“I bought a home and am pretty sure the seller didn’t disclose that the roof was leaking. In the rain a few weeks ago, we had a leak. Our roofer said it HAD to be leaking before the house was sold. What should we do?”
I recommend that you…
1. See an attorney.
2. Stop any further damage immediately, even if it’s just putting an adequate covering on the roof.
3. Get a bid for repair or (if needed) a new roof.
4. When you bought, you received and signed disclosures from the seller. Check them to see if the seller disclosed any leaks etc. The seller is required to disclose anything they know that “materially affects the value or desirability” of the property. If they disclosed it, you’re out of luck, so STOP HERE.
If the seller did not disclose any roof issues…
5. Ask the roofer if he thinks the roof was visibly leaking before you bought the home. (He may have no opinion.) If yes, then the seller may well have known about the leak. If not, the seller probably didn’t.
6. If you’re convinced the seller knew, contact the seller and ask for compensation. Or you can ask your old agent to contact the seller’s old agent. But bear in mind that with the sale closed they’re no longer agents of either party.
7. If the seller won’t cooperate, follow the purchase contract requirements for “dispute resolution.” The standard California contract says you must start with non-binding mediation OR small claims court. FYI, the small claims court limit is 10K for a natural person (5K for a corp or LLC). If your loss exceeds those limits, you may just want to sue for the 5-10K and forgo the rest.
8. As to what’s fair, remember that you didn’t expect a new roof when you bought the home, so it’s not completely reasonable to expect the seller to pay for a new roof. But that’s your call.
Remember, I’m not an attorney, so please verify all the above with a good real estate attorney.