Q: We purchased a house a few months ago and just found out we need a new furnace. Our sellers didn’t indicate anything was wrong with the furnace on their seller disclosure form. I find it hard to believe they did not know, since they had a yearly maintenance agreement with a heating company.
Is it worthwhile to go after the previous owners in this case? We got a good deal on the house, so I don’t know if we should spend the time and money to approach the previous owners.
Also, where does one begin to look for a new furnace? Where should I start my research? With all the heating and cooling companies out there, I have no clue where to start, besides getting quotes. What should I do?
A: It’s unfortunate that you’ve hardly had time to unpack before being faced with one of the great unpleasantries of homeownership: fixing a big-ticket item like the furnace.
It is possible that your sellers knew the furnace wasn’t going to last forever, and it’s even possible that they had some problems with it. And, you could sue them, if you find out for sure that they knew the furnace wasn’t working at all on the day of closing, but represented to you that it was in working condition.
More likely, the furnace was working, but was on its last legs. Many seller disclosure laws require the seller to disclose defects, which would include a non-working furnace, not an older unit. Keep in mind appliances can fail at any time, including a furnace that is relatively new.
Did you have the home inspected by a professional home inspector? A home inspector should have tested the furnace and told you whether it was working. If you hired a professional home inspector, you should call him or her now and ask why this problem with the furnace was not called to your attention during the inspection, and see how the inspector responds to you.
If the inspector missed the problem, you might get back some of the money you paid him or her. If, however, the inspector noted that you should have a heating contractor take a closer look, you might be out of luck here, too.
For legal options, consult with your real estate attorney, if you have one. Otherwise, perhaps consider this the first of many improvements you will make to your new home.
As for finding a new heating contractor, or purchasing a furnace, the place to start would be Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org), which covers a load of issues regarding homes and the appliances that go inside them. A subscription to the magazine isn’t terribly expensive, and you can then gain access to the web version.
You might also want to check out various heating contractors through the Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org.
Jan. 19, 2009.
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