Going after seller for damages to equipment?

We performed an inspection a few days ago for a prospective buyer and set a radon air test at the inspection. Buyer ended up walking away from the house the next day due to structural issues. Seller calls and leaves a voicemail at 10pm saying the radon test was no longer necessary and they removed the equipment from their house and that we needed to retrieve it. Seller tossed the $1500 monitor off their porch into a snow bank where it remained overnight. Not only did the customer pay for a valid test, which the seller had given permission, the monitor is damaged and will at minimum require new batteries, sensors and calibration, but it likely needs replacement. Have any of you had success in going after the seller for damages to equipment? Small claims? Get the local authorities involved? I don’t even know where to start. After the deductible, insurance on the equipment is useless…

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That’s a start. Get the damage to property on record first.

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This is a good example of why it is always preferable to set the radon monitor so that testing is completed at time of inspection.

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Martin has a good start. Make sure you get a police report and send the unit in for assessment and get a quote from the company. and then you may have to go to small claims but first you can try dealing with the seller’s agent’s broker.

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Great example, yes! 95% of the time we do. In this case, we were unable to set ahead as the seller would not allow access due to her dogs being home and was not willing to crate them. The inspection had been rescheduled 2x previously to accommodate the seller, too!

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I hoe you were very obvious in taking pictures and documenting the scene when you retrieved it. If the homeowner was watching, that will at least clue them in that this is serious.

Sorry to here that.
The first thing I would do, reach out to the venders agent to try to get this peacefully resolved as fast as posable.

Notify the listing agent. You had permission to place the monitor in the sellers residence. Moreover, you wish to have the home owner pay for any repair expenses and out of pocket money for time lost during repairs. You will provide all invoices in good faith.
Explain, I understand how emotions can get in the way of doing the right thing but you will be forced to take legal action and civil action against the home owner. The radon monitoring equipment did not belong to the home owner and he is directly reasonable for damages.

Good luck.
Keep us posted.

This is an excellent example of why many inspectors choose to utilize Charcoal Canister testers. If they get tossed around or lost/stolen, you’re only out $20 and some time! Btw… I’m talking about actual Professional Canisters, NOT that “square of sponge in an envelope” crap you hang from the ceiling!!

As for the OP’s issue…

  1. Immediately contact Law Enforcement to report the damage to your property.
  2. Send a Request for Reimbursement for repair/replacement to the property owner and/or tenant.
  3. Assuming #2 fails within 10 days, contact your attorney for legal remedies!
  4. Go on with life, and change over to Professional Charcoal Canisters!!
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This is both criminal and civil. Go for it.

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Well, the good news is nothing seemed to be damaged! Sent it in for calibration and all is well. Whew. Seller reached out the next day with a long-winded explanation of how her life was falling apart, she hadn’t taken her medication because of money issues, and how she was on the verge of losing her house, blah blah blah… Good luck lady!

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I happy it wasn’t worse, Nicholas! :smile:

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Respond in kind… such as how your business is in jeopardy and losing a revenue stream from ignorant, destructive homeowners throwing your expensive, sensitive test equiptment into snow banks because they can’t handle life!!

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Morning Nick.

Happy nothing went south for you.

The vender did reach out and by doing so left them open to liable.
She was forth coming. Money.
Selling a home is an emotional experience for many. Throw in the pandemic, and you be amazed what can happen. Many homes will be foreclosed due to the pandemic. Be happy you are not in her shoes.

Likely the listings agent explained the situation to the vender. Most real estate agents are real great people like you and I trying to make a living. Its the first place I go to start a conversation.

Thank you keeping us posted.
Keep well.

If the inspection did not go so well and I can see the writing on the wall, I will pull the selling agent aside and ask them “hey, if our client decides to terminate, please allow me to retrieve my machine prior to notifying the seller”. It has always worked for me.

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Exactly!

My clients pay for the radon test up front so if something happens to the canister, I’ve already been paid and my client needs to deal with the seller.

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Ouch. After a couple of days to restore your composure, I would:

  1. File a police report for criminal mischief (state specific).

  2. Send a copy of the report, invoice, and demand letter for the full retail value of a replacement to:
    a. Property Owner
    b. Buyer’s Agent and Broker
    c. Seller’s Agent and Broker

  3. Send the letters certified mail to all 3 and include the mailing costs in your demand letter.

  4. Only give them 7 days from the date of the letter to respond. Advise them that you wish to avoid going to court, but if you do, you will include attorney fees and court costs.

  5. If you actually end up in court and get a judgment, make sure you file a lien against the property and send a copy to the Seller’s Agent and Broker.

My guess is that they will settle.