REAL ESTATE MATTERS For release 11/10/13

BC-glink 11/10 TMS Original

REAL ESTATE MATTERS For release 11/10/13

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Buyer seeks remedy for faulty toilet plumbing

Tribune Content Agency

By Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Q: I purchased a rental home early last year. I had tenants living in the house for 10 months without any problem. They never used the bathroom on the second floor. In June, the tenants moved out and we discovered problems with the second floor bathroom. A plumber told us that the toilet drain was improperly installed. The drain pipe went from 4 to 2 inches in diameters. The pipe problem made the toilet unusable. To fix this problem, we have to remove the bathroom floor and the garage ceiling to replace the pipes. The repair would cost several thousand dollars.

It seems to us that the upstairs bedroom and bathroom were additions to the home and no city inspection ever took place. The seller's disclosure notice we received did not indicate any defects with the plumbing system. I'd like to know if I have any legal recourse against our sellers.

A: We usually receive letters from our readers where it seems possible or at least plausible that the sellers might have been unaware of problems in a property. In your situation, it seems quite likely that the sellers knew that the toilet and plumbing were installed improperly. You should try to find out if the sellers ever obtained a building permit to allow them to do the work. You might find that they didn't. But even if you found that they had pulled a permit, the person they used to do the work did it incorrectly.

Whether they did or did not pull a permit, it seems that the sellers should have disclosed to you that the bathroom upstairs had major issues. However, you should know that in some states, you must bring an action under seller disclosure laws within a certain period of time. You will need to determine what that period is in your state to decide whether and how to proceed against your seller. It might be too late to go after the seller.

While seller disclosure laws may be one way for you to go against your seller, your state's laws may provide you with other remedies, such as a repair fraud statute.

Before you go down the path of thinking you can sue your seller to recover your damages, you'll have to complete the work to fix your home. Once you've made the repairs, you'll know exactly what it cost you.

Then you'll need to do some legwork. You must find out if the seller ever obtained permits to do the work, if the seller disclosure laws in your state afford you any relief, if there are other laws in your state that could help your case out, if the installation of the plumbing was truly out of the norm and no one could possibly claim that it was done correctly, and see if you are able to determine who completed the work.

With some of this information, you can seek the help of an attorney in your state. If your state does not allow you to recover your attorney's fees even if you prevail against the seller, you'll have to balance the cost of going against the seller with the recovery you might obtain. If the legal expenses will be too high, you might make a go of it in small claims court or whatever mechanism your state allows for you to represent yourself in a suit against the seller.

(Ilyce Glink is the creator of an 18-part webinar and ebook series called "The Intentional Investor: How to be wildly successful in real estate," as well as the author of many books on real estate. She also hosts the "Real Estate Minute," on her channel. If you have questions, you can call her radio show toll-free (800-972-8255) any Sunday, from 11a-1p EST. Contact Ilyce and Sam through her website,