ohio
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2016, 06:36:28 AM »
Painting wood in the attic could be due to mold remediation or smoke fire damage or smell. 

I don't think you'll be able to prove much.  Sorry for your luck.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

justajane

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2147
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2016, 06:44:52 AM »
I think you are out of luck with the former homeowners. They can just claim ignorance. Going after them would be stressful and likely not productive.

I would lean on the inspector. That seems like something he would have caught. At the very least, his reputation as a home inspector should be somewhat impugned. If you have a contract somewhere that you signed with the inspector, I would look closely at that. At the very least, could you get a partial refund on the inspection?

Stories like this make me think that inspectors are really worthless. Ours missed a few things too - not this bad, but I'm not really that sure what we paid him for. We were first time home buyers, so he told us some valuable stuff, but I'm not sure it's not information we could have gathered for free from youtube or homeowner websites. That was $400 not well spent.

little_brown_dog

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 915
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2016, 06:45:52 AM »
When we bought our home, no one told us that the basement floods every spring during the heavy rains. There is no way this wasn’t happening before we moved in, but nevertheless we weren’t told about it. The sellers seemed like nice people, but they probably knew we wouldn't have bought the house if it was disclosed. When the inspector came, he couldn’t find any evidence of water or damage because it was winter and there was no heavy rain/snowmelt at that time. The owners also kept the basement filled with junk where the water would have been visible, so we never really got a good look at the spots where the water comes in. It sucks but it was just bad luck, and now it's up to us to fix the problem by releveling the driveway, etc.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2016, 06:47:27 AM by little_brown_dog »

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14050
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2016, 07:07:55 AM »
Sadly, buying a house is very much caveat emptor.  We had a similar situation with a leaking basement . . . when our home inspection was done, there were large boxes piled up and blocking signs of water damage in the basement.  The water had been leaking into the house for several years, but it wasn't discovered by us until we finally moved in.

We were pretty much SOL and just had to eat the costs of fixing it.  Home inspectors are pretty much worthless, and good frigging luck getting them to pay for anything.

Stachetastic

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 755
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2016, 07:17:14 AM »
I had a similar issue with the first house I bought. We could tell the roof was older, and specifically paid for a roof inspection to determine an estimate for how long it would last. The day after we moved in, it rained and water was running down an interior wall. We ended up suing the former owners, inspector, and the realtor.(Can't remember why the realtor was included, but I'm guessing our attorney advised us on this.) The inspector defended himself by saying when he got to the home to inspect the homeowner would not allow him on the roof and he just eyeballed it from the ground and gave it 5 years or so to last. They all ended up settling and we had to eat the difference between what they paid and the cost of a new roof. It sucked. And I've never hired another inspector again, having bought five houses since then.

Jack

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4734
  • Location: Atlanta, GA
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2016, 07:33:22 AM »
 IMO trying to recover money is probably a waste of time. Get a $4 tube of roof cement and a caulk gun (and whatever safety equipment might be necessary) and deal with the leaks yourself.

zephyr911

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3628
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Northern Alabama
  • I'm just happy to be here. \m/ ^_^ \m/
    • Pinhook Development LLC
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2016, 07:36:45 AM »
Sadly, buying a house is very much caveat emptor.
That is highly dependent on state law. Where I live, that's absolutely true. In California, the list of things you must disclose (and can be liable for if not disclosed) is very long.

OP says they're contacting the closing attorney, which is probably a good start. I don't know VA law, but (s)he presumably does.

justajane

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2147
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2016, 07:46:26 AM »
The problem, in my mind, is determining damages. You bought a house with a 15 year old roof. 15 year old roofs have a higher likelihood of leaking. Unless you are in an extreme seller's market, the 15 year old roof is probably reflected in the price. If the former homeowners had put a new roof on, you would have probably paid between 2-5K more for the home. It's not like there was fraud involved in which they said the roof was new and it was actually 15 years old.

