The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector
Dear Barry: My parents just sold their home, and they disclosed in writing that the basement becomes wet during rainy weather. The buyers chose not to have a home inspection, and now they accuse my parents of hiding a mold problem in the basement. They’ve even hired an attorney. Shouldn’t the buyers have hired a home inspector, and if they chose not to have an inspection, weren’t they saying, in effect, that they weren’t particularly concerned about disclosure of defects? Dan
Dear Dan: Buying a home without a home inspection and then complaining about undisclosed defects is like buying a pair of shoes without trying them on and then complaining that they cause blisters. Only a naive, ill-advised buyer would forego a home inspection in today’s real estate market. The people who bought your parent’s home did not exercise due diligence. That’s their fault. Now that the deal is closed, the proverbial milk is spilt, and they are looking for someone to blame.
It is not unusual or surprising that your parents were unaware of the mold in the basement. Most basements are dimly lit, and mold on basement walls can easily go unnoticed by homeowners. When mold is discovered by an inspector, sellers are usually surprised. If the discovery occurs after the close of escrow, a disgruntled buyer with the aid of an attorney can raise a lot of grief and trouble. Unfortunately, there is always an attorney ready and willing to take such cases, regardless of merit. And once an opponent hires an attorney, there is little choice but to engage an attorney of your own.
Hopefully, some reason can be brought to bear in the matter. The buyers should be informed that not all mold infections are dangerous. Instead of jumping to conclusions about the severity of the problem, and instead of making unfounded accusations of nondisclosure, a qualified mold specialist should be hired to evaluate the condition. However, the mold inspector should not be a “hired gun” to validate the position of either the buyers or the sellers. Instead, the inspector should render an unbiased opinion about the nature and extent of the mold. And if possible, the dispute should be settled by mediation, not by litigation.