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Termite hell

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Joined: Feb 8 2005

Hi, My wife and I bought an Eichler in February, deal closed in late March.
We hired a home inspection company to check structure and pest...
My first question to the homeowners was, " Any termites?" They said No.
Our first night here, 8 hours after they actually moved out, we started getting swarmed. At the time my wife and I thought that these were flying ants. Laugh if you must, but I had never seen a termite, and lived in SF for the last 14 years. So, I figured flying ants coming in from the rain to keep dry seemed plausable. I told this to a few people and they said yeah maybe... but my wife did some research. They are definitely termites she said.
So I too did research, and started to investigate the house for evidence.
What I found was shocking. I am not a trained inspector by any means. Yet, I found at least 30 seperate areas visible to the eye that showed activity.
So I called the Inspection company that we hired and told them what I found.
They sent out the original inspector and I showed him everything. He admitted that he screwed up. He said "I can't believe I missed that, and that and that....

So upon further investigation I found evidence that that homeowners were well aware of the situation. I found the paint they used to paint over the spackle job they did on the screed boards to hide termite damage, and then 3 neighbors all said that they had been battling termites for years....

The homeowners new that my wife and I were about to have a baby, yet they lied about the house and had no concern for our well being.

The inspection company sent out a couple of guys to repair some termite damage, and they treated the property with chemicals.

Now, for my questions. Can anybody recommend a real estate lawyer? And have any of you experienced this first hand?

So, in order to deal with all of this stress, we are trying to make the house as nice as possible. But, between dealing with termite hell, (not disclosed by the former owners, and completely missed by the inspection company), and my efforts to try to bring our Eichler back to its former beautiful self, I just don't have the time to try and locate cabinets for our kitchen. Somebody did a terrible refacing job in the '80s which pretty much wrecked the core of the cabinets.
I am wondering if anybody out there has any orginal cabinets in their garage or shed collecting dust? I would be happy to pay for them.
You might be wondering why on earth is he concerned about the kitchen if his house is infested with parasites determined to devour every inch of wood?
I'd tell you why, if I only knew.

Thank you

Ben
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Joined: Aug 12 2004

My realestate lawyer might be helpful. Contact me via e-mail for his name and contact info: ben.toy AT mindspring DOT com

He's pretty expensive, but well worth it if need one of the best.
He used to teach real estate law at the collegiate level.

There is a state law which governes this, unless you bought that house "as is" or if they included "termites" in their disclosure during the purchase process. The seller and the real estate agents are liable to you if they lied, didn't know, etc. Again, unless it was a "as is" purchase.

Documentation is critical. Expert documentation more so. Take pictures, notes, samples, etc. Have 2nd/3rd/etc parties review and best if they are in the business or are experts.

The only fix is to fumigate and repair. Who ever fumigates should be licensed, insured and provide warranty.

The inspector and their company will be on the hook too. Not just $$$$, but their state licensing.

One of my neighbors is going through this same thing. The seller knew, obviously tried to fix & then hide it. Ditto inspection with a clean bill of health. The infestation continued to grow and grow as they tore up sections. Started out as a remodle of the hall bathroom. Now they are into the living room and kitchen. They are "up wind" to me, so am concerned.

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Joined: Mar 25 2003

I'm not even sure that an "as is" purchase leaves the sellers in the clear. California law is very consumer friendly and the disclosure forms are pretty extensive. If you buy "as is" it would seem to me that you're basing that decision on the disclosures made by the sellers. If they lied, your decision shouldn't have to stand.

However, if they mentioned that there might be termites or that they knew about "some" termite damage, they might be covered. And you can bet that your inspector probably worded their report to include loop-holes like "didn't have access to wall cavity so not liable".

As someone who just spent $30,000 fixing termite and dryrot damage, I say good luck.

Joined: Mar 2 2004

Where is your Eichler? I wish everyone could find a reason to put their city in their 'Profile". Did you purchase from the owner or through an agent ? I am surprised the appraiser did not see any evidence of infestation. Read your inspection report carefully. A good pest company guarantees their work. This means that if they miss something, they can be compelled to fix it at their expense...instead of charging others for the repair. This is a real incentive for a thorough inspection. Good inspectors know where to look, and look very carefully. If the seller hid the damage, the inspector may have an 'out'. I would be surprised to find the seller still living in California. I can recommend a very good real estate attorney in San Mateo that won't overcharge you. Good Luck, enjoy what's left of your Eichler.

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Joined: Feb 8 2005

Our Eichler is in Concord. The homeowners were selling the house themselves, but had a "friend", a real estate agent draw up all the papers.
So, the agent represented both parties...
The inspection company admitted that they missed all the evidence, and has since done a treatment, and some minor repairs. However, there is the issue that this house did infact have active infestation, and substantial damage.
Basically we bought the house based on what the inspection company said and naively we took the word of the homeowners as well.
I would love to get any contact info for any real estate lawyers.
Thank you

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Joined: Aug 28 2003

The inspection company has admitted they were at fault. They should pay for your house to be tented by a termite company of your choice. (Check references for any that you consider.) Since you have found 30 areas of visible temite investation you can be sure that they are munching away in less visible places. Spot treatments are not effective for this amount of investation.

Joined: Mar 2 2004

It is best that you find a good real estate attorney close to home. It will save you money. How did you choose the inspection company ? This is a very unusual situation.

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Joined: Apr 2 2003

You've received lots of advice already, but let me just boil this down a bit:

* Speak to a real estate lawyer before you do any (or more) repairs.

Ask him/her about what recourses you have and what documentation, including photos, you should gather. Be sure to ask if you need a witness to the photos.

