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

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: We are buying a home and have received the sellers’ disclosure statement. The sellers say they received an insurance payment for hail damage on the roof, but they admit that the repairs were never done. We have two questions about this: Did the sellers commit insurance fraud by receiving payment for roof damages, without completing the repairs?  And, are the sellers obligated now to repair the roof?  Jen

Dear Jen: The sellers would only be guilty of insurance fraud if the claim for hail damage had been false. If the insurance company paid for actual damages, then the sellers had the choice to spend the money on repairs or to accept the money as compensation for the loss. What matters in this case is that the sellers honestly disclosed that there are unrepaired roof damages.

The sellers are currently under no obligation to repair the roof, although you can request repairs as part of your negotiations with them. What is needed now is a professional evaluation of the roof by a qualified home inspector or roofing contractor. Once you know the extent of the damages, you can decide whether repair or replacement of the roof is needed. With this information, you’ll be better prepared to negotiate with the sellers.