Found an article in Nov 6-Nov19 Issue of Resale Home Magazine written by
John Poletes B.A.S., LL.B
Just Moved In and Your Roof Begins to Leak-Know your Rights!
you finally relax in your old armchair after an exhausting move to your newhome. Just as you start channel surfing you hear a plop, then another from the ceiling above.You reassure yourself that the roof is in good condition as your agent wisely insisted on a thorough home inspection. After some investigation,the plumber tells you that the upstairs shower floor must have a small leak, but to be sure he has to rip out half the living room ceiling and the new marble tiled bathroom.
What can you do now? You took all the precautions. You call the Inspector and complain. The Inspector politely reminds you that the inspection is limited to what can be discovered with a visual inspection in readily accessible areas. since there was no evidence of moisture when the house was inspected, they cannot be responsible or expected to inspect inside walls and under floors, so tough luck. But are you out of luck?
The legal term for your problem is a “latent defect”, as can be distinguished by a “patent defect”. Patent defects are discoverable upon examination, for example a roof leak, foundation crack, or bat infestation. These defects follow the age old law of Caveat Emptor. When you purchase a property, you undertake some risk, and if the defect is evident and discoverable, you may be out of luck. The only exception is if the vendor has given specific warranty in the agreement.
The agreement usually includes standard clauses relating to warranties and defects. The most common clause #12 states that as a purchaser you have had the opportunity to inspect the property and that the agreement is binding. Clause 21 provides limited protection to the purchaser against UFFI and clause 24 states that there are no warranties or agreements except those contained in the offer.These clauses in combination mean that the purchaser takes the property as found. Therefore, in the case of a patent defect, you are out of luck.
Latent defects however are another matter. This is an exception to the Caveat Emptor rule, and is in an area of law that can have surprising results. A latent defect is by definition something that is not easily discovered. With latent defects the courts will award monetary damages. Patent defects that have been covered up by the vendor, will often be interpreted as latent defects by the courts, in order to award some kind of relief. Whether a defect is classified latent or patent is up to the judge and the outcome is sometimes surprising.
Whether a court views a defect as patent or latent will determine if it will award a remedy after the purchase.
This may leave you wondering what the role and responsibilities of the Home Inspector are. The Inspector assumes some responsibility in finding patent defects, at least as much as the disclaimer allows. However with latent defects the Home Inspector is off the hook.
It is important to stress however a professional Home inspection will dramatically reduce the risk and surprises. An inspection is still your best bet in avoiding problems,but does not eliminate all your risk.If you do encounter a problem after closing, be sure to call your lawyer. In certain circumstances, there is a grey area between a patent defect and a latent defect and you may have a legal remedy.