Am I responsible for problems after sale?

22 Replies

Two years ago I flipped an old home located in the same small town I live in.  I had new chimney liners and caps and a new roof put on.  Shortly after the sale, the buyers called me to ask about water coming in around the chimneys.  I sent back my roofer and he applied more sealant.  They still leak.  I called my chimney guy and he went back and worked on the caps.  They still leak.  The  mason told them that it's because I wanted it done cheaply.  Thanks for throwing me under the bus!  I always want a good value, but not shoddy work.  Now they're demanding that I hire somebody to fix the problem.   Nobody seems to know where the water is getting in.  This is a small town and I'd hate to hurt my reputation.  What would you do?

Fix it. If it's never been right since day one, you need to take care of it. I'd never use that mason again, that's for damn sure! I wouldn't send the same roofers or masons out again either. At this point, coming up on winter and with the runaround these buyers have been through, get the best out there and take care of it. 

Not sure where the leak is but "sealant" doesn't fix everything and not for long. I'd get a good roofer out there and have them take a hose up and figure out where the leak is. My bet is flashing between the chimney and roof, not the caps, but a competent roofer should be able to look at the caps and tell you if they're OK. If you have mortar caps then a metal flue cap, if the mortar caps are cracked, that could be the culprit too. If the brick is cracked water could be getting in on the vertical brick joint cracks but that's the last place I'd look. Flashing and mortar caps are first and second.

When looking for leaks with a hose, start at the lowest possible point where the leak could be and work your way up. Stay on each area for a good 5-10 minutes, it sometimes takes a while for water to saturate and travel to the point you'll see it inside. 

@Troy S.   few people seem to realize the importance of taking a hose starting at the low point and identifying the source of the leak before trying to fix it. 

Today I always find the source of the leak before before I hire someone to do roof repair. 

I have spend thousands of dollars on repairs that did not fix the problem. Including entire new rubber roof, on one level  on one commercial project  roofer guaranteed it wouldnt leak anymore after that, first rain it leaked again. Roofer wouldnt fix it because it was not coming through the roof he replaced, so after four contractors tried to fix it including a new rubber roof, one of my guys and I took a hose and within 15 minutes located the leak, took a tube of quad to fix, it was coming in through some siding above this roofline, nobody had bothered to check the source of the leak. 

@Amy A.   its annoying and irritating,  but I vote to fix. We get this on occassion with rehabs. If it is something that one of our contractors obviously didnt fix properly we fix it. 

Few days ago, buyer from a sale six month ago, wanted us to send our drywaller out to fix a popped drywall screw and also  wanted us to send our carpet guy to reinstall carpet that came loose on the steps. 

We had not installed the drywall, and I had no way of knowing what happened to the carpet to make it come loose. We did not send anyone.

Fix it, have buyers sign that its fixed, then murder the contractors you hired previously.....or tell buyers to forget it, hold them to their "as-is" agreement, tell them to sue you and get ready for fun, then murder the contractors you hired previously

There is a statistic somewhere that says a satisfied customer may tell one or two people about his experience, but an unsatisfied customer will tell, on average, NINE people about his bad experience. 

Since this is a small town, if you wish to continue to do flips, the goodwill from fixing this will benefit your reputation. Normally, it would not be your responsibility 2 years post sale, but the small town trumps that.

Good luck!

I am also in a small town, and I agree with most of the above.  You cannot do business in a small community without being concerned about reputation.

As for the mason, if he was telling the truth he was not throwing you under the bus.  

@Richard C.  

Truth or not, he was most certainly throwing her under the bus.  If he stood by the quality of work he did, all he needed to tell the homeowner was that he performed the work he was hired to do. 

I have a different perspective.  He is doing business in a small community just as much as the original poster is, and reputation is going to be just as important to him as to her.  If the cause of the issue is that it was a cheapo repair, I don't see why he should have to let people think he is just bad at his job.

As I said in my reply, this depends on whether he was telling the truth.  But if the cause of the issue is a cheap repair, then I think it is perfectly fine to say that the cause of the issue was a cheap repair.

This is not an answer to your specific question, but in general roof leaks can be very difficult to find and fix.  I once owned a tri-plex and we spent thousands of dollars with many different people trying to get a leak fixed over a 6 year period.  And never did actually get it fixed.

@Richard C.  

I understand your point of view, but there is a professional way to respond to homeowner complaints without calling the person who paid you cheap. 

@Bryan L.  

Well put.  It took a couple years and multiple roofers to identify the source of a leak.  Replaced roof and replastered ceiling, only to have the ceiling ruined after the next downpour.  Turned out to be a siding issue when the rain came down at a certain angle. 

For what it's worth I have actually been on the roof with a garden hose with someone inside........is it leaking now?????how about now????. But I found it. Also a siding issue.

ill play devils advocate here... Did they get a home inspection ? were they represented by a real estate agent ? did you know there was a leak and not disclose it ? and is your state a buyer beware state? 

In ohio that would be a too bad too sad item. You had the chance to hire a home inspector of your choice and ask to have anything you wanted fixed. you did or didn't not hire a inspector based on your own informed decision and i will not be held responsible for that. 

