Fixtures Break After Home Purchase - Who is Responsible?
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: The air conditioner breaks after a home is purchased. Who is responsible? Can the buyer sue the seller for the repair costs?
Q. A real estate agent sold my home last March. Three months later, the new owner notified the real estate agent that the air conditioner was not working.
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The agent told me and my son-in-law, he checked on the air conditioner and he heard it running and was told by the buyer that the unit was working. Since then, the buyer says he will take me to small claims court for three bills he incurred to fix the air conditioner.
My agent says I am not responsible for the problem because the air conditioner was in working condition when we closed on the property. The contract we signed states that the buyer must contact the seller within 6 months if the mechanicals are not in working condition.
The bill is over $1400. Can the buyer sue me?
A. While I donít know the specific language from your contract, it is generally safe to say that if an appliance or fixture was working on the day of the closing, a failure of the appliance or fixture after closing will be the buyerís responsibility to repair. The only exception to this rule would be if you the seller were aware of problems with the appliance or fixture, you might be held responsible for the repair.
There have been situations where air conditioning compressors have died within a week of closing. In some of these situations, the unitís failure had nothing to do with the seller. Instead, the age of the unit was to blame as well as the fact that air conditioners and other appliances can and do fail at any time.
The seller can sue you if he or she feels like it, but itís not likely he or she would prevail based on the facts of your letter.
If on the other hand, you had tried to fix the air conditioner ten times in the two months prior to the closing and it kept failing and the person you had fixing it kept trying to keep it going on a shoe string, a court might determine that you knew of a material problem with the unit, should have disclosed it to the seller, failed to disclose it and are responsible for its repair.
To be sure that you are protected, talk to a real estate attorney about the specifics of your case.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce R. Glinkís latest book is The REAL U Guide to Bank Accounts and Credit Cards. This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. If you have questions for Sam and Ilyce, write:Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or contact them through Ilyceís website www.thinkglink.com.