New owner has rights if termites are found

MAILBAG

The pest inspector may be liable, and perhaps the seller, too

September 10, 2000

Dear Mr. Azrael:

We bought a home from an individual seller through an agent last year.

Within one year, we found that our house is infested with termites that have caused some wood damage.

This house was inspected by a pest control company right before we closed the deal with the seller.

According to the pest company's inspections, this problem has been going on at least for several years. However, the seller never disclosed this condition of the property to us then. Even worse, now the seller's present whereabouts is unknown.

Thomas and Marlene Shu

Cockeysville

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Shu:

I want to know why the company you hired to do a termite inspection didn't find evidence of termites or termite damage. That's the reason you have an independent termite inspection performed before settling for a home.

You should carefully review the pre-settlement termite inspection report to see if the infestation and/or damage should have been discovered.

You may have legal rights against the termite inspector if the report did not disclose an obvious termite problem.

As far as the seller is concerned, you probably have a difficult case, as there is no specific legal duty to affirmatively disclose past or existing termite problems.

On the other hand, if the seller made a statement that the home was free of termite damage, you may have legal rights against the seller.

Although you don't know the whereabouts of the seller, this is not a show-stopper. In today's computerized world, it's often possible to track down people, using their past addresses or Social Security numbers, through computerized searches of public records. If you locate the sellers, they can be sued in Maryland because the sale occurred here.

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