Thursday, May 18, 2006

Q: We're getting ready to build our home and have run into a really exasperating roadblock.

A water share came with the lot when we bought it and now the County is requiring that we do all kinds of things to the water system before they will approve our septic design. The neighbors are not happy with us and we really wanted to start off on the right foot. It's also costing us money we hadn't figured into our budget. Is there some other way around this?

A: There are dozens of Class B water systems on Vashon Island. These small systems serve anywhere from 2 to 14 residences and are managed by the property owners themselves. Unfortunately, many of these systems are out of compliance with the County Health Department. There is requirement to test for bacteria and nitrates regularly, for instance. There is also an annual report and fee that must be filed with the County.

In addition, a plan must be submitted to the County when the system is going to be expanded. Connecting your new house to the system is an expansion and so a new plan is needed. There are other systems on the Island currently struggling with additional issues like easements for water lines not properly drawn or water lines in the wrong places.

There is also the need to keep pressure tanks and storage tanks well enclosed in a building that's properly insulated and kept free of vermin. (I can't tell you how many filthy, rat infested well houses I've seen with no current water sampling being done.) There is no way around getting the work done and I'm afraid you will have to pay for it. That is unless there is a written agreement from the other residents served by the system saying that they will contribute to expanding the system. It would behoove you to be pro-active and be sure that your system is in compliance in every way. Not just to follow the rules, but also to be sure you're providing your family with safe water.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Q:We were talked into making an offer without doing an inspection because the house was new.

Now that we've moved in there are all kinds of problems. There isn't a vapor barrier under the house which I think is code, some of the light switches don't work, one of the windows won't close and the front door and one sliding door are not properly hung so there is a big gap under them when they're closed. There are other things but this is just a sample of some of them. Should we sue the real estate agent or the builder?

A: Don't sue anybody! That's overkill and not necessary. Most new homes come with a one year warranty, although it's not a law that they have to. I'm sure that the builder would be happy to come back and make the needed repairs. Give him or her a chance to do the right thing. Most new homes have a few things wrong and contractors expect that they may have to make a few adjustments.

I would also say that there is no point in suing your agent. It may be that he or she felt that doing an inspection would make your offer less than competitive. I personally recommend inspections regardless of the situation and believe that they are necessary even on a newly constructed home, but your agent may have had reasons for choosing not to do one.

It would be a good idea to sit down with your agent and talk over the problems you're having with the house. I'm not talking confrontation here, just talk it over with him or her and find out the reasons for not insisting on the inspection. It's also a good idea to ask for your agent's help on getting everything put right. It can't hurt to have your agent at your side when you ask the builder to come back and make needed repairs and adjustments.