In our case, the inspector flagged some corroded pipes underneath the bathroom. We went back to the homeowner, who said that the home warranty would cover a leak. We stupidly said "okay." Well, it turns out the home warranty wouldn't cover such a leak. Then, when it finally did leak (about 2 years later), the plumber correctly informed me that fixing it for good would cost $$$$$$$. No seller would have paid for such a repair, and the price reflected the fact that the bathroom was old and needed to be updated.

Sure enough, we are dropping 15K to gut the bathroom eight years later, in large part to fix the corroded pipes. The biggest problem that was probably beyond the expertise level of the inspector (who I'm beginning to believe had very little expertise to begin with) was that the old, galvanized steel pipes in the floor was a marker for a bathroom that had an original cast iron stack, which, I might add, we found out has an eighth of an inch wide, two foot wide crack in it now.

Every house has warts and will betray you. I'm so sorry that you are experiencing so early in this particular house.

AlanStache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1890
  • Age: 40
  • Location: South East Virginia
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2016, 08:09:58 AM »
I knew going in that inspectors are mostly useless and there main job is to tell the bank the house is a house and will not fall down in 2 weeks.  Before making an offer I and a friend (he did a lot of work on his home) went over an poked at what we could, neither of us found anything to worry about but we did not go in the attic.  The lighting where the stains are is not great but I find it hard we all missed them.

The contract with the inspectors very clearly says they are immune from any liability relating to not finding problems.  Saw this with my other homes inspector.  I could send a letter to there governing body for what that is worth.  But you are right this side may be worth more effort to look into, maybe the are libel in Va for not finding things...

The attic was not painted just the ceiling in the living spaces. 

A slight addition is that the sellers were really an estate of (I assume) deceased people; the people behind the estate could be living anywhere on Earth and they could honestly say they just hired a painter and never set foot in the place in the last 10 years.  I dont think this should change anything but is just one more layer of finger pointing. 

The home was built in '62 with one owner the entire time, house is very solid and well made but I think as the owners aged they started doing less and less work on it as I have found a few things that most anyone would have done better or kept up better.  The sort of stuff that you will only find after living in a place. 

Re Jack: I tired something similar after I found the first leak.  After we found the second stain I looked harder and found that there are other areas of interest and that the vent collars should all be replaced.  Dont think they are visibly shit but they are the source of some moisture.  I could do some work myself and buy a few years but I would always be worried and have to be checking it every few months.  At this point the aggressive-replace it all-solution seems best.  Will look harder at the vent collars with an eye to what an inspector should have seen.

Re jane: "The problem, in my mind, is determining damages."  Yep 100%.  lawyer may have some ideas, first of which will probably be to go away and just deal with the roof myself but still work a phone call.

On the plus side the roofer will take a CC so I can get the airline reward miles :-p

windypig

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 159
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Vermont, Boston, Cape Cod
  • You are what you hate.
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2016, 08:52:03 AM »
If you did not go into the attic you did not do your reasonable due diligence in inspecting the house.

Were you given reasonable time and accessibility to access the attic before the purchase of the home? Were you given time to hire a roofer to inspect the house before purchasing?

Papa bear

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1207
  • Location: Ohio
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2016, 09:13:09 AM »

I knew going in that inspectors are mostly useless and there main job is to tell the bank the house is a house and will not fall down in 2 weeks.  Before making an offer I and a friend (he did a lot of work on his home) went over an poked at what we could, neither of us found anything to worry about but we did not go in the attic.  The lighting where the stains are is not great but I find it hard we all missed them.

The contract with the inspectors very clearly says they are immune from any liability relating to not finding problems.  Saw this with my other homes inspector.  I could send a letter to there governing body for what that is worth.  But you are right this side may be worth more effort to look into, maybe the are libel in Va for not finding things...

The attic was not painted just the ceiling in the living spaces. 

A slight addition is that the sellers were really an estate of (I assume) deceased people; the people behind the estate could be living anywhere on Earth and they could honestly say they just hired a painter and never set foot in the place in the last 10 years.  I dont think this should change anything but is just one more layer of finger pointing. 

