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Old 04-20-2018, 05:11 PM
 
8,504 posts, read 2,387,119 times
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Hello All,

We bought a flipped older house in Florida 3 years back. It has good bones and the sellers put in a new kitchen, upgraded (that epoxy coating) the baths, new floors, new roof, etc.

Being an older house, we obviously bought it as-is, although the seller is an architect and his wife a Realtor - and they personally had spent almost a year doing the work in the house.

In general, we are happy with the house...I was in construction so I knew what I was buying. BUT, there is one item which the Seller knew full well and didn't disclose which will end up costing us a pretty penny someday (any other buyer would have already had to spend it!)....

The seller knew that roots had invaded the far end (away from sewer) of the cast iron sewer line (beneath the slab) AND he also knew the plumber had broken off two metal snakes (which turned into pretzels) inside the pipe while trying to clear it out. Being at the "far end of the line" this affects mostly the kitchen sink - and don't ask me how it passed both our and the house inspector's basic drainage test....

Within 2 months (living time) of being here, the kitchen sink backed up big time - nothing would go down! So, since there was no warranty on the house (almost never on "used old houses"), I called the plumber - same guy they used...very nice guy.

He immediately knew what the problem was (of course, his snakes had broken in there!), but I didn't press him on it because he was working for the seller...

He spent an hour or two trying to pull out the snakes through a clean out outside - and we did get a small amount of snake out, but that was all. It was enough to let the sink drain (no disposal use, tho!), and he said to let sleeping dogs lie....since we are snowbirds we could somewhat live with that.

I've kept it barely draining using everything from sulfuric acid to root killer, but I think the end is near....and the end means quite a job since the entire interior sewer is going to have to be replaced (ripping up floors, jackhammer slab, etc.

My Wife says she want to sue the flippers. There is no doubt as to their guilt - and we could get a deposition/affidavit from the plumber if needed for court or mediation.

On the other hand, I personally have never sued anyone in my life (60+ years!)...and I did know when I bought the house that I'd have to put money into it over the years.

For discussion sake, the house cost about 250 and my guess is that this sewer work and floor replacement will come in at 16-18K (and a big mess)....

So, my question to all the brilliant and experienced Florida (things are different in the various states - right?) Realtors, Lawyers, Contractors, Flippers and investors...is whether it it worthwhile to pursue this? They are still in business and live nearby...and, sure, I could smear their reputation online and stuff like that, but hurting someone in that way is not my style. On the other hand, the guy is not the kind of person that is likely to "talk it though" with me. If I did anything, it would probably have to be hands-off and use a lawyer or mediator of some sort.

I don't want to throw any good money or time away...so, any suggestions? Is there some sort of county consumer affairs or other offices that deal with this stuff, or am I totally on my own (hire lawyer and start some kind of process?...

I'd be happy if they gave us 10K toward it, but would not want to spend 4K and a year or two to get the 10K....

Ok, I'll stop talking and listen....
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Old 04-20-2018, 05:19 PM
 
1,511 posts, read 563,734 times
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It’s pretty dang clear in the Plumbing section of the standard FL disclosure form. Do you still have a copy of yours?

The fact that the prior owner is also an agent actually improves your chances, as they cannot claim ignorance of the duty to disclose the defect.

I’d get a firm quote, the affidavit from the plumber and send the prior owner a demand letter. It’s over the limit for small claims, so you’ll have to go the full civil court route.
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Old 04-20-2018, 06:17 PM
 
385 posts, read 354,423 times
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First, be sure that the plumber will put it writing about the previous problem. He may get a lot of business from the Realtor and may not want to get involved. If he is willing to sign and swear to what happened, you could potentially take it to court. However, the attorney's fees may be high too. Small claims could allow you to recover a portion. There is a thread on here, where it took 6 years to settle a lawsuit about a seller's failure to disclose. You need to contact an attorney to explore options and costs.


I would attempt to contact the seller and see if they will work a compromise. If they refuse, I would definitely report her to the state board - Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC). DBPR has a link online to file a complaint. We have a fund that will reimburse homeowners who have been harmed by a licensee. I'm not sure if you're situation would be covered as she was acting on her own behalf, and not as an agent. But, I would include in the complaint that it is a "violation of public trust", that you depended on her as a licensee to be honest and obey disclosure laws.


Good luck
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Old 04-20-2018, 06:18 PM
 
3,027 posts, read 1,206,807 times
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I believe there is a two-year statute of limitations, so I don’t think there is anything that can be done at this point. This is particularly the case since you knew about it 2 months in and elected not to go forward with any lawsuit at that point. I am not even sure if there are any exceptions because I am not an expert, but I would imagine that if there are, they would not apply if you knew about the problem within the two years and elected to do nothing.
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Old 04-20-2018, 06:35 PM
 
4,620 posts, read 2,605,207 times
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Just be glad you’re not in NY. Just about everyone pays the fee in lieu of disclosure. Lead paint? Old wiring? Asbestos tile in the basement? Cracks in the chimney and cesspool backing up? Here’s your $500 and I don’t tell you anything.
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Old 04-20-2018, 07:34 PM
 
8,504 posts, read 2,387,119 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoamingTX View Post
It’s pretty dang clear in the Plumbing section of the standard FL disclosure form. Do you still have a copy of yours?

The fact that the prior owner is also an agent actually improves your chances, as they cannot claim ignorance of the duty to disclose the defect.

