Q: I purchased a home a year ago. My agentAn Agent is an individual who acts on behalf of a consumer. A real estate agent represents a buyer or a seller in the purchase or sale of a home. Licensed by the state, a real estate agent must work for a broker or a brokerage firm. An insurance agent helps a consumer purchase an insurance policy. Insurance agents are also licensed by the state. told me that the home was connected to the city sewer system. For the last three months I have had sewer problems. I called a plumber to clean the sewer line and he told me that my house is hooked to a septic system.
Do you think my RealtorA Realtor is a designation given to a real estate agent or broker who is a member of the National Association of Realtors. is liable for the repair to the septic system? I have the listingA Listing is a property that a broker agrees to list for sale in return for a commission. advertisement stating that the home is on the city sewer system.
A: Unless you find out that the real estateReal Estate is land and anything permanently attached to it, such as buildings and improvements. agentA Real Estate Agent is an individual licensed by the state, who acts on behalf of the seller or buyer. For his or her services, the agent receives a commission, which is usually expressed as a percentage of the sales price of a home and is split with his or her real estate firm. A real estate agent must either be a real estate broker or work for one. knew the home had a septic system and lied, you probably don’t have much of a case against the agent. Most modern real estate agent forms will tell you that the information they give you is not guaranteed.
Having said that, the agent can’t lie to you about this information and if the agent knew that the home was on a septic system and not the city sewer system, the agent should have disclosed that.
But here’s the big caveat: agents generally get their information from sellers.
The agent sits down with the seller and completes a questionnaire about the property. In that questionnaire, the seller and the agent list the items that are included in the home and list the other features for the home.
If in going over that questionnaire, the agent asked the seller about the sewer system and the seller told him that he was on the sewer system, the agent would have fulfilled his duties to obtain the information.
On the other hand, once you looked at the property, it was up to you to make sure you received the seller disclosure document that might be required by law in your state and for you to undertake an inspection of the home.
If you received the seller disclosure report, you should review the form to determine if the seller was obligated to disclose the existence of the septic system. You should also review your real estate contract and determine whether the contract had any representations from the seller to you about the existence of a septic system.
If the seller disclosure form in your state requires the disclosure of the septic system or the septic system was defective and the seller knew about the defect and should have disclosed the problem to you, you may have a case against the seller.
If the contract has language regarding the septic system and those representations were false, you may have a breach of contract action against the seller. In either case, you might want to talk to an attorney who has experience litigating seller disclosure issues.
Did you have a professional home inspectionA Home Inspection is the service a professional home inspector performs when he or she is hired to scrutinize the home for any possible structural defects. May also be done in order to check for the presence of toxic substances, such as leaded paint or water, asbestos, radon, or pests, including termites. completed before you purchased the home? If so, the inspector should have gone over the property carefully and discovered that the home wasn’t on the sewer system, but rather had a septic system.
While finding a septic system on some properties may not be easy, septic systems are prevalent in certain parts of the country. Home inspectors in those areas are used to seeing them and generally know what areas are connected to the sewer system.
If you had an inspection, did your inspector say anything about the sewer or septic system? Is there evidence of a septic field at your home? If your property clearly has a septic field, your inspector could have alerted you to the fact that the home was on a septic system. If your inspector was not qualified to inspect the system, the inspector would have told you to get a qualified septic system inspector to evaluate the system.
Finally, you should find out how much it will cost to repair the septic system. If the cost is minimal and the septic system is otherwise in good shape, you may decide to move on and not pursue the issue further.
But if the cost is high to make the repairs or replace the septic system, you may then have to evaluate whether you have a case against the seller, whether the seller has any ability to pay, and whether it’s worth pursuing the case.