The home was built in '62 with one owner the entire time, house is very solid and well made but I think as the owners aged they started doing less and less work on it as I have found a few things that most anyone would have done better or kept up better.  The sort of stuff that you will only find after living in a place. 

Re Jack: I tired something similar after I found the first leak.  After we found the second stain I looked harder and found that there are other areas of interest and that the vent collars should all be replaced.  Dont think they are visibly shit but they are the source of some moisture.  I could do some work myself and buy a few years but I would always be worried and have to be checking it every few months.  At this point the aggressive-replace it all-solution seems best.  Will look harder at the vent collars with an eye to what an inspector should have seen.

Re jane: "The problem, in my mind, is determining damages."  Yep 100%.  lawyer may have some ideas, first of which will probably be to go away and just deal with the roof myself but still work a phone call.

On the plus side the roofer will take a CC so I can get the airline reward miles :-p

Based on this information, you didn't do proper due diligence.  It seems next to impossible to prove that anyone had knowledge of said leak, if there even was one prior to the 5 month period before you noticed.  It sounds like you are trying to pass blame on to someone when you are just frustrated.  It's a house. They depreciate, require maintenance, and sometimes they leak.  Looks like you were the "lucky" one who gets to fix it. 

Now do your responsibility, fix the problem, and quit trying to sue everyone. 


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14050
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2016, 09:23:56 AM »
Kinda cool that in this thread we have all agreed on the uselessness of getting a home inspection . . . even going as far as to say that getting a home inspection isn't doing due diligence when buying a home.

reader2580

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 219
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2016, 10:02:00 AM »
The contract with most home inspectors limits their liability if they miss something.

The house I bought in 2014 had extensive damage from neglect by the previous owners.  The flaws were mostly evident to the naked eye, but I still hired a well known home inspector just in case I missed major structural problems or something.  He didn't really find anything I didn't already know about, but he documented everything in his very long report.  Both the inspector and myself missed the fact that the roof leaked around the chimney, but there was really no way to visually see the leaks.  I never blamed the inspector and I just ended up removing the unused chimney and having the hole in the roof patched.

ReadySetMillionaire

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1160
  • Location: The Buckeye State
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2016, 10:11:53 AM »
Attorney here.  When partners give me assignments, they sometimes say, "This is worse than your typical wet basement case." That's when I know it's a really shitty assignment.

And this is because "wet basement" types of cases are inherently very difficult to prove fault and require a stupid amount to litigate given the relatively small amount of damages at issue. They bum those assignments to me so they don't waste any more of their time on a case that's a loser.

In your case, you'll have to pay an attorney to meet with you (might get a free consult), to draft a couple demand letters, to draft and file a complaint, to respond to any defense motions, to draft discovery requests (to get information about what they knew), respond to defendant's discovery requests (so they can get information about you), and ultimately conduct depositions (which take 1-2 hours to prepare for and take maybe 3-4 hours if there's multiple defendants). If this doesn't settle then I bet you run up $10,000-$15,000 in fees quite easily.

And even after doing all of this, it's usually very difficult to prove fault.

TL;DR: you're talking about paying a lawyer a ton of money, and you're very, very, very unlikely to get (a) 100% of your alleged damages and (b) your attorneys' fees.

All that said, I still think you might as well try to get a free consult with a lawyer, but don't be surprised if they aren't interested. If they are interested but want a high retainer fee, then that means they think your case sucks just as much. 

AlanStache

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1890
  • Age: 40
  • Location: South East Virginia
Re: Bought a house with a leaky roof - was not disclosed.
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2016, 10:33:02 AM »
thanks ReadySetMillionaire, I suspected this would not be worth paying lawyer.  Hell all this is probably not worth my billing rate :-)

I did hear from the secretary of the closing attorney this am, she says she will bring it up with the lawyer today and get back to me.  Will let you all know what I hear.