Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Finally, I Made a Complaint! (02-25-11)

Over the last year, I've been crying and whining about the problems we've had with the house, either about the dysfunctional transaction or about repairs the previous owner promised to do but ultimately didn't. And every time I finished telling my tales of woe to whoever was patient enough to listen to me, I'd conclude by stating that I was, for sure, going to make a formal complaint against the previous owner. Then, some catastrophe would happen, and I would be distracted with another pressing issue.

It was like a background nagging, a constant burden. And it was infuriating, especially after moving in and finding out how many problems there actually were with the house, and I am not talking about an errant Hobo spider here or there, although by itself, that would be enough to get me freaked out.

Well, I finally did it! It took me months, but I finished my letter to the previous owner, and sent it off yesterday. In it, I list some of the problems we've encountered and point out that these issues ought to have been disclosed, and ask for payment of repairs to be done, as well as for reimbursement for work already done. For good measure, I also included colors photographs, estimates, receipts, notarized statement from the lady who was renting part of the house, and the 911 report about the undisclosed January 2010 frozen pipe incident.

Depending on the speed of postal delivery, this may have been already delivered today, or maybe tomorrow...

Here is the letter I sent.

[First and last name] and [First and last name]
[Street address]
[City], [State] [Zip code]

14 February 2011

[First and last name of previous owner]
[Street address]
[City], [State] [Zip code]

[First and last name of previous owner’s real estate agent]
[Name of real estate agency]
[Street address]
[City], [State] [Zip code]

Cc: [First and last name of previous owner’s agent’s broker] [Name of real estate agency]
[First and last name of our real estate agent] [Name of real estate agency]
[First and last name of our agent’s broker] [Name of real estate agency]

Re: Disclosure Form
for sale of property located at
[Street address] [City], [State] [Zip code]

Dear Madam,

I am writing this letter in regards to the disclosure form you provided for the property located at [Street address] [City], [State] [Zip code], which we purchased from you on [Month and day], 2010.

In light of problems that have emerged since the purchase of this property, we are notifying you that there were issues you apparently were aware of, but did not report on the property disclosure form even though you were mandated to report them by [Name of state] law.

In light of the fact that the property has been your main residence for several years and was recorded in your name since [Month] 1998 after being in your parents’ name as early as of 1997, a reasonable expectation is that you would have acquired direct and intimate knowledge of any problems that may have emerged during those years.

The problems mentioned above are:
1.     The foundation repairs that were to be done as part of the transaction were not completed; the foundation is in fact in poor condition and this state is likely related to some of the factors listed below.
2.     The large mound of dirt at the back of the property has caused rain drainage runoff to flow and pool against the back foundation wall of the house.
3.     According to the landscaper who installed the sprinkler systems in ca. 2007, French drains were installed, to alleviate drainage problems in the berry garden area “due to a flash flooding to the back of the house during a storm sometime in about 2007.”
4.     Your tenant, Ms. [First and last name], revealed to us that the water pipes to the tenant kitchen burst in winter 2009-2010 and resulted in a 911 call.
5.     Ms. [Last name] also informed us that the pipes to the main house kitchen also burst under the house sometime in winter 2009-2010.
6.     The gutters were in such bad condition that they leaked or poured every time it rained, and contributed to the water drainage problems.
7.     The perimeter of the main house is permanently wet in spring, fall and winter.
8.     Due to water accumulating against the perimeter wall of the main house, there has been some seepage of water under the house, contributing to possible weakening of the foundation.
As the owner and occupant of the main house, you had to be aware of this issue, especially since you agreed to make repairs to the foundation as part of the sales purchase.
9.     The sprinkler system attached to the neighbor’s property (at SE corner) actually waters large portions of our property, including lawns and large shrubs.
10.  The drainage collection pond that we are required to maintain and recorded on the title is not there. As party to this agreement with the [Name] Sanitary District, you had to be aware of this issue and report it in the disclosure form.

All of the above should have been noted on the Property Disclosure form and were either left off, or marked “unknown.” Marking “unknown” to questions pertaining to water seepage or drainage issues does not relieve you of the obligation to be truthful. According to the [Name of state] Association of Realtors, “Answering “unknown” to avoid disclosure of known information can be considered a form of fraud.” ([Website address]). Surely, even you, a real estate agent with an active license in the State of [Name of state] would be aware of that.

The factors above affect the property value in a detrimental manner and, had we known about them, would have fully been influential in our decision to not purchase this property after all. We feel that we have been defrauded by your negligence and request some financial compensation to address the issues in question.

I am including estimates for necessary foundation and drainage repairs, as well as receipts for corrective work already done, such as excavating the mound of dirt to level the ground in a manner that water will not run against the house, as well as installing properly working gutters.

My husband [First name] and I acted in good faith during this transaction and expected the same from all parties involved, including and especially you, since you are a real estate agent with an active license in the State of [Name of state], and are consequently bound by strict ethical guidelines.

We expect to be reimbursed for the costs incurred so far and compensated for those that still need to be carried out. That done, we would give you full release from any further issues with the property, including the foundation.

[First name] and [First name and last name]

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