Real Es­tate Mat­ters

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Homespot - Broward East - - FRONT PAGE - By Ilyce Glink and Sa­muel J. Tamkin Con­tact Ilyce and Sam through her web­site, ThinkGlink.com. © 2016 Ilyce R. Glink and Sa­muel J. Tamkin. Dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, LLC.

Q:

My daugh­ter bought a 10-year-old home in North Carolina this year and now they have pipes burst­ing in­side the walls, ap­par­ently due to a plumb­ing (PEX) sys­tem that is fail­ing.

She will need to com­pletely repipe the en­tire home at great ex­pense, which will not be cov­ered by in­surance. What re­course does she have to re­coup the enor­mous cost of this project? There are some class ac­tion law­suits against this prod­uct that are cur­rently pend­ing but this av­enue will take years to com­plete. Who else should she go af­ter for this? Can she go af­ter the builder, seller or the town that ap­proved the in­stal­la­tion, etc.?

This is hor­ri­ble, as she can­not af­ford this ex­pense.

A:

Be­fore we talk about go­ing af­ter peo­ple, you and your daugh­ter need to un­der­stand that there are risks to own­ing real es­tate. Many peo­ple buy homes think­ing that the pur­chase is a risk-free in­vest­ment. But, it isn’t. Own­ing a home is ex­pen­sive and when some­thing goes wrong, it’s even more ex­pen­sive.

When new-home buy­ers pur­chase elec­tronic de­vices, ap­pli­ances and cars, they as­sume that they’ll be cov­ered by the man­u­fac­tur­ers’ war­ranties for a year or so for de­fects in th­ese prod­ucts. When it comes to cars, some buy­ers have be­come used to war­ranties of up to 10 years. In some cases, th­ese war­ranties are bumper-to-bumper war­ranties.

Real es­tate is a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal. It’s still a buyer be­ware mar­ket out there, and the more in­for­ma­tion a buyer has be­fore the clos­ing, the bet­ter off the buyer will be.

Con­sider that there have been homes with de­fec­tive dry­wall that caused homes to be­come un­in­hab­it­able, old lead pipes that can cause lead poi­son­ing, older homes with lead-based paint caus­ing lead poi­son­ing in chil­dren, homes built over land pre­vi­ously used for in­dus­trial pur­poses with con­tam­i­nated soil, roof­ing ma­te­ri­als that failed, sid­ing ma­te­ri­als that cap­tured mois­ture lead­ing to mold growth in walls, and even car­pet­ing prod­ucts and glues used in con­struc­tion caus­ing med­i­cal prob­lems with own­ers of the homes in which they are used.

Can you pro­tect your­self from all of th­ese is­sues and new ones that are found? Prob­a­bly not. But you cer­tainly can min­i­mize th­ese is­sues by us­ing a good home in­spec­tor when you pur­chase a home. We’ve worked with home in­spec­tors who have alerted home buy­ers to the faulty in­stal­la­tion of sid­ing in homes, the in­stal­la­tion of re­called elec­tri­cal boxes, the in­stal­la­tion of alu­minum elec­tri­cal wiring in­stead of cop­per wiring in homes, and the in­stal­la­tion of gal­va­nized pipes for wa­ter sup­ply lines in homes

Th­ese are just some of the many is­sues we have seen over the years. There are dozens of oth­ers, of course. Some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are crit­i­cized for their “old fash­ioned” ap­pli­ca­tion of laws. For ex­am­ple, th­ese mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties won’t al­low the in­stal­la­tion of any­thing other than cop­per pip­ing for the sup­ply of wa­ter, and won’t al­low the in­stal­la­tion of elec­tri­cal wiring in the home un­less the wiring is in con­duit – where the wiring is in­side a pipe from the main elec­tri­cal box to each and ev­ery elec­tri­cal source in the home.

Th­ese mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties may stick by the older method of in­stalling th­ese items and may claim they are a “bet­ter” way of do­ing things. Oth­ers com­mu­ni­ties are open to newer op­tions for me­chan­i­cal sys­tems. It’s not for us to say which is bet­ter, but the older meth­ods tend to be a bit more ex­pen­sive. The newer meth­ods al­low home­builders to build a home at a lower price, with lower la­bor and ma­te­rial costs.

Some­times th­ese newer sys­tems are great, but in other sit­u­a­tions, it takes quite a bit of time to ver­ify that the new sys­tems are as re­li­able as the older ones. I think your daugh­ter is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this with her pur­chase. We don’t know if she had a pro­fes­sional home in­spec­tion, but if she did, we’d hope that the home in­spec­tor would have dis­closed to her the ex­is­tence of the type of wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem in the home. If the in­spec­tor did dis­close this to your daugh­ter, it would then be up to her to un­der­stand the risks in­volved and de­ter­mine whether she wanted to go for­ward with the pur­chase of the home.

All that said, it could be a seller dis­clo­sure is­sue. If the seller knew of the prob­lem with the pipes and failed to dis­close it to you, you may have a claim against the seller. We doubt that you have a claim against the real es­tate agent or bro­ker un­less they knew of the is­sue, had a duty to tell you and didn’t say any­thing. The home is 10 years old and we don’t know if the builder is still around. You know of the class ac­tion against the man­u­fac­turer of the pipes so you might be a mem­ber of that class.

We think that your daugh­ter should talk to an at­tor­ney, find out if she can be a mem­ber of the class ac­tion law­suit, and once she has an idea of her le­gal op­tions, fig­ure out what to do. She’ll need to fix the pipes, of course, but in terms of go­ing af­ter some­one, she should know that it’s likely she will have to pay out of pocket for that at­tor­ney, which may be af­ford­able.

In any case, we’re sorry she has this prob­lem and we hope she can find a so­lu­tion that’s af­ford­able.

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