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The air handler in my condo is shot and needs to be replaced for around $4000

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Author Topic: The air handler in my condo is shot and needs to be replaced for around $4000  (Read 1272 times)
wizer
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« on: September 29, 2008, 05:04:55 pm »

During the preclosing inspection, the seller pointed out a water stain on the ceiling, running down one wall, below the air conditioner intake. It was presumed to be a clogged drain coming from the air handler, which, for the uninformed, is the large metal box that is inside the house, and circulates the cold air around the house through the ductwork..it receives the cold air from the air compresser, which is the noisy, motorized unit with the fan that is located outside the house.


The cold air condenses inside the air handler, and the water that "falls out of the air" so to speak, is collected in a pan below the air handler, and runs down a pipe and outside, either to the roof gutters, or it just drips alongside the house.

At closing, we "escrowed" or "held funds" to repair the problem, which was estimated at about $750. The A/C guys come to the condo, blow out what they thought was a clogged drainline, replaced a defective thermostat and charged me a few hundred bucks, well within the escrow amount. Unfortunately, the leak continued..upon their return trip they dug a little deeper and found that the airhandler unit is rusting internally, so the water is collecting in areas of the air handler unit not above the drain pan, dripping out, into the attic, and then onto the ceiling, and down the wall...to fix it properly...requires an entire new air handler unit, but its larger than the existing opening and therefore a large hole needs to be cut into the ceiling, and special ductwork installed..so that's where the cost comes in..a "temporary" repair would be to custom make a larger drain pan, cost would be a couple of hundred bucks, and the air handler could continue to gradually rust and drip for another 10 years without a problem...

So the question becomes to what extent is the seller liable. His attorney wasn't responding to a letter from my guy, who told me that I will need to sue the seller in small claims court. Before I go that route, I wanted to give him a chance to work things out..I left him a message last week, and then I called him this morning..he picked up, said he was out of town..just got the messages...

He says:

"It worked fine the whole year he was living there"

"He got screwed in this whole deal, sold the condo for less than he paid a year ago"

"He would have walked away from the house sale if he knew there was a problem of this magnitude involved"

I told him:

The problem was pre-existing, the A/C may have "worked fine" but there was a leak...prior to me taking over ownership.

The real estate market went south, he only lived there a year, he lost money in the deal, that's too bad but has nothing to do with the current problem.

I never would have gotten married if I knew what my divorce was going to cost me.

I suggested we try to work things out amicably but there is no way I am going to absorb the entire cost of the repair. He's going to talk to his guy and they will get back to my guy.

This could go one of several ways..the worst would be to have to fight it out in small claims court. The time taken to go to court isn't a big deal, I am no stranger to the court room...but to get the money even after a judge gives you a favorable judgement is a lot of work and oftentimes doesn't prove successful. Hopefully the seller will "do the right thing"..


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Skylla
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« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2008, 08:26:31 pm »

Now that sucks.....lets just hope the guy does the right thing. 

Another court battle is the last thing you need, even if it is just small claims court. 

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GoodWitch
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« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2008, 09:23:56 pm »

Unbelievable! It's always something.....
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Touche
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« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2008, 09:31:34 pm »

You might get lucky....many people are embarrassed/too proud to show up in small claims.  He might just pay it to be done with it....

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theWiz
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« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2008, 10:05:05 am »

Hopefully the seller will "do the right thing"..

I can "do" this one!  I'm not aware of the specifics of NY or NJ law, only a few of the Midwestern states...but I bet my answer will hold true there too, since all the state laws are based either on common-law practice, or on recent increases in "consumerism."

1.  Seller has a liability (under statute, not derived from common law) to disclose known defects in the HVAC systems.  This he APPARENTLY has done, at the appropriate time.  See #6...

2.  Seller is not required to be a mechanical engineer nor to be an HVAC contractor, and thus he is not required to know exactly what the repair of the (disclosed) problem entails...nor is he required to make a fully accurate diagnosis.  He is only required to disclose that there is a problem of which he is aware.

3.  The onus of fully inspecting and diagnosing the problem is on the buyer, during the inspection "window" of the sales contract.  The buyer typically will share reports and estimates with the seller and request either that seller remedy the problem, give buyer a repair credit at closing (which may or may not be escrowed.)

4.  Once the parties have AGREED on an approach (usually in writing) and a dollar amount, if the seller PERFORMS the agreed actions... any unresolved problems pass to the buyer at the closing.  Everything is geared toward the idea that when the parties walk away from the closing they are done with each other.

