Slippery Seller Can’t Shift the Blame


QUESTION: Before buying my condo, I hired a home inspector. A list of repair demands was submitted to the seller, and he reluctantly obliged.

But when the seller filled out his own disclosure statement, he declared no knowledge of other building defects. Now that the rainy season is here, excessive leaking has occurred at the sliding glass doors, soaking the carpets in those areas.

When I lifted the carpet edges, the tack strips were completely rotted, indicating a history of leakage. When I complained to the seller, he denied responsibility.

Instead, he blamed the home inspector for not finding the problem and suggested that the inspector pay for the repairs. I think the seller is skirting his responsibility and would appreciate your opinion on the matter.


ANSWER: It sounds as though the seller needs a crash course in ethical business behavior. When your seller provided a disclosure statement, he was legally obligated to divulge any information he possessed regarding the physical and functional condition of the property.

The fact that the tack strips were rotted indicates the carpets must have been soaked on repeated occasions, something an owner could hardly have failed to notice.

Now that he’s caught with his proverbial pants down, his paltry defense is to cry, “It was the inspector’s fault!”

By trying to blame the inspector, he makes two false assumptions: (1) that the purpose of a home inspection is to absolve sellers of their obligation to disclose; and (2) that inspection companies must function as insurance companies for unscrupulous sellers, indemnifying apparent efforts to conceal hidden defects.


Your first order of business is to prevent further leakage at the doorways. This can usually be accomplished with appropriate applications of caulking. Once the leakage has been curtailed, the cost of replacing the damaged tack strips should be nominal, involving less than an hour’s work for a qualified carpet layer.

If you choose to press the issue with the seller, one simple and inexpensive method would be to take the matter to Small Claims Court. Given the facts, your chances of prevailing appear very good.

Flickering Lights Point to a Serious Problem

Q: The recessed lights in my kitchen ceiling have been flickering, and new light bulbs haven’t solved the problem. I checked the attic and found that the light fixtures were covered with insulation and very hot to the touch. Although I removed the insulation, this did not eliminate the flickering. What do you suggest I do?


A: You were wise to suspect attic insulation as the primary problem. Canister lights should have unrestricted air exposure to promote adequate cooling. Covering them with insulation causes overheating, which poses a serious fire hazard. It’s fortunate that the flickering lights alerted you to this danger.

Persistent malfunctioning of the lights indicates that the fixtures or the wiring have suffered heat damage. I strongly recommend further evaluation by a licensed electrician.


Do You Have a Question?


Got a question about any aspect of the home inspection? Send it to Barry Stone, Los Angeles Times, 540 Atascadero Road, Morro Bay, CA 93442.

Queries can also be sent via e-mail to:

All questions will be considered for use in “Ask the Inspector” but cannot be answered individually.