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Purchased an investment property with leaky roof - need help from real estate attorney!!

Brentwood, CA |

We bought a property in 11 / 12 in contra coats county , and found out the roof leaked after a big rainstorm on 12 / 5 / 12 . My Realtor contacted the listing agent ( who was also the property manager ) . The listing agent denied having any prior knowledge of any problem with the roof . We were able to get hold of the prior tenants and they provided us with the screen shot of " face book " conversation showing the tenants informing the landlord of leaky roof and also stated that the problem had gone on for two years . The seller and the listing agent have refused to take any responsibility . Our general inspection didn't show any problem with the roof . When we repaired the roof , the roofer said the lining under the tiles were torn . What is our option ? going after the general inspector ? seller and agent ?

what is the statue of limitation in Contra Costa County in Northern CA? thanks all.

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

A home inspector does not conduct an "invasive" inspection so that if the condition would not be disclosed by a visual inspection of the roof or ceiling, then the inspector would likely not be liable for not finding it.

If the seller and agent knew of the condition, then they had a duty to disclose it. It may be fraud by omission to not disclose a known defect.

Laws vary from state to state, so you should speak with a local attorney to determine what your rights and options are.

If this answer was helpful, please mark it as helpful or as a best answer. This answer is for general education purposes only. It neither creates an attorney-client relationship nor provides legal guidance or advice. The answer is based on the limited information provided and the answer might be different had additional information been provided. You should consult an attorney.

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3 comments

Asker

Posted

It is definitely a "failure to disclosure". The total repair was $1800 plus one month worth of rent of $2200. Is it worth hiring a real estate attorney? should I just go to small claims court? Thanks both for your professional opinion!

Michael T Millar

Michael T Millar

Posted

Given the amount in controversy, and if you are comfortable with doing so, you should likely go the small claims route. You should familiarize yourself with the procedure on how to get documents and photos in evidence. You may need the person who made the repairs to testify about what was done.

Asker

Posted

We have made several attemps reaching out to the listing agent (who was also the property manger for the last three years). The tenants said on their last walk through on 10/31/12, they specifically mentioned the leaky roof to the listing agent againi, and she said she would have one of her guys looking at it. The most damaging evidence is the "Facebook" conversation where seller acknowledged tenant's complain about leaky roof, and asked the tenant to contact the property manager to get it fixed. However, none of this issue was mentioned in the purchase contract. The listing agent claim the guy who the tenants contacted for repair at the property management company was an independent contractor and has passed away a few months back, and the listing agent (also the owner of the property management company) claimed no repair records was found in their file. I would like to report the agent to CA Dept of Real Estate.

Posted

Sounds like a potential "failure to disclose" case by Seller and Agent. Need to retain a Real Estate Attorney. I agree that Home Inspectors do not generally do invasive testing to be able to find this kind of a problem. That is why if you carefully looked at their agreement, they usually clearly disclaim or limit their liability.

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Posted

It seems like you have some excellent evidence that the seller knew of the problem. It's hard to tell from your post whether the listing agent knew, but there is certainly some circumstantial evidence that he/she did. I'd be a little more wary of going after the inspector.

Most real estate purchase contracts require you to attempt to mediate this dispute prior to filing a lawsuit. There is usually a provision barring you from recovering attorneys fees (in the event you win) if you do not first attempt to mediate. I would go after both the seller and the agent under the facts you have provided.

Please note that no attorney-client relationship is created or implied by the posting of this answer.

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4 comments

Asker

Posted

We have tried to mediate, but the broker said just to file in Small Claims Court or contract with an attorney. We have tried several times to reach out to the selling agent and the sellers, even with damaging evidence, they have continued to denied having any prior knowledge. The listing agent (also the owner of the property management company managed the property I purchased) claimed there was absoluately no repair records of any sort found in their file. The name of the handyman (supposely to be in charged of the repairs) mentioned in Facebook passed away last year, and the listing agent claimed that she had no access to his records as he was an independent contractor (also the boy friend of the listing agent) Do i need to have an attorney subpoena the Facebook records? I have a copy (time no date) from the ex-tenants. Frankly, the amount in dispurte is $6500, not sure if it is worth getting an attorney, or just file in the Small Claims Court.

Daniel Patrick Beaver

Daniel Patrick Beaver

Posted

The handyman was the boyfriend of the listing agent. The listing agent was the owner of the management company that hired the handyman. The handyman chatted on Facebook about the roof problem with the tenants. Do I have this right? You should probably at least meet with an attorney, even if the result is to get a roadmap for how to best go after these guys.

Asker

Posted

The listing agent's attorney has contacted me today and wanted to settle. He asked if a mold inspection is done. We had a handyman opened up a small portion of the drywall, and could not see anything much, but he did feel any wetness inside the wall. Is it advisable to get a mold inspection now? I don't want to settle now in case there is a mold problem...

Daniel Patrick Beaver

Daniel Patrick Beaver

Posted

The Avvo website is an excellent resource for general legal information from attorneys, but it is not a substitute for specific legal advice, which is what it looks like you are seeking at this point. Most of the responses have advised you to consult with an attorney, and I would repeat that advice as well. Good luck.

Posted

If you feel the need to sue someone you need to go against the seller and the listing agent.
As per your real estate agent you need to prove that your agent knew the defect of the roof or it was disclosed to him by the seller's site.
Under the facts u presented above (torn lining on the roof), definitely the seller knew the situation except if the house is located in a dry area like Palm Desert.
A Facebook post can be subpoenaed but u need to prove that the seller knew about the post or that the tenant notified the seller.
Before all the above:
First check the disclosures from the seller that u signed off. Second check the listing about the property (the property was sold as is and stands?). Third was the listing broker informed for freshly painted house or renovated house and posted that kind of info in his/her listing? Many variables that an attorney needs to consider.
You definitely need an attorney to review documents and evidence to accurately advice you.
Yes there are legal issue that a responsible attorney needs to explore. Maybe is a case of fraud in combination of brokers malpractice and misconduct in the MLS listing.

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Posted

A seller of residential property generally has a duty to disclose those issues affecting the value or desirability of the property, and additional dislcoure obligations are found in the mandatory disclosure statements required by the Civil Code.

If a seller knew a roof leaked and did not disclose it to the buyer, then that is a problem.

There are numeorus issues at play in real estate cases dealing with the potential fraud or negligence of a seller, and you shouuld contact an attorney to discuss the facts and issues.

Nothing in this answer shall be construed as providing legal advice or counsel, and is general information only. A proper response would require the revew of all pertinent information, which the responding party does not have access to. Any action taken by the recipient or any other person in reliance on this general response is at their own risk and the recipient should contact counsel of their choosing to discuss in greater depth.

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