Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: My daughter just purchased an 85-year-old house. The sellers disclosed that the gas furnace was in working order. After moving in, we had a furnace repairman check the system to make sure that everything was ok. It turned out the furnace is not up to code and will need to be replaced. Are the sellers liable for the cost of replacement? Craig

Dear Craig: If the furnace is unsafe or inoperative, the sellers could be liable, depending on whether they were aware of the problem. But there is an inconsistency in the repairman’s findings, as you described them.

Furnace replacement is necessary if the fixture or its components are damaged or deteriorated. Lack of code compliance is typically a matter of improper installation and is usually correctible. Three pertinent questions for the repairman are, “What, exactly, is wrong with the furnace? What are the specific code violations? And can the furnace be made to operate safely?” An additional question for you and your daughter is, “When you say ‘repairman,’ do you mean a licensed HVAC contractor?” If not, you should get a second opinion from a qualified professional.

The next issue is whether your daughter hired a home inspector before she bought the property. If not, she made a crucial error. In that case, a home inspector should be hired now to determine what other defects remain undisclosed. If she did hire an inspector, why was the furnace problem not discovered at that time? The answer to that question would depend on the nature of the furnace issues, whether the defects were visible at the time of the inspection, and whether the furnace is truly faulty.

Again, specific details regarding the alleged defects are needed.