We’ve Found Mold 5 Months After Purchasing Our Home, What Legal Recourse Do We Have?

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

“I live in Pennsylvania, I purchased a home on April and we moved in June. I did have a home inspection. Our basement windows leak excessively, our daughters windows leak (she has asthma) and also the kitchen window. We caulked the kitchen and our daughters room but have not corrected the basement. Last Sunday, I decided to take an at home mold test I purchased at Home Depot, I tested the air in the basement and have after an hours time mold started popping up in the petri dish. It still continues to pop up in the dish and it has been a week. My question is what recourse do we have? Is the seller responsible for fixing this. There is no way that in 5 months that much mold has appeared? On the sellers disclosure it stated they had the basement waterproofed in 2007. What do i do now??”

Unfortunately, mold can be a very tricky subject. There is a certain amount of mold that occurs naturally everywhere, but excessive mold (of the wrong kind) can be a serious health issue. Also, water and mold generally go together, as mold is almost exclusively found in the presence of moisture-usually from leaks of the kind you’ve described.

In terms of dealing with the actual leaking and the mold problem, you’ll need to determine what the physical conditions require and get them repaired-most likely with the help of appropriately licensed contractors. Not all contractors are prepared to deal with mold infestation, so be aware of that-and be prepared for the cost that comes along with mold remediation.

As for the legal aspect, I assume your question is whether someone else, like the seller, is responsible for the cleanup costs I mentioned above. And, unfortunately, the answer is what it often is in the law: it depends.

You’ll want to have a real estate attorney review the disclosures in detail and let you know whether they adequately disclose the leaks which led to your problems. Alternately, if the problem was visible, the seller may not have been obligated to disclose it (since it was obvious). However, failure to disclose a problem is the most typical basis for a claim against a seller, so the disclosures is where you should start looking.

Failure to disclose claims are always very fact-specific, so without seeing the particular problems you have and the particular disclosures that were made-as well as what was revealed in your home inspection report, of course-I couldn’t give more specific guidance. What I would suggest is this: get some bids on the remedial work before you do anything else. Once you know how expensive a problem you have, you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to how much you want to spend chasing after liability.