Responsible Party for Home Repairs Following a Home Purchase
UPDATED: September 19, 2013
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When a new homeowner is faced with the frustration of a fixture failing, such as a built-in stove, water heater, heating system or air conditioning system, shortly after the closing and moving into the new home, the purchaser must determine the responsible party or parties to repair and pay for the items.
When a fixture breaks in a newly purchased home, the first document for the home buyer to review is the purchase contract, which includes all counter-offers and addendums. These documents typically set forth the obligations of the seller to the buyer and vice versa. Likewise, most states have seller transfer disclosure statement requirements as well as supplemental transfer disclosure statement requirements to be completed and signed by the seller and given to the buyer before the property closes escrow. The purpose of these documents is to make sure the seller discloses to the buyer all matters known by the seller about the property, about conditions that would affect its desirability by a willing buyer, or the amount of money that a willing buyer would pay for the property. Failure of the seller to disclose all known problems with the home to the buyer is a form of fraud called concealment
Responsible Party for Faulty Fixtures in a Newly Constructed Home
Where the seller knows of a defect with the home before the sale happens and does not disclose this to the buyer, if the buyer can prove the seller knew of a known problem with the home such as with the heating system, and does not disclose this before close, the seller is responsible for all costs of the repair for the heating system that failed after the home was purchased. However, the property owner might find it difficult to prove that a fixture or a system in the home such as the heat or air conditioning, was known by the seller to have problems before close and those problems were not disclosed. Typically the best way to obtain information about prior undisclosed problems with a home by the seller is for the new owner to speak with neighbors. Many times neighbors will advise the new owner of items wrong with the home they just bought that were not disclosed by the seller.
Third Party Inspector Liability
Proving liability on a third party inspector who viewed the property before close of escrow and ended up missing a problem with the home, such as a faulty heating system, can be a difficult challenge for the new homeowner. In this situation, the new homeowner must retain a new inspector expert to not only look at the fixture or component of the home that failed, to ascertain the cost of repair, but also to give an opinion as to whether the first inspector should have caught the problem before the home sold. If the new homeowner cannot get this subsequent opinion, the new buyer will have a nearly impossible task of getting the third party professional who viewed the home before it sold to come up with the costs for the repair.
Third Party Inspectors Before Sale Is Complete
An interested buyer should hire third party inspectors, such as a home inspector, pest inspector, licensed contractor, structural engineer, roofers, and a pool service company to look at the desired property before close, to ascertain its structural integrity as a whole as well as its individual components, such as the air conditioning unit, heating system, appliances and the like. The buyer pays these professionals to inspect the property and ascertain the existence of any hidden or potential problems with the property. This is to safeguard the buyer's interests in purchasing the property so that after the sale concludes, there are hopefully no surprises with the home which warrant repairs. Had the buyer known about such problems, he may not have paid the price paid or even closed the sale.
As a safeguard for the new buyer, many home warranties on the market help protect the new homeowner from unexpected costs in repairing fixtures and components of a home within six months to a year after the sale is completed. Costs for such warranties run in the range of $250.00 to $500.00. However, the coverage may be pretty restrictive as to what is covered.