Q: I purchased my first home in December, 2003 and moved in the following January. Although I had an inspector, I negotiated the sale without an agent or broker.

I have had numerous serious problems from the day we closed on the property. The worst has been the water/mold/mildew issues in the basement, which were not disclosed.

My question is this: Can I still sue the previous owners? The house was an empty rehab. The sellers did not live there, but I’m now certain they did all they could to cover up the true condition of the home.

A: Here’s what I’m wondering: If you had an inspector, why didn’t she catch the mold/water issue in the basement? That seems like a pretty obvious thing to miss.

Now, it’s been four years, and you have to prove that the sellers knew, or should have known about this problem. That’s the standard for most seller disclosure laws around the country. The time for you to sue the seller may have run out. In many states, you would have needed to sue the seller for failure to disclose items on the sale of a home within a year of closing on the property. In other states, you would have had to sue within 3 or 4 years of closing.

Since the sellers didn’t live there, it’s entirely possible they did not know the extent of the damage. If they did know, you may have a tough time proving it. You’ll have to find a contractor that they hired, who is willing to talk about what he discussed with the sellers or provide you with copies of invoices that specifically mention the work that was being done (if not why).

Please consult with an attorney to review your options at this time.

Published: Aug 2, 2007