What is my legal recourse regarding non-permitted work in a house that I bought last year?

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What is my legal recourse regarding non-permitted work in a house that I bought last year?

I bought a house a little over a year ago, and thought that, with the exception of a few things being cheaply done, was told by the inspector that it was good. I found out today that a remodel of the kitchen major construction, along with the wiring for a sub panel breaker box in order to get GFI plugs in the kitchen were not issued permits and licensed contractors did not perform. It was never disclosed by the previous owner that the work wasn’t done properly, and when my wife asked who did perform the work via text, the reply was that the people who did it moved she did the house as a flip house. The city says that I can possibly go the civil route, which I would love to do but I’m not sure if I can go after her or the home inspector. I already know that the cost to redo the wiring is going to cost a pretty penny but it needs to be done to make it safe. I also know the term caveat emptor comes to mind, however I feel that she did the remodel on the cheap, skipping safety checks that would of rendered the house unsellable. What is my best route here?

Asked on August 18, 2016 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

IF the flipper did the unpermitted work, you could sue her: in that case, she lied about the permits (either explicitly or by omission: by not stating that work was unpermitted) and such lies may well constitute fraud. 
However, if the prior owners (before the flipper) did the unpermitted work, you can't sue unless you can prove that even though she did not do the work, the flipper actually knew about the lack of permits: only if she knew about the issue and failed to disclose it might she be liable. But she is not required to "investigate"or look for problems, so if she herself did not know about the lack of permits because no one told her, she is not liable or responsible: in that case, she did nothing wrong.
The inspector is most likely also not liable: inspectors do not have to pull permits or investigate who did the work or how it was done. If on a surface inspection (all they have to do; they don't open up walls to look under the surface) everything looks good, they did their job.


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