Q: My husband and I purchased and closed escrow on a home in Vacaville in November. I was recently putting all of the paperwork in order and came across the pest report on the house that was supposedly the clearance needed to meet the demands of the lender to close escrow. Upon reading it, I discovered that no “clearance” was issued. I forwarded the paperwork to the Structural Pest Control Board and after reviewing what I had sent them, they determined that our home was never issued a clearance and that the pest control company basically covered themselves by stating that they were not responsible for nor did they supervise any of the work that was performed there. Do we have any recourse as far as this is concerned? I know for a fact that a clearance was needed to close escrow. The Structural Pest Control Board advised me that this should have been caught by the title company upon closing, but because this transaction was rushed through, I am not surprised that it was missed. I am just concerned that this will affect us if we were to sell the house if it is discovered that the pest control work was never done satisfactorily, if at all.
A: Before you go any further, take a look at your purchase contract. Does the contract require that the seller provide you with a clear pest report?
If not, the sellers would only be on the hook if they knew there was pest control work that needed to be done and didn’t either make the repairs or disclose the problems to you. They would not have been required to give you a clearance.
However, if the report does require a clearance, the sellers will have breached that portion of the contract if, indeed, a clearance was never provided.
I’m a little confused by the language you cite on the pest report. If the report says that somebody other than the pest company completed the work, it is usually an indication that the repairs were made and the pest company came back out and inspected. There is nothing wrong with a contractor, or even the homeowner in most cases, making the repairs called for in a pest report.
The problem is that, if somebody other than the pest company does the repairs, the repairs will have to pass the pest inspection company’s reinspection.
So be sure that the report you’re looking at is not a clearance.
Normally, the title company wouldn’t be responsible for making sure there was a clearance on the property. Usually it’s the loan officer and underwriter who has to be sure this requirement is met if it’s a requirement of the loan. It would be extremely unusual for someone to miss the fact that there was no clearance if one was required. It’s more likely there was a clearance and you haven’t found it.
The law requires pest reports to be forwarded to the Structural Pest Control Board, but sometimes the pest company can make a mistake and not send it. It is also possible the report has been forwarded but not yet filed in the board’s archives.
However, assuming there really was no clearance, you will need to contact a pest inspection company to inspect the home and issue a clearance. Once you have the clearance, you won’t have to worry about this problem causing a headache down the road.
If the seller was required to provide a clearance, you can recoup your cost of the reinspection, and any repairs you have to make to get the clearance, from the seller.
Tim Jones is a real estate attorney in Fairfield. If you have any real estate questions you would like answered in this column you can contact him at [email protected]