Imagine I have a layer cake made of alternating layers of Termite infested wood, Moisture Ant carton, and wood decay/rot. Imagine that I then deliciously frost this entire cake with new siding and trim, and paint it up as nice as lipstick on a pig. Imagine now, a for sale sign planted as alluringly as Kate Winslet, wearing the Heart of the Ocean, next to the cake.
What we have here is bacon flavored lemon cake–NOT Kate Winslet!
Next you decide, since lemon and bacon are your favorite flavors, that you would like to own this nice cake and so you hire your favorite cake inspector to check it out.
The inspection is cruising along just fine except for one very tiny area, hidden in the shadow of the for sale sign, where the inspector finds some minor evidence of some past decay/rot—nothing major mind you—but worthy of note—so in the report it goes.
Fast forward a year, as the whole family makes a game of counting sow bugs and vacuuming frass pouring out from under the baseboards and falling out of the ceiling tiles. The Cake inspector is called back to evaluate further and, since we now own the cake, the investigation becomes more aggressive and invasive. Of course the evaluation is totally effortless–because all that beautiful siding and trim is nailed into—-well—basically NOTHING! The boards peel away and the termites and moisture ants tumble out and begin to panic under the bright light of day.
Of course we are all panicking now as we discover our cake is not all it was purported to be. It turns out it is not even a descent pig with its lipstick all asunder!
We decide to discuss our findings with the cake seller, only to learn that sure—they knew about it all along. They had even paid people to put the lipstick on the pig fully knowing that there was nothing substantial to attach the lipstick to. Magic and caulk work wonders in desperate situations. All the cake had to do was look edible enough, and last long enough, to keep the critters in the walls and not raise red flags too high.
Naturally the cake seller (who also happened to be one-and-the-same as the selling agent) had no interest in taking the cake back for a refund. In fact they would be getting additional money from the cake buyer to cover the cost of having to defend themselves against the cake buyer’s frivolous claims–seems only fair after all.
If the above little satire seems all too implausible to ponder, check out this recent decision handed down by the State of Washington, Disctrict 1, Court of Appeals.
In their infinite wisdom, the court of appeals seems to say that a buyer’s “duty to make further inquires” regarding issues found, somehow outweighs a seller’s outright lies about stuff they knew and deliberately concealed (according to court documents).
I wish in their infinite wisdom that had gone on to explain exactly what “pursuing additional information” “looks like.” I think we all know what would happen if the buyer says to the seller, “would you mind opening up that wall, taking down that ceiling and removing that entire floor covering so I can see how much you have tried to hide from me?”
I think this is going to make the already useless seller disclosure statement even more irrelevant. But I guess if the courts can grant corporations personhood, anything is possible. This job is hard enough without making it “legal” to lie about conditions one damn well knows about. Money ultimately defines all.
I for one will be content to remain poor.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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