A neighbor told me that the house I want to buy once had a bad mold problem. It was not in the seller's disclosure. What should I do?
Sunday, March 3, 2019
First of all, it’s important to consider that the “helpful” neighbor may also want to buy the house, or may have a relative that wants to buy it, and is trying to fend off other potential buyers. Tenants, who are likely to be kicked out of a house after the sale, are also prone to making amazing claims about the defects in a house. We have come across this phenomenon more than once.
The terrible problem, whether mold or something else, may be real or not; or, it might be that the problem was there, but was not as severe as described, and has since been fixed. Unfortunately, lack of disclosure always spooks a homebuyer, even if the defect has been repaired correctly. We inspected a house several years ago that had silver paint on all the roof trusses over the garage and a recently replaced garage ceiling, which is clear evidence of repair of smoke damage after a fire in the garage. It was not in the seller’s disclosure and, when asked about it, he feigned a memory lapse: “Oh, yes, that fire. I had forgotten about it…” The deal died after that, even though the repair was satisfactory.
If the problem was mold, and it is not disclosed, then asking the seller specifically if there was mold would be a good start. And, if there was mold and your question jogged the seller’s memory, did the seller have a professional remediator fix it and is there documentation of the work done by the remediator? Further evaluation by a mold inspector may be necessary if there is no proof of professional repair.
Other types of comments that a neighbor may make, such as “You know, his wife committed suicide in the front bedroom,” are not required by law to be disclosed in most states. California is the only exception, and requires disclosure of any death in the home within the last three years.
Also, see our blog post Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?
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