The Seller Trashed the Home After Inspection

Buying

Question:

We just bought a house and when we did the inspection everything seemed fine, however, after we moved in realized the prior owner let her dog pee and poop all over the house. It was a disaster and smelled awful. Do we have any recourse?

Answer: 

This is definitely an unfortunate event. Buyers view the house, fall in love with the house, make an offer, the offer is accepted, and onto inspection. The inspection report is as normal as possible and everything is going along smoothly. The house seems in great condition and everything's fine until once the deal closes and the buyers move-in. Then they realize that the previous owner let their dog soil the entire house. Almost to the point of neglect on the animal itself. Carpet and flooring are now ruined. Can a buyer do anything?

A final walk-through is an important part of the final buying process. After inspection and any repairs that the seller was supposed to make, the buyer should do one final walk-through to verify that the home is in the same condition as when they chose to purchase it.

But even after that final walk-through, a seller could go back to destroy the property and in this case, they did. Here's what you can do.

Have your buyer's agent talk to the listing agent to come up with some reasonable negotiation if possible. If the seller moved out on a short sale or had some resounding bitterness towards the sale, you may or may not get an answer back from the homeowner. Once the deal is closed, it's really buyer beware. The buyer is now on their own but, there should be some sort of negotiation and agreement on keeping the property in good standing order until closing as directed in the contract.

"Another option may be to have a nominal amount of money held back in the offer until after closing.If there are any damages or debris then this money can be used to offset those costs. However, some sellers may not be willing to agree to incorporate this in their offer and then it comes down to hearsay. If the home is severely damaged costing a substantial amount of money for repairs, a lawsuit could ensue. It is legally the seller's responsibility to maintain the property until it closes. If something was agreed upon to stay or go and that contract has been breached, it's up to the buyer to pursue legal action." [American Society of Home Inspectors

You have to determine whether or not pursuing a claim in Small Claims Court is worth your time, effort, and money. If you are talking about replacing all of the carpets and flooring in the house, this can be an extremely expensive process, plus, if there was damage to the subfloor, more repair may be needed.

More Advice: Another reason for that final walk-through

Once the property has closed it has to go to a lawsuit situation. Unfortunately, there are too many people out there with such low integrity that this kind of thing may happen more often than we think. This is why that final walk-through is crucial to the home buying process. It even makes sense to do the walk-through after the seller has moved out if possible. The next time you buy a house, make sure it is written in the contract that the seller must be out before final closing so the buyer can verify the state of the property.

Other Situations: What if the home is destroyed or damaged in some other way such as by fire or severe storm? "This can definitely throw a wrench into the process if the damage occurs between the time the seller accepts the offer and the final transfer of property. If the damage is so severe that the buyer will no longer want to buy the property, the buyer should be able to back out of the transaction and receive the earnest money back. But for less serious damage, a buyer and seller should be able to negotiate whether the property can be repaired quickly and in enough time to salvage the transaction. Good communication between buyer, seller, and both agents is imperative." - Mary Pong [Bellevue Luxury Real Estate Agent]