How do you respond when you discover an issue with your home that the seller misrepresented? In the case of this homeowner, the seller may have misrepresented the condition the roof was in when they sold the home.

Q: I read your recent article about the buyers who bought a home and subsequently found out that no heat was coming into their bedroom because the room had no duct work. The question was related to non-disclosure by the seller.

My question is regarding a “misrepresentation” by the seller. My sellers said the roof was 8 years old with a 25-year warranty. Recently, heavy rains resulted in a roof leak. When a roofing contractor came to inspect the roof, he said the roof was more like 20 years old, or older. When he was inspecting the attic, he found a pot in the attic positioned to catch water from a roof leak.

So, clearly the seller knew about the leak. I pulled the permit from the City and the roof was indeed more than 20 years old. This was only the latest in a series of misrepresentations made by the sellers and their agents.

How would you respond under this scenario? I lived in the home for 4 years prior to finding out about the roof. Thank you.

A: We can’t address other misrepresentations you’ve encountered since living in the home because you didn’t describe them, so let’s talk about the roof. We wonder whether you had the home inspected before you made your offer as any professional home inspector worth his or her salt should would have found the pot in the attic and alerted you to the possibly true age of the roof.

It’s been four years since you closed and only recently had a problem with the roof. At this point, we don’t know if a newer roof would have had the same problems or not. In some parts of the country, vicious hail or wind storms could cause a serious leak even in a new roof.

We also don’t know what you would have done differently if you had known the roof was 20 or more years old when you purchased the home. If the kitchen pot in the attic had been left there from a recent leak that the seller’s patched, the roof might have been in pretty good shape at closing, albeit at the end of its useful life.

So many questions; so few answers. You remember the seller telling you the roof was 8 years old, but was that really what you were told? Did you receive a written disclosure form that had the age of the roof listed? We’ve seen situations where a seller is asked about the age of the roof and the sellers may not know and estimates it based on his or her knowledge or what the prior seller told them.

We don’t know how long the sellers lived in the home. We can imagine a situation where your sellers purchased the home a year or two before you and their sellers told them that the roof was relatively new and your sellers repeated that information to you.

There are too many variables here for us to determine if you have a legal action against the seller. If the roof had been 8 years old, but the seller had put on the least expensive roof available, you might have still ended up where you are now. Some roof warranties are only 5 to 10 years while others last up to 50 years.

While you may have a claim for misrepresentation (on this and perhaps other “misrepresentations”), we’re not sure what your recovery would be now. We also don’t know whether the seller disclosure laws in your state would help you four years after your closing. And even if you can prove fraud by the seller, we should warn you that the cost of litigation might be more than the recovery would get from your seller.

You’re in a tough spot. You might need to pay for a new roof. And, if you proceed, you’ll have to also fund litigation expenses (although if you win, you may be reimbursed for those in addition to winning damages). Please consult with a litigation attorney in your area who has successfully litigated seller disclosure cases to determine what your rights and remedies might be given your circumstances, and how much it might cost to get you there.

Good luck.