Home buyers seek recourse for inspector’s mistake

Ilyce R. Glink
and Samuel J. Tamkin

Q: Eighteen months ago, I purchased a home. I had a professional home inspector look at the home. The inspector found no problems with the wiring of the landscape in my backyard, including a pond, pump and well that I have on the property.

Recently, I had an electrician inspect that wiring. He claimed that it was dangerous and violated many electric codes, and estimated the cost of bringing the wiring up to code at $2,000.

Does the inspector have any legal responsibility for this problem?

A: The first thing you should do is get a second opinion. While the electrician you had come to your home may be a fine contractor, it is not unusual for some tradespeople to claim to find problems in a home where there are none to be found. There is nothing wrong with confirming this electrician’s view of the wiring.

While there are many great home inspectors, some are better than others. And even the best ones may not find every problem a house may have. The better home inspectors will find the big issues, but might miss some small issues.

If you find that the second electrician is of the same opinion as the first, then you have several options and may need a little more information.

You should take a look at the inspection report given to you by your home inspector. See what he or she said about the condition of the electrical wiring and setup for the backyard pump and pond. Then, find out specifically what the other electricians find troubling about the current state of the pond and pump.

You may even have to ask whether the original installation of the pond and pump were up to code when they were installed and whether their recommendations are now based on newer code requirements.

If the information you receive states that the installation was improper then and now, and is a serious hazard, you will need to address this issue with the home inspector.

If the home inspector confirms the mistake, the inspector may be willing to either pay for all or half of the repair, or could just refund to you the cost of the inspection.

Because some home inspectors limit their exposure to problems with the home to the amount you pay for the home inspection, this is one reason you need to find the very best home inspector in your area.

For any additional remedies you may have against the home inspector, talk to a real estate attorney in your area.

Q: My wife and I were given a house by a friend using a quitclaim deed. Will we have any problems if we decide to sell this house?

A: You shouldn’t have any problems selling the home, assuming you received good title to the home from your friend.

A quitclaim deed is as good as any other deed in conveying title from one person to another. The only real difference between the deeds is in a quitclaim deed the former owner transfers whatever ownership and interest in the land that he or she owns. If that owner owns a 50 percent interest, he or she transfers only a 50 percent interest. And with a quitclaim deed, you can’t go back to the seller and claim he represented anything with respect to the transfer of the land.

With a warranty deed, you, as the new owner of the land, could sue the former owner if he were to transfer to you title to the home and that title turned out to be “bad.” A warranty deed by its own terms tells the future owner that the title to the home is being transferred to the new owner in a certain condition and if that representation turns out to be false, the new owner has a claim against the old owner.

In your case, your quitclaim deed allows you to step into your friend’s shoes, and you are free to own or sell the home in the same manner as your friend could have owned or sold it.

One last item to keep in mind: Since you received the home as a gift, when you sell the home, you will need to determine what the home’s value is to you — the tax basis of the home. Your tax basis will be whatever your seller’s tax basis was.

If your seller bought the home for $50,000 and installed a new roof, replaced the windows and put on new siding at a cost of $10,000, your cost basis for the home would be the same as his, $60,000.

Copyright 2008 Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

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