5.  So in your case Wizer... it depends on who did the inspection and what the specifics are of your agreement with the seller.  If it's the case that you had a licensed HVAC contractor inspect the problem and he blew the diagnosis, you may have some recourse against HIM.  And that's better than you'd do if he was an eye doc and misdiagnosed you...LOL...   
But unless the seller gave you a written "blanket assurance" that he would FIX the problem (regardless of the cause and regardless of the cost) you probably have gotten all you're gonna get from him.

6.  The only exception to that is fraud on the Seller's part.  IOW, if you can find the contractor who CORRECTLY diagnosed the problem for the seller....information the seller FAILED to disclose... and THAT contractor will so testify or affirm ...then you have Mr. Seller by the short hairs and you can probably get the whole thing paid for and recover something more for your time and trouble.  That's more likely to happen in a small town where you only have a handful of contractors.

~~
It was simpler 20 years ago...the only rule was "CAVEAT EMPTOR."  And when you bought property you got what you got.

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GoodWitch
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« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2008, 10:38:04 am »

I'm not certain about NY either, but in NJ and NC, the 2 states where I've bought/sold property, theWiz's statements are true.

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theWiz
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« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2008, 01:11:50 pm »


6.  The only exception to that is fraud on the Seller's part.  IOW, if you can find the contractor who CORRECTLY diagnosed the problem for the seller....information the seller FAILED to disclose... and THAT contractor will so testify or affirm ...then you have Mr. Seller by the short hairs and you can probably get the whole thing paid for and recover something more for your time and trouble.  That's more likely to happen in a small town where you only have a handful of contractors.



Jeez, what IS it with the permissions?  Now I find I can't edit my own post....

Just to clarify...

Quote
if you can find the contractor who CORRECTLY diagnosed the problem for the seller....information the seller FAILED to disclose... and THAT contractor will so testify or affirm ...

What I didn't quite say rightly is that IF the seller has any information about a defect, he IS under a constructive obligation to disclose it.  I see cases here where sellers either don't disclose a defect they know of, or they partially disclose and feign ignorance of the true magnitude of it, and subsequently get their nuts in a vise.  Thus, what I meant to say is "...information the seller KNEW but FAILED to disclose..."

...for the record, I'm an Illinois licensed real estate broker, and a fair AMATEUR business lawyer.
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wizer
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2008, 02:03:51 pm »

3.  The onus of fully inspecting and diagnosing the problem is on the buyer, during the inspection "window" of the sales contract.  The buyer typically will share reports and estimates with the seller and request either that seller remedy the problem, give buyer a repair credit at closing (which may or may not be escrowed.)

4.  Once the parties have AGREED on an approach (usually in writing) and a dollar amount, if the seller PERFORMS the agreed actions... any unresolved problems pass to the buyer at the closing.  Everything is geared toward the idea that when the parties walk away from the closing they are done with each other.

5.  So in your case Wizer... it depends on who did the inspection and what the specifics are of your agreement with the seller.  If it's the case that you had a licensed HVAC contractor inspect the problem and he blew the diagnosis, you may have some recourse against HIM.  And that's better than you'd do if he was an eye doc and misdiagnosed you...LOL...   
But unless the seller gave you a written "blanket assurance" that he would FIX the problem (regardless of the cause and regardless of the cost) you probably have gotten all you're gonna get from him.

6.  The only exception to that is fraud on the Seller's part.  IOW, if you can find the contractor who CORRECTLY diagnosed the problem for the seller....information the seller FAILED to disclose... and THAT contractor will so testify or affirm ...then you have Mr. Seller by the short hairs and you can probably get the whole thing paid for and recover something more for your time and trouble.  That's more likely to happen in a small town where you only have a handful of contractors.

Hmm...interesting and well written post, The Wiz...you know your stuff for sure...thanks.

To clarify:

The seller never got anyone in to evaluate the problem, he simply pointed out there was a leak, at closing we escrowed $750 to cover any repairs, but my attorney specifically wrote into the agreement that there was no upper liability limit..it was MY A/C contractor who came the first time, replaced the defective thermostat, blew out the clog in the line that he thought was causing the problem. He came back a second time and determined that the air handler was the problem, and it would need to be replaced for about $4000.

So based on what you wrote, I would think that it was a pre-existing problem, the seller promised to fix it, we escrowed funds to cover the repair, but the actually cost of the repair will be far greater than what we escrowed..the agreement covers the possibility of a greater repair cost.

The seller returned my call yesterday, he said he was out of town and he would contact his attorney and we would work towards resolving this problem one way or the other. I would be willing to meet him halfway, although I would probably bank the funds, and do the inexpensive repair which involves replacing the pan with a larger one, until such time the air handler completely fails..in 5 or 10 yrs or whatever...

I will double check the "permissions" problem again!


Edit- I think I got it this time. You should be able to modify your own posts and no one else's now...

