With shoddy work, suing can be tough


September 12, 2004

Dear Mr. Azrael:

I have been residing in my home in Baltimore City for about a year now and recently discovered that the addition built on the house by previous owners is leaning due to shoddy workmanship.

Neither the home inspector nor Federal Housing Administration said anything about the addition before my settlement. My contractor friend says that I can sue the person who sold me the house if the addition was done without a permit.

Is that true? If so, what information do I need before I contact a lawyer?

Dear Reader:

The building permit records for Baltimore City are kept at the Department of Permits and Licenses at 417 E. Fayette St. You or any member of the public can view the microfilm records and obtain copies during normal business hours.

Your friend is not necessarily correct when he says that you can successfully sue the seller if the addition was built without a permit. Your lawyer will want to review your purchase contract to see if the seller made any disclosures or representations about the home's condition.

You might have to show that the prior owner knew about the defect and had a duty to disclose it to you. You will also want to find out who performed the shoddy work and when. The contractor may be liable.

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