Who's responsible for termite damage?

My husband suspected we had termites so he had someone over from pest control to examine our house. The inspector informs us that not only do we have termite damage but he thinks the previous owner made a deliberate effort to cover it up. :eek:

The pest control man wants $1700 to get rid of the termites.

We bought our house three years ago. Can we legally sue the previous owner for this expense for apparently concealing the damage? He runs a business in town so it would be very easy to find him. We also had a home inspection. Can we sue the home inspector for not catching this problem then?

In the meantime we’re going to get at least two other opinions about the extent of the damage. But if they all say the same thing my instinct is to sue. The previous owner is considered someone in our town who does not always adhere to the highest ethical standards. I would not be surprised had he made an effort to cover up any termite problem.

Did you have a seperate termite inspection? I remember hiring a pest control company to check for termites, in addition to the home inspector…

I blame the termites.

We didn’t have a separate termite inspector. The home inspection company told us they would do an all inclusive inspection (including pests and chemicals like radon) when they looked at the house.

I think you’re screwed. I don’t know the laws in your state, but in FL, termite inspections are done separately from the home inspection (different expertise, you see) and the inspection report is only good for about 30 days. What you may call a “deliberate attempt to cover up” may be instead an “honest attempt to repair.”

Was the existing damage disclosed in your contract? IANAL, but I don’t think you’re going to get any joy from the seller after three years. Talk to your agent, the one who sold you the house. Shop around for other repair bids, and good luck.

Can you sue the seller? Probably not, unless he made a specific representation to you about the house not having any termite infestation or damage. If he made no representations, he can hardly have misrepresented anything.

Can you sue the inspector? Well, if you can prove that there was a termite infestation and existing damage at the time of that inspection, you might be able to do it. But I don’t know how you’d go about proving something like that. If you didn’t have a current infestation, you could make the point that any damage had to have happened before you got the house, but I think you’d have a hard time showing that the current damage hadn’t happened while you owned the house. I also think that many of them have specific clauses saying they’re not responsible for anything you discover more than a certain period after the inspection, and those periods are usually less than two months. So after three years, you’re probably screwed.

In PA, I look for evidence of wood destroying insects when performing a home inspection, but because I’m not a termitologist, the law forbids me from claiming that there is an active infestation or not. The flip side of that is just because I can’t see evidence doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Usually, I’ll see something and together with grading problems, lack of inspection band and such, suspicions will be raised to the point that an exterminator is called in for confirmation/mitigation.

Review the paperwork which accompanied your home inspection. Sadly, I must agree with CrazyCatLady that you’re likely hosed. Following some inspectors is a disappointment because they missed problems/code violations that Stevie Wonder would have noted, and mumble something feeble before denying responsibility. Then I’m the louse who says it’s gonna cost you $ to fix this and yes, your inspector was a boob.

Review the buyer disclosure form you received at settlement. IANAL, but believe that if damage occurred and they failed to disclose it (either during their ownership or the previous owner disclosed damage and they didn’t pass on the advisory) you may have grounds for a claim.