What to do if my brother purchased a house 2 1/2 months ago and he found that it had major plumbing issues (under the slab) that the previous owner knew about but did not disclose?

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What to do if my brother purchased a house 2 1/2 months ago and he found that it had major plumbing issues (under the slab) that the previous owner knew about but did not disclose?

There is proof – the City had a permit on file, a neighbor said the plumbing was an issue. Apparently, there was standing water in the house but the home inspection did not show an issue as the lines were dry/cleared up, as if they let it drain/clear up on purpose. Now, he’s able to live in his house, plus he’s paying for storage for his belongings as well as rent.

Asked on January 26, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Sellers are obligated to disclose material (i.e. significant or important) defects of which they are aware; if the seller knew of a major plumbing problem (which seems likely, based on what you write) but did not disclose it, that may have been fraud. Fraud could make the seller liable for the costs to fix the problem, and if necessary (not merely desirable or something your brother wants to do, but *necessary*) for him to move out during the repairs, the seller may have to cover his expenses to stay elsewhere for a time, too.
If the amount at stake is under or at the limit for small claims court, your brother may wish to proceed in small claims on a pro se (as his own attorney) basis. If the amount is greater than that, he'd be well-advised to retain an attorney. There is wide variability in what lawyers charge--your brother should call other attorneys, to get get other price quotes. He may well find an affordable one. 


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