* Contact the California Structural Pest Control Board

Ask for all records they have on prior home inspections for your address and each of your immediate neighbors. Termite treatment companies are required by law to file a report for every inspection and treatment they perform. These records are available to anyone in the public (not just buyers and sellers) for 2 years. You might hit it lucky and find they had it inspected and just opted not to treat it-- or you might discover both neighbors found and treated termites in the last couple of years, thus bolstering your case if the owner claims he wasn't aware his home was possibly infected..

Also ask if a home inspection company performing termite inspection falls under the Board's pervue. If so, ask how to file a complaint.

* Hire a recommended termite company to determine the real state of affairs. Check their licence with the SPCB before engaging them.

Home inspectors are generalists as a rule, now that you have a specific problem, you need someone with specific knowledge/experience. You don't know if these guys are even capable of identifying what type of termite you have (treatment is diffferent for each of the two common types) or that you know all locations of infestation--both needed to have any faith in a localized chemical treatment. While an inside swarm is generally indicative of drywood termite, that doesn't mean you don't have those *plus* subterranean. You need an expert to inspect and tell you.

* Get an additional home inspection(s).

If it hasn't occurred to you already, your home inspection company might have more skill deficiencies than just termite detection. Best find out now if there are other unpleasant surprises awaiting you. For instance, I recommend you have a radiant heat company inspect the heating system if it is still active. Like termites, this is a specialty area.

I'm sorry your introduction to Eichlers has been such a downer. Good luck.

Jake

eichfan at rawbw dot com

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Joined: Apr 25 2005

We have been battling termites in our house in Concord as well. They are termites that live in the ground and these are not treated with a tent. I have noticed many people have this issue in Concord.

These termites need water to stay alive, so they go back in the ground regularly. You have to make sure any access they have to the ground is taken away. We have had the area all around the house, as well as the courtyard, treated.

My house has a bad issue with water coming towards the house from all four sides. We are getting estimates to have the area graded away from the house. I have been told that this will also help in getting rid of our recurring termite problem.

We will see.....

Learning more about Eichlers....

Ben
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Joined: Aug 12 2004

Whenever I do any work that will be hidden and potentially infested with insects, I sprinkle Boric Acid and/or Diatomaceous Earth in there.

Boric Acid is the easiest and cheapest readily available at most any hardware/garden center. About $7 bucks for about 1 quart sized squeeze bottle with tappered tip/nozzel.

It never "wears out" or goes "stale".

No clue whether it works or not, just keeping fingers crossed. Most all of the reading on insect pests says both Boric Acid and Diatomaceous Earth powder kills on contact (over time).

Both not horrificaly harmful to humans, as boric acid is used to treat bedding for bed bugs.

Reinfestation must/might be coming in through cracks in the slab, so no visiable mud runners. This is why suggest these powders squirted into the walls where you've found infestations.

Good luck!

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Joined: Aug 18 2003

That is such a sad story. In today's market, with the values of homes going through the roof, a seller standing to make a bundle who hides problems from a buyer should be liable for more than monetary damages- throw that crook in jail!
(But I'm so glad that, if there was a previous report, it's legally available to you- Shouldn't be too much work for the lawyer to do, other than total the damages!)

We had a carpenter ant swarm (about 50 bugs) right at the area in the ceiling where the garage meets the kitchen (no atrium in our model) one evening this January. Scared me to death, my sister had just spent thousands due to termite damage in her home on the East Coast. I called 3 local exterminators and Terminex the next morning- two of the locals told me they'd have to charge me $150 just to come out and identify what the bugs were, and the other never called back. So, we had the Terminex guys out that day for a free 'pest identification' (I thought these things must be termites).

Luckily, I guess, they were carpenter ants- destructive, but not as bad as termites. The gentleman that came out that first day was there for a couple of hours, also did their 'free termite inspection'. It was pretty much a full home inspection, we got it written up as you would when you purchase a new home. No signs of the beasts!

I made an appointment (I think it was on a Friday that they originally came out) for the following Monday to have them treat the carpenter ants. They drilled a few small holes in the post and beam roof in both the kitchen and the garage, plugged some sort of insecticide in there, and sprayed all around the house (one of them told me electrical wires were important not to miss, not sure why. . .) Everyone I dealt with was efficient, professional and knowledgeable.

The price for the carpenter ant treatment, guaranteed for a year or they'll come back and treat again, was $400. The 'pest control service plan' I agreed to is something like $89 four times a year.

Money well spent. (I can e-mail you the company, if you contact me. I live in Walnut Creek.) I was very pleased with their service- they came out and did the carpenter ant work on a Federal holiday!) We saw a couple of stray bugs during the next week, but haven't seen anything since.

Good luck.

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Who recommended the alleged inspection company? If the realtor, then they could be on the hook in this regard as well.

Also, most companies are requried to carry E&O insurance (errors and omissions), so push had on the inspection company. If they are covered, then their policy will pay for their liability, less any deductibles or coinsurance. The inspector will not like it, as their preimum will probably go up, but tough. They deserve it.

I am not trying to pick on you in such a horrible situation, but perhaps others can learn from the following unsolicited comments:

The other mistakes that you made, which you probably realize now, was to have dual agency (almost always a BAD idea) and not hiring your own attorney to represent your interests in what is probably the biggest financial transaction of your entire life (unless you are rich, that is). Why people will be so careful to pick a specialty doctor or other professional, but will completely ignore licensed and traind professionals for legal and RE matters is beyond me.

Lastly, from what I have been told by other RE attorneys, nothing in real estate is binding UNLESS it is in writing. They could be wrong, but I have heard this time and again, and again-specific to California. Verbal representations are said to be meaningless.

Good luck and I hope you find your kitchen cabs and ultimate solutions to the pest problems.

Cathye

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