Condo buyer with water, mud problem may have case against seller


September 05, 2004

Dear Mr. Azrael:

I wonder what can be done about buyers being misled and what I can do in my situation.

I recently purchased a condominium and the disclosure signed by the seller checked no water or moisture problems. I did not have a home inspection as there were no structure or roof issues to be addressed by me. I am responsible for the fireplace/chimney and asked for an inspection of this since a liner is expensive.

I did not move in for more than a month and took items down to the condo on occasion. On one of the trips, the cement entranceway outside of mine and a neighbor's condo was full of water and mud. I am on the ground level, and you must descend a flight of stairs from the street to get to my home.

Now I am living in the condo and have had muddy water come in the laundry room. There also may be some behind the stove and built-in cabinets on the same wall. It is obvious now this has been an ongoing problem because the vinyl was cut in front of the washer and removed from underneath it. The floor is stained.

The contractor that looked at the area said it must have been happening for some time because of the stained area. It also is a safety issue as the washer is sitting in water on a wet floor.

I contacted the agent for the sellers -- who also represented me as a dual agent. She said I did not have an inspection, and that the contract noted the home was being purchased in "as is condition."

My neighbor has had her kitchen and dining room flooded three times. She spoke to the previous owner who said the home also had mold and mildew problems.

Although I am contacting the condo management company, I wish to pursue this issue with the agent and sellers.

What are my next steps in dealing with this situation since I believe I was misled? I would not have purchased this condo with this problem and I cannot sell it in this condition since it would mean being untruthful with someone.

Dear Reader:

As I mentioned in a previous Mailbag, Maryland law requires a seller of residential real estate to provide the buyer with a written disclosure of the property's condition or disclaim all representations, so the property is sold "as is."

You indicate that the seller of your condo furnished a disclosure stating that there was no water or moisture problem known as of the date the disclosure form was signed.

You relied on this disclosure in entering into the contract. If you can prove that the seller knowingly or deliberately misrepresented the facts, you may have a valid claim against the seller.

It's often difficult to prove that a misrepresentation was made on purpose. You might want to check with condo management to find out if the previous owner ever complained about water problems. After you've gathered all the information you can, you should consult an attorney. He or she can review the facts and give you a better idea of whether you have enough evidence to meet the required legal standard of proof.

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