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Disclosure Is Meant to Reassure, Not Scare Off, Buyers

Ask the Inspector

March 03, 2002|BARRY STONE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: Is the purpose of a disclosure statement to provide a history of all repairs and past problems or to disclose current defects? I'm preparing to sell my property and am wondering if a long hairline crack in the basement wall that a general contractor repaired by injecting a special epoxy into the crack should be disclosed. It was a rather simple operation, and the crack has remained unchanged for the last six years. Is it necessary to mention the epoxy-filled crack in my disclosure statement or will this disclosure needlessly alarm buyers?

Answer: The purpose of the disclosure statement is twofold. The most obvious is to inform buyers of the condition of the property they are buying. The added benefit, often overlooked, is the liability protection provided for sellers. In this respect, the disclosure statement helps to minimize the likelihood of claims, disputes or lawsuits occurring after the close of escrow.

Reasonable buyers are not likely to be troubled or concerned about a repaired hairline crack, but there is always the potential for litigious individuals against whom one must be ever vigilant. It is not so much a matter of whether you are required to disclose the crack. Rather, it is to your advantage to disclose it. In so doing, that condition becomes one less issue with the potential to incite future conflict. In the unlikely event that a problem regarding the crack should ever arise, your defense would be strengthened by the fact that you had made full disclosure.

The process is actually quite simple. Just declare, in writing, that the crack was evaluated and repaired by a reputable licensed general contractor, and include a copy of the paperwork that you received from the contractor. This should reassure, rather than alarm, most potential buyers.

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Fire Rating Is Key to Replacing Door

Q: We want to replace the door that leads from our garage into our home and would like to use a six-panel oak door. What is the fire safety requirement for a door between a house and garage?

A: Fire-resistive construction is required between a garage and a dwelling. The code specifies that this be a one-hour, fire-rated wall. Any door that is part of a garage firewall must be solid core or fire-rated and must also be self-closing. If you plan to use an oak panel door, be sure that it has a fire rating tag on one of its edges.

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It's Tough to Get Builder to Fix Flaws After the Sale

Q: When I purchased my home, it was brand-new, but my home inspector still found some defects.

The developers promptly repaired these as a condition of closing escrow. Since then, more problems have turned up but now the developers are no longer interested.

I've complained numerous times, but they won't return my calls. I've even notified the appropriate state agencies but all they offer is red tape and further delays. How does one deal with this?

A: Builders in most states are required to guarantee their work for one or more years, depending upon specific laws where the construction occurs. Unfortunately, not all property developers take these obligations seriously.

At this stage of the process, after the new home has been sold, the integrity of the individual builder is plainly revealed.

Regulatory agencies are empowered to compel full compliance with applicable requirements, but inefficiency and negligence on the bureaucratic level often thwart the enforcement of consumer protection laws.

For effective action against a recalcitrant builder, you may have to employ an attorney.

But before going that route, you might try this: Send a certified letter, giving the developers 30 days to correct a list of specific problems.

Inform them that failure to perform in a timely and forthright manner will cause you to hire your own contractors and that all bills pursuant to that work will be forwarded to said developers.

If you carefully document these proceedings, a Small Claims judge is likely to view your position with favor. But be sure to obtain legal advice before pursuing this course of action.

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If you have questions or comments, contact Barry Stone at www.housedetective.com. Distributed by Access Media Group.

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