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Research Septic Problem Before Suing

Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A

REM # LAW 690

By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Summary: A reader purchased a home with a five year old septic system. Now that they are experiencing problems, the home owners discovered that many similar systems are defective. Sam and Ilyce suggest to research the product and its installation, in addition to talking with other owners, before pointing any fingers.

Q: We purchased our home last year. The septic system was five years old. We saw a leak in our yard and that part of the yard was "spongy."
(article continues below useful links)

A repairman told us the polystyrene that supports our lines is disintegrating and repair estimate is six thousand dollars!

He said he put in 17 systems with that material and has had to replace 15 of them! Can we sue the contractor if he won't help us with the cost?

A: If 15 of 17 systems have been replaced, it appears as though your problem is not unique. And if your problem is not unique but seems to be either an installation problem or quality control problem for the product, you should do some research before you start pointing fingers and figuring out who is at fault.

Start by finding some of the other owners who have had the same problem and ask them how they resolved the issue. You may want to find out if there have been any manufacturer recalls of the product that you have installed and whether the manufacturer is offering financial assistance in the replacement of your product.

You will also have to make sure that the problem you are encountering is prevalent not only in your area but in other parts of the country. You can probably do much of this research on the Internet.

After you have more information, you should try to find out who installed your septic system and who manufactured the components in your system. Then you can start making calls to see if they will offer any assistance in the system’s repair.

Keep in mind, that there could be unique circumstances that affect the life of your system that may not be the responsibility of the manufacturer or even the installer. You may need to talk to other companies that install septic systems and rule out that the original repair person wasn’t trying to get you to install a whole new system unnecessarily. You have to make sure you understand what needs to be done and why.

While there are lots of qualified people out there, you have to make sure you hire one to help you. Research the installer with the Better Business Bureau and with other state agencies.

After you have put together as much information as you can, and you have evaluated what, if anything, any of the parties are willing to do in the situation, you can talk to a real estate attorney about any legal options that may be available to you.

Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or contact them through Ilyce’s website




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