Close of escrow for 1 week; home has major sewer line; should seller pay for it

9 Replies

Hi,

We just purchased a home and closed the escrow recently. We moved in 3 days after closing. After living there for 2 days, there was a major sewer line issue. Both toilets and both bath tubs were also clogged (the house has 2 bathrooms ).

We hired a plumber to hydrojet (via the back of wash/dryer). He said the force was 2100 psi (sorry if this is not the right unit; it's a technical term which i'm not familiar). It couldn't go through. It went only so far and got stuck. The plumber said we needed a clean out. In the mean time, my real estate agent who helped us with the purchase of this home suggested that us to contact a home warranty. The plumber from a home warranty came and said he couldn't do anything because we didn't have a clean out. We called the 3rd plumber and he evaluated the situation similar to both plumbers.

This was the tree roots problem. So the 3 professionals said we need a clean out. They would do a video analysis and then clean it. If the pipe was compromised, they will have to replace the pipe which it was the case too. The quote was roughly the same from the 3 which is between $4000-$5000.

We have communicated this issue to the seller via the agents of both sides. The seller response was that they said a similar issue back 10 years ago when they purchased this home. Their plumber just hydrojetted the pipe and it worked afterward. They were willing to pay for $150 for hydrojetting.

We had no water for almost 2 days so we decided to hire the 1st plumber due to his good reputation and we paid $4000 after all. Our agent agreed that this should be seller's responsibility since the roots have been there years and years and if seller were to have regular maintenance, it should not cost this much to fix the problem.

I would like to get your thoughts on this issue if we should pursue things further as legal action. How much money/ time should I be expected to pay if we go the legal route? Do you think it's seller's responsibility.

Much appreciated your input. Thank you

Sara

I doubt you have any case against the seller.  Did you do a sewer scoping on the line before purchase?  That's become standard practice around here.  And when the problems are found (very common here for certain ages of properties) then, as buyer, you negotiate with the seller to get it paid for.

But if you didn't do your due diligence up front and pursue this with the seller before you closed I suspect you're out of luck.  You would need to prove that the seller was aware of the issue and failed to disclose it to you.

Hopefully you actually got the line replaced if you spent $4000.  That's a reasonable price if the line wasn't too deep or too long.   In the past few years I've done three of these at similar prices.

As Jon said, you'd have to prove the seller was aware of the extent of the problem, and didn't disclose.  The seller being responsible because of "not doing proper maintenance" is totally irrelevant, and was a stupid statement by the agent.  Lesson learned.

I agree with the others, this one is on you.  In fact, I'm surprised the seller even offered to pay for the hydrojetting!  These types of things can happen at any time and unless you can prove the seller knew that the line was backing up and failed to disclose it, this is just a case of bad timing for you.  I had this happen earlier this year where I ended up pulling an old rag out of the backed up sewer line.  I had inspected the function of the toilet (worked fine at the time), but did NOT scope the line (like @Jon Holdman  

 suggests).  Only cost me a few hundred bucks, so not as bad as yours, but it didn't even occur to me to ask the seller for a refund.

Wow, sorry to hear about the sewer issue. As much as I'd like to say you have some recourse I am not sure that you do being you closed already.

Was there a home inspection done? I guess you didn't run a camera down the sewer line as this would have picked up the issue for sure. As Jon said alot of home inspection due dilligence now includes a sewer line to be scoped to see the condition of the line.

Maybe you can reach a compromise with the sellers and split the cost? The one thing in your favor is this issue didn't appear overnight and definitely took some time to build up so  any expert could prove and testify that this moreo then likely existed before closing.

I replaced a sewer line a year ago in one of my rentals due to a bad belly in the sewer lateral. I was snaking it every 6 months but eventually it got to be too much and I bit the bullet and replaced it.

Good luck and let us know the outcome.

best regards,

Chris

If the problem really is tree roots it will get progressively worse (and always at the most inconvenient time). The price they offered was not a bad price. I had two done this year because I was tired of snaking them out after every heavy rain. 

@Sara Siri    I'm sorry you had to go through this.  I have two properties where this has come up.  In the first, as part of the purchase our agent recommend a pipecam inspection.  We had to pay for the initial inspection.  This enabled us to request the plumber hydrojet the line to remove some of the roots with a follow up pipecam which the seller paid for.  We have used the chemical treatment and snakes with cutters to keep on top of it.  I hate Mulberry tree roots.   Fortunately, it has only required a few follow ups over the years.

In our second property the lines are old asbestos and had a bad root problem. The soil is very easy to dig up in this location.  The plumber was a nice guy (in a small town) and said for us to dig it up without disturbing the line and he would replace the section for us. We had to check with the city to get a copy of the original drawing to see where the lines were to know where to dig.

@Sara Siri  

I think there's another side to this:  that would be that the seller and seller's realtor failed to disclose a material fact that they should have known.

Really in the final analysis, only a judge makes these types of decisions.  The problem is that in order to get to the judge you would spend alot more money than it's really worth.

What I might do is to speak with an attorney.  Have him write a strong letter to both the seller and his realtor's broker and the realtor, all three.  In that letter I would talk about the failure to disclose, etc etc.

Will it do any good?  Maybe it would bring another compromise attempt.  You can only hope.  But it shouldn't be too expensive to write a letter either.  If that fails, I probably wouldnt proceed because the lawyer fees will exceed your damages even if you win.

Hearing this from the professionals in this forum makes me believe that we should not pursue any legal actions. Thank you all for your input.

I'll convey these messages to my agent and see if she has any further advice. I'll post an update here if there is any turnaround.

Thank you again.

Sara

Thank you Jim Piper. That's a good point. I posted my reply before seeing yours. I'll brainstorm this thought with my agent.

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