Is the seller/contractor responsible for inadequate plumbing after the sale?

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Is the seller/contractor responsible for inadequate plumbing after the sale?

I apologize in advance but this is a little long. I purchased a home and closed on it almost 4 months ago. I did not get a home inspection because I was led to believe that the VA inspector was far more picky than a typical home inspector. This house was listed/advertised and sold as having been converted from septic to city sewer. The first time I tan my washing machine the water backed up and out of the drain pipe and onto my floor. The seller/contractor that purchased this house to flip it came and attempted to fix it 3 different times an finally called Roto Rooter and they got the pipe flowing. I thought all was good. Due to me working night shift I typically sleep during the day so I never did the laundry. Well, fast forward to early this month and my wife left to visit family. I was up doing laundry during the day and heard gurgling coming from the sink, so I went to investigate. While outside, I saw suds coming out of the vent pipe on the roof. Seeing this, I dug up the entire pipe coming out of the house that drains the washing machine and kitchen sink. The pipe exits the house about 16′ below the surface of the ground and rises to only 3 inches below the surface, makes its way all the way around the porch and makes a steep drop down to what I assumed was the main sewer line coming off the house where the bathrooms are. I called the seller/contractor over to the house and he said that they didn’t mess with the kitchen/washing machine line and only installed and ran the sewer line from the bathrooms to the city sewer. He said that the line coming from the washer and kitchen sink must still be

going to the septic tank. So, I now have a house that is seemingly half on city sewer and half on septic with a pipe coming from the house that does not drain due to a 13′ rise in elevation and a septic tank that was never drained, crushed and filled in in accordance with state plumbing code. I realize that I should have gotten a home inspection but there is no way this would have been discovered without digging up the entire pipe. Is the seller/contractor that converted from septic to sewer responsible for finishing the job properly and to code or am I on the hook for thousands of dollars in repairs?

Asked on June 20, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

They may be responsible if you can show that they were aware of the issue or problem--an issue or problem not readily discoverable, as you correctly point out, by the buyer--but chose to not disclose it: a knowing or intentional nondisclosure of a significant problem or issue can be fraud, and fraud could provide a basis to sue and recover compensation (e.g. the cost to correct the situation). They key is you have to be able to show that they knew, or under the circumstances, logically must have known, that this line would cause a problem. If they reasonably did know there would be an issue--and if they did not live in the house or use the washer, but were just renovating the house to sell, they may well not have known this would be a problem, since they never would have seen the back-up--they would not be liable, since if they did not know of the problem, they would not be requied to disclose it.


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