The Sweet Smell of the Sea, or Not
If you’ve lived inland for most of your life, imagine how nice it would be to live close to the sea. You could see the water, hear the waves, and listen to the seabirds. Having a seaside home is a dream for many people, and Justin Fong M.D., and his wife Suzanna Fong thought they were getting a fantastic property.
There was just one problem. The area had an odd scent that the Fong couple couldn’t quite place. They felt that some of the rooms smelled moldy and odd for some reason. The real estate agent who was selling the property said it was nothing to worry about. That was just the wonderful scent of sea air that had affected the sheetrock. They could “fix” it by making a few changes, such as replacing the sheetrock, for example.
Not so Much With the Fresh Sea Air
Once they moved in, they had to contend with more than just the smell of the sea air on the sheetrock. They also noticed that there was a strange oily smell that permeated the lower floor of the building. This didn’t dissipate, and in fact, it continued for several years before they hired a contractor to investigate the issue for them.
The contractor found some surprising things including a buried septic tank and later a buried oil tank. The “sea air” they were supposedly smelling according to the real estate professional was actually an old septic tank! Naturally, they notified the seller and the broker about what was discovered on the property.
When they tried to remove the oil tank, there was an accident, and it caused even more damage to the property. This increased the amount it would cost for the remediation of the property, but even the remediation proved to be fruitless. They had to move from the property because the smell of chemicals was too overpowering. Eventually, the entire house had to be removed.
They were able to settle with the broker for $275,000, but they also brought a suit against the seller. The court rejected the fraud allegations against the seller, but they said that they would be able to sue for “negligent misrepresentation”. This would allow them to hold the seller liable for claiming that the unknown smells were from the sea air.
Real estate lawsuits are quite common because people sometimes get more, or less, than they bargained for when they purchase a property. In those cases, things can get emotional quickly, as there is often a large sum of money involved, as well as a person’s home. After the problem rears its head, the court system is the only way to resolve things many times.
Those who are going to be buying property though, should always take the time to make sure they have an inspection conducted. It can help to eliminate the need for lawsuits, as you will know everything that’s wrong with the property before you buy, and you won’t have to worry about someone trying to pass of weird smells as being normal.