Q: After we moved into the home we purchased, we noticed slow drains. A plumber confirmed the plumbing is “operating as designed.” This plumber suggested running a camera through the home’s lateral sewer line. We learned we have a lateral sewer line with areas that “dip down.” These low spots collect wastewater. There are also small roots obstructing proper drainage to the city’s main sewer line.

We spent $1,100 a square foot for this Bay Area house. How is it possible we are now facing the prospect of cutting up 50 feet of driveway to replace a lateral sewer line? The agents and home sellers involved understood that we were new to homebuying. They were also aware that we received gift money from my parents and my in-laws to complete this home sale. That’s three parties who feel misled on the condition of the property.

We think the sellers and realty agents should pay for the replacement of this lateral sewer line.  Are there steps we can take before hiring an attorney? If so, what are they?

A: Most Bay Area houses are older than today’s homebuyers. Critical components of a residential property — attic, crawl space, foundation, drainage and lateral sewer line — often present significant post-sale surprises. Gather all methods and costs of how to repair or replace a lateral sewer line. It’s important to consult real estate attorneys. They specialize in “bad house cases,” aka “lack of disclosure claims.” They’ll need a storyline and timeline complete with communication and paperwork. For example, did you sign the California Association of Realtors’ advisories such as the Buyer’s Inspection Advisory, Buyer Material Issues, Buyer’s Inspection Elections or Buyer’s Inspection Waiver? Lastly, did you waive all rights to inspections to complete the purchase? If so, that’s a non-contingency offer, aka a litigation bonanza.

California home sellers are the primary target in real estate claims. Home sellers and their agents embrace the motto: “Location. Location. Location.” Most will not wholeheartedly adopt my truism: “Disclose. Disclose. Disclose.” Savvy home sellers must engage a bevy of inspectors to create stronger transactions while simultaneously strengthening their post-sale risk management. Foundation and lateral sewer line inspections will be commonplace. In the meantime, book a legal consultation.

Questions? Realtor Pat Kapowich is a Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager and career-long consumer protection advocate. He’s based in his hometown of Sunnyvale, CA. Office: 408-245-7700, Pat@SiliconValleyBroker.com DRE# 00979413 SiliconValleyBroker.com