I’d get a firm quote, the affidavit from the plumber and send the prior owner a demand letter. It’s over the limit for small claims, so you’ll have to go the full civil court route.
To answer this...and some of the others.....

The Plumbing section is not really clear - it asks whether it has sewer, not if the sewer works! BUT, in beginning of the Disclosure it has a paragraph relating to ALL mechanical, cooling, heating and other systems...and that they work as designed. I think the sewer would be considered part of the mechanical system(s).

1. Being a snowbird, we purchased in March so did not return until the following December when the problem showed itself almost immediately. That's how the time goes by.....and the plumber and I did get it working, although totally in a non-code or salable fashion. That is, I could never sell the house now without full disclosure. The plumber said to leave it alone as long as it worked...he said he might be able to fix it without a full sewer replacement, but now (today) I found that is impossible.

2. I am 90% certain the plumber would give testimony or statement. He doesn't get a lot of business from the Seller....maybe one house a year.

3. A statute of limitation would definitely ruin everything....as would the idea of spending 4+ years - life it too short.

4. I can get a pretty good range (quote) - but exact can only be gotten after spending 1K plus to put the camera down and inspect the entire system and then map out new lines, etc.

That fund definitely sounds like a possibility.

I think what I will do is try some steps....

1. Write a letter - instead of email which can be too chatty and get personal quickly. I will lay out the truth and my case...as well as implied (truthful, tho) statements that I don't want to post negative reviews on them, etc. but wish a friendly settlement. I would even accept less than the full amount - a "settlement" on the matter, if we don't have to get lawyers involved and waste our money on those.

2. If that fails to bear fruit. I will try the Real Estate Commission and maybe also his own contractor or architect license board.

Thanks for all the leads and advice. If nothing can be settled I won't take it to regular court because life is too short. I'm no billionaire but I wear a badge of pride that I have never been involved in long term (or any) lawsuits in my life - despite owning many businesses that dealt with dangerous things (fire) and having thousands of customers. It's always better to work things out with reasonable people.

The unfortunately parts here are that they are not wealthy and they work very hard to support a young family. On the other hand, they should have fixed it while they had the house open during remodeling and the complete failure to disclose had to be intentional....I mean, they even had to reimburse the plumber for his broken snakes!

I'll check back on this thread in case any more wisdom follows. Thanks all...

Last edited by craigiri; 04-20-2018 at 07:44 PM..
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Old 04-21-2018, 06:56 AM
 
Location: Lakewood Ranch, FL
5,113 posts, read 7,639,834 times
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Just to add a little...the disclosure standard in Florida (and the language found in the FARBAR As Is contract) is: "Seller knows of no facts materially affecting the value of the Real Property which are not readily observable and which have not been disclosed to Buyer."

I have no legal background or experience with a situation like this but, aside from the timing issues, it appears to me that you would need to be able to prove that the seller knew that there was a job of the scope you described still required. In other words, the seller obviously knew there was a drain issue (they called the plumber), they had the drain problem remedied (it passed your inspection), and it didn't malfunction again for a while (roots could have regrown.) I think all that would support the seller's position unless the plumber can provide a copy of a quote that was signed/refused by the seller showing the immediate need for the job you are talking about. Since it sounds like the plumber is the type who tries to earn customer trust by NOT selling them on jobs that are not immediately needed, he may have inadvertently given the seller the impression that he did enough to solve the problem for the foreseeable future. Sellers are not required to disclose future problems and, IMHO, it is difficult to say if, at the time of your purchase, this would have been seen as a future problem or a current one by a mediator or a court.

If it was me, I think I'd spend the money to talk with a FL real estate attorney so you can get an opinion on the strength of your position. The FARBAR contract calls for mediation first although, again, the timing may not apply. The amount of money for the repair is significant enough that I think a consultation with an attorney is warranted and I would do that before sending a letter or discussing it with the seller. Good luck...hope you can work it out.
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Old 04-21-2018, 12:16 PM
 
1,681 posts, read 3,043,376 times
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The problem is these types of situations is there is no insurance company to collect from so you have to ask yourself, can you even collect a potential judgement from the seller?

I'm guessing you'll be 10k in legal fees if you have to take it to court. So if your repair is 20k + 10k in legal fees, now you get to play can I collect my 30k?

I had a legal issue on a property years ago which the consult with the attorney and writing a single letter and then "processing" the other side's attorney's response was $1,300. Luckily we didn't have to go to court. Lawyer fees add up quickly.
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Old 04-21-2018, 01:27 PM
 
1,511 posts, read 563,734 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WestieJeff View Post
The problem is these types of situations is there is no insurance company to collect from so you have to ask yourself, can you even collect a potential judgement from the seller?

I'm guessing you'll be 10k in legal fees if you have to take it to court. So if your repair is 20k + 10k in legal fees, now you get to play can I collect my 30k?

I had a legal issue on a property years ago which the consult with the attorney and writing a single letter and then "processing" the other side's attorney's response was $1,300. Luckily we didn't have to go to court. Lawyer fees add up quickly.
Well. Might be some E&O for the agent that was an owner and party to the transaction.

Also, you donít need an attorney to send a demand letter.
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Old 04-21-2018, 01:39 PM
 
1,681 posts, read 3,043,376 times
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In my particular case, I sent my own demand letter which was ignored. Then I got the attorney to send the demand letter, which was not ignored.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RoamingTX View Post
Also, you donít need an attorney to send a demand letter.
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