What can we do if septic issues were not disclosed to us at the time of purchase?

We bought a house 7 months ago. The seller agreed to pay for a septic inspection. We recieved a reciept stating, “Tank pumped and everything looked good”. Then 4 months later I found septic fluids pouring into the back yard. I called the septic company that did the inspection and he said that he informed the seller/seller’s agent septic was failed at time of inspection. However they replaced a pump and something electrical.That was never dislclosed to us. The seller is denying he knew anything. We cannot afford a lawyer.

Asked on November 10, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You could very likely sue the seller. Depending on your state and its rules, they may have violated seller disclosure requirements. More, the fact that they represented to you that the "everything looked good" when in fact the tank had failed the inspection would likely be fraud: the knowing statement of a material (or important) misrepresentation, made with the intention that the other party (you) rely on it (and so buy the house because it had good septic) and the  other party did reasonably rely on it (you were shown something which seemed to indicated a clean inspection). Fraud can provide a basis for suing for damages, or monetary compensation, such as the cost of remediating, or correcting the problem.

If the cost to fix this would be several thousand dollars, it's worth hiring an attorney--you might even find one who will take it on a contingency basis (get paid a portion of any amount that you win). If it's several hundred dollars, you could represent yourself, such as in small claims court. Good luck.

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

From what you have written you either have a claim for non-disclosure by the seller about a known problem with the septic system that should had been disclosed to you in writing or negligence by the septic company or both.

I suggest that you contact the septic company that did the inspection for the prior owner that supposedly advised the seller that it had failed. Get all paper work that it has on the subject. Also, get an estimate for the installation of a new system in writing.

Once received, write a demand letter to the seller for payment of a new system giving a set date for the response. I would also consult with your real estate agent (assuming you had one) regarding the situation.

Assuming there is an attorney's fee clause in the purchase contract between you and the seller (read the agreement carefully), you may be able to retain an attorney to represent you in this matter on a contingency fee basis.

Another option is to go to your county bar association and see if there are seminars that it provides to help people in your situation. Good luck.


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