Problem with attorney used for buying a house?

I closed on a house last week and the first night noticed that there was a problem with the sump pump. Long story short I had to dig up half of my yard to get the water out of the drain tile to keep the water out of my basement. I talked to the neighbor and she had said that the previous homeowner had done some work to try to fix it. It was set up completely wrong and none of the pipes were connected including an old clay pipe which was supposed to run to the storm drain. The clay pipe has been plugged and broke and can no longer drain water.

The property disclosure asked two questions on drainage issues and there was no answer for either of them. (All the other questions had answers on the disclosure). I called the attorney I used for buying the house and he said to write up the problem and email it to him. Once he received it then he would send it to the sellers attorney. That was Tuesday and I haven't heard anything from him. I have emailed him and called him with no response.

Is the attorney at fault for not making sure the paperwork was filled out correctly?

Are the homeowners still responsible, because of the fact that they were aware of the problem?

How can I resolve this issue?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

6 Answers

  • 7 years ago
    Favourite answer

    There is no way to know what the action is because we don't know what your agreement said or what you did:

    - was the property "as is" = if it is, the seller isn't responsible for anything.

    - did you have an inspection? = if you didn't, your fault. If you did, what did the inspection say about the sump pump. if you didn't, you are probably at fault because you didn't bother to find out any problems with the property before you closed.

    - you read all the disclosure paperwork, didn't you? Why didn't you question why the sump pump questions where not answered?

  • Donald
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    I partially disagree with the other answers. Note: I'm not an attorney, so this isn't legal advice. I'm a Realtor, though. However, Realtors have it pounded into their heads that they're not attorneys. So, be aware of where I'm coming from.

    To correct some of the other answers here, the use of attorneys varies state-by-state. Where I am, in Virginia, attorneys usually aren't involved in the transaction though there's nothing wrong/unusual about having them review all the documents. In other states, though--New York and New Jersey are two examples--attorneys are intimately involved. There's an actual process called "attorney review"--it's like the home inspection period.

    Having said that, if you had an attorney review the documents--regardless of your location or what the customary expectation is--your attorney has certain obligations to you. In your case, your attorney should have alerted you to the non-answers on the disclosure form. (Even if you'd noticed them yourself, the attorney had the obligation to point them out.) Further, the attorney should have advised you on what those non-answers might mean. Bluntly, your attorney should have said something like: "Well, maybe they just didn't notice those two questions. Or maybe there's some problem there that they didn't want to answer." Your attorney also should have provided guidance on what to do next. Maybe send the paperwork back and get those two blanks filled out. Maybe call in an expert to inspect the drainage situation. But: That's what you were paying the attorney to do--review the paperwork, identify any problems (and the failure to complete the form is a problem), and recommend possible solutions.

    So--in my non-legal opinion--your attorney has some responsibility here. Whether you can successfully pursue it is a different matter.

    What about the former homeowners? Realistically, they didn't fill out those blanks because they knew the problem existed and hadn't been fixed. I know that, you know that. But can you prove it? Maybe yes. Check with the neighbor and see if he/she remembers what companies your seller had used to try to fix the problem. Then contact them and get their history on the place. If your neighbor doesn't remember or prefers not to say, then call repair companies in the area who do that sort of work. You might have to end up calling 5 or 10 or 15. But eventually you'll find the company. And check the sump pump. Often, service companies put stickers on equipment--hot water heaters, furnaces...and sump pumps. If there's no sticker on the sump pump, at least call the other service providers who've left stickers; maybe the seller used the same company for both.

    Another tip: Have your Realtor look up the property history and see if it was listed before but didn't sell. Have your agent contact the listing agent and find out what he/she knows/knew about drainage problems. Also, contact the listing agent who was involved in your transaction. Agents are required to disclose known problems. If they don't, they can be liable. They can also put their licenses in jeopardy.

    Hope that helps.

  • 7 years ago

    No, it is not your attorney's fault. Infact, it would be unusual that an attorney even filled out or reviewed the disclosure form. Typically, this is done by the seller and the seller's agent.

    Your attorney only gets involved if there was a dispute.

    At any rate, IF the seller's knew about the drainage problem and you can prove this, then they can be held liable in court. The trajectory of your case is as follows: you'll file a lawsuit stating that they did not disclose the drainage problems. They'll contend that they had fixed the problem and did not think there was an issue when the property was sold. The judge will decide based on all the evidence presented who he thinks is more credible.

  • 7 years ago

    If he seller thought he had repaired this item, then he would not disclose it as he thought the problem was solved.

    You indicated the questions on the disclosure form about the drainage went unanswered. You or your attorney might have required the answer to these questions prior to closing. It appears as if neither of you did.

    I am at a loss as to why you would use the services of an attorney. Most real estate transactions are done thorough a real estate agent, escrow and title agents. There are some states that use attorneys as escrow agents.

    Good luck on attempting to blame the attorney for any type of wrong doing.

    Did you hire and use the services of an inspector? If so this inspector might would have found the problem and mentioned it in his/her report.

    Since the closing was within a week of you discovering this problem there is a possibility you would find that the former owner might be required to take some financial responsibility for this problem. His attorney would surely fight this, however, the time frame is so short in the discovery and the closing.

    It might be that you would be required to file a law suit against this former owner.

    I hope this has been of some benefit to you, good luck.

    "FIGHT ON"

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  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    No answer would be an implied "no problem, or no knowledge of problem" for those questions. Your attorney was not at fault.

    If it can be determined that the seller knew or would have known of the problem, they can be held liable to make good on the repairs. Obviously things that they did not know or could not know would not be held against them, but it does not sound like this is the case here.

    It is interesting that your inspector didn't make a note of this, unless it was not an obvious situation. They can't detect everything but you would know if this is something they could have caught or not.

    I would let your attorney continue to handle this. He will need to prepare the demand letter once he gets a response from the seller or their attorney.

  • 7 years ago

    "Are the homeowners still responsible, because of the fact that they were aware of the problem?" - Prove they were aware.

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