With that being said you do live and work in a small town and reputation might be worth more then a few dollars to you. but in ohio the law would be on your side. and i work in a big enough city i would not fix the issue if i didn't know about it at time of sale and had LICENSED professionals do the work. i would just give the new owner those peoples numbers and have them deal with it and say welcome to home ownership. just because you rehabbed the property doesn't mean you need to change the lightbulbs when they burn out for them. 

Officially, @Amy A.   I don't think you have no obligation. Morally though you do. The leak has been there since the transaction.

IF the leak is from the work you had done, I'd fix it. Reputation is everything.

I'd put together a written agreement with the buyer stating that if the leak is from your work, you'll pay for it. If it's from something else, it's the risk of homeownership, and they pay for it.

I'd also get different people out to fix it that were not involved in the original work. 

Having just had a roof leak found by my floor guy who found a water seeping into the wood floor (due to poor flashing).  Roof leaks are a bit of an investigation. Ours was coming down a wall which was not wet and seeping to low point in the floor then seeping into the wood. 

 I would get some new contractors in there since it is from Day 1 regardless of whether it is your technical responsibility.   It is fine to send the previous contractor for that first call but if it is still leaking send someone else. Lose the chimney guy, if he thought the repair was the wrong one he should not have done it.   I like the idea of a simple written agreement saying you pay to remediate and they pay if its new or they desire a more extensive rebuild but I don't know how you would write that.  It is more about reputation then whether you are technically responsible.   I also would be inclined to say flashing ,  every time there is an issue with the roof that is what seems to come out to in the end..

The saga continues...

The wrote another email detailing everything they're unhappy with about the house and threatening to sue me if I don't send the chimney guy back.  It turns out he used a bad tube of caulk around the cap without realizing it. He had already gone back and re-caulked one chimney and it fixed the problem, he just didn't return with a longer ladder and do the other chimney as he said he would.  I called him and he agreed to go back and re-caulk it.  

They could have simply explained the situation without threats and insults.  They told me that my friends in town talk about me behind my back and I have a bad reputation around town.  I guess that's why nobody asked me to the prom this year.  Seriously, I'm on many town boards and volunteer a lot and have a great reputation.  I don't think there's anything that I can do to make them happy.  They have buyer's remorse and need somebody to blame.  I'm glad I was careful to get permits for everything! 

Amy, would you do me the honor of attending the prom with me?

Communication is key and staying on top of such issues, homeowners usually feel like they are left out in the cold when they don't see issues resolved, close communication generally takes care of that.

Years back, I bought a Jeep from a dealer. the deal was clearly "as is" I took it back a week later, the A/C went out. He could have said, "well, sorry, not my problem" but he said "well, you didn't buy a Jeep from me without A/C, let's take a look" The fix cost him a tad over $600 !

Over the years, I've probably sold more vehicles for him than his best salesman there!

Your reputation not only keeps you in business it increases your business.

If you do repairs or rehab a property your state probably has statutory periods as to your being responsible for what you did. I suggest you address any issue, just be reasonable and consider karma.

And, Amy, I'm not the kind of guy that gets jealous if my date dances with others, you'd be safe too, I've got some pretty fancy foot work with my cane! ;) 

Bill, I would love to go to the prom with you, as long as you're as suave as the guy in David R's photo!  I felt like I was back in high school or Jr. high today, with "nobody likes you and everybody is talking about you and we're going to spread rumors" drama.

This house is over 100 years old.  I sometimes have problems with rehabs of houses this old.  People buy an old house and expect it to be perfect.   We have the oldest housing stock in the nation, so it's hard to find newer projects.  I'm proud of the beautiful landmark that I restored.  I put $90,000 into it and would live there myself.  I don't mind fixing a leak that occurred soon after purchase and always responded whenever they contacted me.  There was no need for them to attack and threaten me personally.  I bet they have other stress in life and are taking it out on me.

@Amy A.  

Sorry to hear this.  But glad it's fixed.

Maybe drop a bottle of wine off and apologize for their issues..might clear up the drama

@Amy A.   Seems like you are dealing with people more than problems...which is the business we're in. I think you have to draw the line somewhere, else the folks that bought your property will never stop. This is a situation of mediation, rather than fixing problems. Open communication is most important thing these people need right now, along with them understanding the realities of buying a home...best of luck!

I know about using the wrong caulk. Dealt with that on a slider. Once the right caulk was applied the leak stopped for many years and nothing has been done since.

I was going to suggest calling a roofer but it sounds like the issue is done.

You could suggest to them that damaging someones reputation unfairly could be grounds for your own lawsuit. 

At the end of the day you want to reduce the anger and chauk it up to working with the public. RE brings out the worst in people. Worked with the public all my life but never have seen people be as vicious as people buying and selling RE.

Good luck @Amy A.  

Originally posted by @John Weidner:

@Amy A.  

Sorry to hear this.  But glad it's fixed.

Maybe drop a bottle of wine off and apologize for their issues..might clear up the drama

 Great idea, a bottle of wine or a box of cookies always goes a long way to soothing any problems after the leak is fixed. Ahhh, the hazards of tenants, toilets, and termites...

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.

By signing up, you indicate that you agree to the BiggerPockets Terms & Conditions.