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RE: stone wall

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True.  But in the case in question, such proof should be somewhat easier.
I would think that you just have to prove that the seller built the
addition and that there is not permit on file for it, unless the seller
claims that the addition just appeared there one day without me building
it (i.e. little magic elves built it while I was out fishing one day).

In this case there are potentially three areas of lack of disclosure at
the sale...1) that there was addition built by the owner (in otherwords, it
could have been presented that house was as it when the seller bought it);
2) the addition was not built to code (i.e. it appears such by the present
of the "pier blocks"); and 3) there was no permit for the addition
(whether it was built to code or not).  Now, item #2 may not be
actionable since it could be discovered/noticed without disclosure (i.e.
the home inspector likely should have caught that).  Item
#1 would typically not be an actionable item at all alone, but rather in
combination with number 2 and/or 3 (i.e. the fact that the addition was
built but the seller becomes irrelevent if it was permitted/to code).  It
is the 3rd item that makes it actionable.  If the seller built the
addition (or had it built or just lived in the house), then they know that
it was built while they owned it.  And if they built it, then they would
know whether or not they got a permit for it (they may not know that they
did not built it to code).  Now, it is possible that they hired a
contractor to build it for them, and that contractor did not get a permit
(I had a concrete contractor why did my walk to my front door, a rear
patio, and piers for a small wooden deck/entry landing say he was going to
get a permit when he priced the job but then back out of getting the
permit which forced me to get it) or built it to code but they did not
know that.  In such a case, the seller would still potentially be liable
to the buyer but then could potentially turn around and sue the
contractor.

As far as your comments go, I agree with #1 and #2, but #3 could be
somewhat debateable.  It is possible that the fact the person in question
did not read it or understand the letter is irrelevent.  It is possible
that the fact that they had possession of the information is enough.  It
could even be possible that the fact that they should have had the
information (i.e. that it was sent, but not necessarily recieved) could be
enough (I though I doubt this scenario)...I seem to recall something from
my contract law class in college that an acceptance of a contract can
be considered binding when I drop the acceptance in the mail box which
would be somewhat similar (and my memory could be wrong or I could just be
wrong).  You last advice is definitely the best...as much jokes and
disdain we as a society may heap on lawyers, in such cases it is really
best to contact one to see what your rights are in such a case.

HTH,

Scott
Ypsilanti, MI


On Fri, 14 Mar 2003, Paul Crocker wrote:

> "The home owner that you mentioned in your post may have had another
> recourse...if the seller did not disclose the information about the lack of
> permit, the seller could be found to be resposible for replacing the
> addition, etc."
>
> The tough part about many state's disclosure laws, as a friend of mine
> recently found out, is that it is fairly difficult to prove that someone
> knew something to be able to disclose it.  In my friend's case, the previous
> owner had been sent a letter about a material defect several years before
> the sale, as had everyone else in their subdivision.  But...
>
> 1) How do you prove a letter was sent?  Unless the contractor kept a record
> over several years, there is no proof a letter was even sent.
>
> 2) If you prove it was sent, how do you prove the owner received the letter?
> Maybe they were accidently left off the list, or maybe theirs was lost in
> the mail.
>
> 3) If you could prove they got it (you can't) can you prove they read it and
> understood it?  Maybe they lost it.  Maybe they thought it was a form letter
> and didn't apply to them.
>
> I'm sure much depends on how your state's disclosure laws are written, but
> in many cases it can be very difficult to prove that someone knew something.
> It might be worth checking with a lawyer, to see.
>
> Paul Crocker, PE, SE
>
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