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

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: When we bought our home just over a year ago, we hired a home inspector and addressed all the issues he disclosed. The listing Realtor, at the time, gave us a letter stating that the furnace had been cleaned. But last month, we awoke to a house full of smoke because the heater burned out. The heating contractor we called said he had inspected the furnace one year earlier and had told the Realtor that the system had major problems. He recalled her being angry and saying that she’d call another contractor. She never mentioned any of this to us, so now we’re stuck with a worthless furnace and are probably lucky to be alive. What should we do, and who should we contact? Dianne

Dear Dianne: The conduct of the Realtor, as you describe it, is beyond unethical: It amounts to criminal negligence. It involves failure to disclose major furnace problems that could have endangered the lives of your family.

Of further concern is the home inspector’s failure to disclose major furnace problems. He may have been professionally negligent, depending on what conditions were visible at the time of the inspection. But this barely compares with the deliberate concealment by the Realtor.

Here are a few things you can do:

1) You can obtain a letter from your heating contractor, documenting his encounter with the Realtor when he discovered major problems with the furnace.

2) You can have your home reinspected to test the overall thoroughness of the original home inspection. This time, find someone with many years of experience and a reputation for thoroughness.

3) You can have an attorney notify the Realtor that she is liable for replacement of the furnace and could face further liability for deliberately concealing a significant safety hazard.

Agents of that caliber should not be allowed to practice real estate.