Recourse after discovering faulty work on a home purchase

What are your rights when you purchase a home that had a bad remodel job with a lot of cover ups?

Well, after the closing, they aren't many.

You need to do your due diligence as part of the purchasing process and hence set a purchase price that reflects those things you believe are faults, because once you have closed you have pretty much closed out your bargaining options.

Even if you are a builder or carpenter, it is important to get another set of eyes to look over the house. Hire a competent home inspector to look it over, one who does not have a wife who loves the back yard,etc. (or a husband who is in love with the garage and attached barn)

I bought a house once that I fell in love with, and even with a former building inspector from a high end residential town doing a thorough inspection, we managed to overlook water damage to sills in a family room, plus signs of leaking around the chimney.  The house had endured several owners over the prior twenty years, and who had done the un-permitted work was not clear. Making any kind of a stink about it might mean I would be forced to spend money to remove it, with no recourse.

The home inspectors report clearly states they can't be held responsible for defects that can't be seen, and one generally does not want to start ripping apart a house one is contemplating purchasing, the current owners get pretty cranky about that.

In this house we had noticed that it had been painted inside and out prior to being put on the market. It wasn't until we were in and working around for a few days that we realized every time we brushed into a doorway or knocked against door trim that the paint was peeling. When we focused on this problem we found out that the woodwork hadn't been even washed prior to painting, so there was no bond for the one coat that was applied.

We started sanding it all off (fortunately I had a crew working for me as I was a contractor, but they really needed to be on paying jobs) only to find that the coat below was an older paint containing lead. Plus, just to make it fun we realized all that nice old trim with plenty of ribs and valleys and round things in the corners (rosettes) and they all needed to be sanded so all of the bad coat was removed.

Eventually we found out that a product called "Will-Bond" which billed itself as a liquid sandpaper, would, when applied heavy enough, sort of melt and melt the two top coats together, thus making a solid, non-glossie surface to paint.

That one issue cost us probably around $4,000. in labor and materials to resolve.  We (the inspector and I) both knew it was a hasty paint job, but I had planned to repaint room by room over the coming years. Once I focused on how poorly it was adhering AND the fact that there was lead right below, it demanded attention right then and there. I didn't want to be dealing with any airborne lead a year down the line when we would have a new baby in the house, we had to resolve the problem right then, at the expense of some other things we thought we would do prior to our own moving in.

Even if we hadn't discussed the paint prior to the closing, and simply mis-diagnosed what we were looking at, there would still have been no recourse to sue the home inspector, you simply can't do a lot of destructive testing on a home inspection.

If we had happened to see the house on a rainy day we might have caught the issue with the chimney, but after the closing the cost of pursuing it was not worth the cost of the repair.

Unless the work uncovered is so bad that it is structurally unsafe, it's probably better not put your expectations on getting recourse, after the closing.

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Comments 2 comments

Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 5 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

There isn't much you can do once the papers are signed. Thanks for writing.

Namaste


Monica A J 5 years ago

Just as an after thought, because the house has closed and you now own it and all the issues. I do have a suggestion. As a contractor in the state of Michigan we are now required to inform homeowners in pre 1987 homes that there might be the possibility of lead under the paint they are seeing. As a homeowner you can request that the EPA or HUD or a licensed contractor come out and do a lead test on the walls and sills and door thresholds. This is not that expensive and in some states they have funds available to help pay for the testing, renovation and or repair of lead removal. I would contact your state first and go up the line from there. Every state, county, city, and local town has been given funds to use just for lead removal. If you are planning to have children it is very important to look into this. EPA,HUD both have web sights dedicated to LEAD. If you cant find what you need you can contact me and I can send you more information if you like. Good luck. MAJ from the city in Michigan with the highest unemployment and economic downfall in the nation. One of the "honest" contractors looking out for fellow human beings and fellow homeowners and future parents. Hopefully someone will care enough about our town and people to help in small ways as I try to help others. I think they call it "paying forward" so if this helps you maybe you can help someone else and we can all "pay it forward" a little at a time. Bless you all, And good luck.

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