Secret Room Leads to Mold Problems

By
Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Select Realtors

Imagine finding a "secret room" in your house.

Jason and Kerri Brown of Greenville found a secret room in their home behind a bookcase, and what was inside was a massive mold infestation.  It seems that the bought the home from foreclosure and decided not to get a mold test done.

It seems that the previous owner left a note detailing the mold problem inside the secret room.  The note read something like this:

"Hello. If you're reading this, then you found the secret room. I owned this house for a short while and it was discovered to have a serious mold problem. One that actually made my children very sick to the point that we had to move out."

Now the owners have sued Fannie May, Century 21, and the Realtor that sold them the home.  Fannie May was dropped from the lawsuit when they agreed to buy the home back, but they are moving forward against the other defendants.  A mold inspector who checked the home after the note was discovered found elevated-levels of several types of mold, including Aspergillus, Basidiospores, Chaetomiu, Curvularia, Stachybotrys and Torula.

I think there's a good lesson to be learned in this, especially when dealing with foreclosed homes.  Make sure you have the home checked for mold!  A little bit of money spent on mold testing would have saved a lot of time and heartache here. 

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Rainmaker
130,076
Lanette Branch
RE/MAX Components - Fallston, MD
Bel Air, MD REALTOR

The sellers were totally in the wrong, here.  First off, they should've disclosed the mold issue and secondly, they should never have left a note like that.  Honestly, what were they thinking?

Maybe that was their way of "disclosing" the issue?

Nov 04, 2007 10:35 AM #1
Rainer
104,699
Don Stern
Realty Executives South Louisiana - Baton Rouge, LA
Greater Baton Rouge Real Estate

Unbelievable.  I know it's customary to sue everyone in sight but really, do they expect the agent and the brokerage to get inspections for every listing?

To the previous occupants... Shame on you. 

Nov 04, 2007 10:44 AM #2
Rainmaker
226,115
Jonathan Benya
Keller Williams Select Realtors - Waldorf, MD
MD Short Sale Specialist
The sellers, in this case, was the bank that had foreclosed on the home, not the previous homeowners.  The previous owners had left the note because they were concerned that the bank would not disclose a mold problem because they may or may not have known about it.  When a home goes into foreclosure, banks disclaim all knowledge of possible defects and in the case that there are material defects the bank may be ignorant as to those details, which is why foreclosures are almost always sold on disclaimer rather than disclosure.
Nov 04, 2007 10:45 AM #3
Rainmaker
130,076
Lanette Branch
RE/MAX Components - Fallston, MD
Bel Air, MD REALTOR

The bank knew why the homeowners moved out and are at fault. Just because the bank disclaimed instead of disclosed doesn't mean the onus was not upon them to tell all material facts they knew about the property.  Even if the current owners had a mold test done, the room may or may not have been discovered and the readings may or may not have been out of the ordinary...

This whole transaction stinks something awful.

Nov 04, 2007 12:30 PM #4
Rainmaker
226,115
Jonathan Benya
Keller Williams Select Realtors - Waldorf, MD
MD Short Sale Specialist
Precisely.  The bank in this case is no longer a party to the lawsuit however because they agreed to buy the home back.  It's a wait and see situation now with the lawsuit against the Realtor who listed and sold the home.  They want her to pay for the hotel they had to live in and all other associated costs, such as testing, moving, and so forth.  While I agree that if the bank knew about the mold (that was never determined) they should have disclosed it legally, regardless of disclaimer, does this mean that if the Realtor was not aware that she must still pay for the costs?
Nov 04, 2007 12:37 PM #5
Rainer
54,699
Chad Baird
Re/Max Spirit - Dayton, OH

Every bank Addendum I come across (and I do alot of REOs), there is a mold clause warning the purchaser to rely upon your own inspections as the "seller" has no knowledge of condidtion unless evident from the pics they recieve. 

Nobody knew except for the person who lost their home, but they were under no obligation to disclose anything.  I don't see how any Realtor or Brokerage could be liable either? 

A little money can save the buyer alot of trouble.  Rely upon your own inspections. 

Nov 04, 2007 12:43 PM #6
Rainer
26,942
Dale Campbell
Virginia Real Estate - Mechanicsville, VA
Whoa - talk about chilling!  It would be a little creepy to find a secret room in your own house, but wouldn't it be creepy too if the homeowner lived there all that time and never knew it was there?
Nov 08, 2007 08:57 AM #7
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Rainmaker
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Jonathan Benya

MD Short Sale Specialist
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