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theWiz
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« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2008, 06:21:56 pm »


The seller never got anyone in to evaluate the problem, he simply pointed out there was a leak, at closing we escrowed $750 to cover any repairs, but my attorney specifically wrote into the agreement that there was no upper liability limit..===snip===
So based on what you wrote, I would think that it was a pre-existing problem, the seller promised to fix it, we escrowed funds to cover the repair, but the actually cost of the repair will be far greater than what we escrowed..the agreement covers the possibility of a greater repair cost.

The seller returned my call yesterday, he said he was out of town and he would contact his attorney and we would work towards resolving this problem one way or the other. ===snip===

Sounds like your attorney has this covered, and the seller is gonna come back to the table.  That's great!

Quote
I will double check the "permissions" problem again!
Edit- I think I got it this time. You should be able to modify your own posts and no one else's now...

Sorry, still can't edit my own posts.
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wizer
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« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2008, 10:56:48 am »

The seller hadn't been getting back to me, so I got a second estimate, figuring I would need to take the matter to small claims court, and they require two estimates.

The second one was about the same $3950, as compared to $4100 for a new air handler, although the new handler would be much better quality, 30 years newer, and would allow me to upgrade the compressor at a later time if it ever goes...the second A/C guy told me that he services units in the condo complex all the time, and I lucked out by having it leak because even if it didn't, eventually I would have had to fix or replace it and the seller would have not been on the hook for it.

There was a separate bill for the initial service call, the "blow out of the line" which didn't work, and to replace the thermostat, that was about $500, but I got two thermostats which were new computer controlled models, compared to the two older ones, one of which was not even part of the whole air conditioner situation.

I contacted the seller, told him I had the two estimates and he can either pay or I was going to sue him. We settled for $2500, which I figure is a fair deal when taking it all into account. He stopped by my office and we signed an agreement and he gave me a check for the agreed upon amount.
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GoodWitch
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« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2008, 11:12:32 am »

The seller hadn't been getting back to me, so I got a second estimate, figuring I would need to take the matter to small claims court, and they require two estimates.

The second one was about the same $3950, as compared to $4100 for a new air handler, although the new handler would be much better quality, 30 years newer, and would allow me to upgrade the compressor at a later time if it ever goes...the second A/C guy told me that he services units in the condo complex all the time, and I lucked out by having it leak because even if it didn't, eventually I would have had to fix or replace it and the seller would have not been on the hook for it.

There was a separate bill for the initial service call, the "blow out of the line" which didn't work, and to replace the thermostat, that was about $500, but I got two thermostats which were new computer controlled models, compared to the two older ones, one of which was not even part of the whole air conditioner situation.

I contacted the seller, told him I had the two estimates and he can either pay or I was going to sue him. We settled for $2500, which I figure is a fair deal when taking it all into account. He stopped by my office and we signed an agreement and he gave me a check for the agreed upon amount.

Wow! Great! Something worked out calmly and easily - I can't believe it LOL
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wizer
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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2008, 11:18:20 am »

Wow! Great! Something worked out calmly and easily - I can't believe it LOL

True. Things don't usually go that smoothly.

I only wish my soon-to-be exwife had that mentality.

She refuses to even consider a settlement offer. So much greed, stupidity, fear...it's costing us so much more than it otherwise would have, only because she refuses to believe she's not entitled to this huge amount..that she didn't do a damn thing to legitimately entitle herself to.

Two examples. She thinks she should get half my professional practice. Why? Because she worked there part time for the past few years? Because she was supportive to me after the fire burned my building down in 1998? Because she painted a few interior walls of the place?

I told her about a month ago, in response to her question, that no, I will not willingly fork over the cost of a private college for my older daughter, who has refused contact with me for almost 2 years. She couldn't understand this..she thinks I should "be there for my children" financially no matter what. (Over and above the 100k in support, of course).

I said no, I am giving her a huge sum of money, which is of course court ordered, and I am not paying any thing over and above that for private school unless I am ordered to. So when I asked her about a settlement, she said "we can't settle you wont pay for college!". This is a woman who hasn't worked since May 2006 and is licensed as a nurse. She could have been working and saving money for their college this whole time...but the point is, the judge is only going to award her so much, it's my understanding that I will be required to pay half the cost of a New York State school, which is half of 12k, or 6k per year..she "could" offer a settlement that includes me paying for example, 10k..and I might say yes to save 30k in attorneys costs at a trial. The idea is, to figure out what you would get in a trial, and then ask for a bit more, and settle the damn thing and save the difference that would have been paid out in attorneys fees.

But she doesn't think that way.


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theWiz
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« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2008, 06:28:43 pm »


<< But she doesn't think that way. >>



Aye, there's the rub.  Hell hath no fury....  and attorneys only exploit this for profit.

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