Buying or Selling a Home/Seller responsibility
QUESTION: I recently purchased a home I thought was 200 amp. The seller listed the home as 200 amp in the detailed specification list, and we discussed it at length. The 200 amp was a deal breaker for me as i was planning on putting a suite in the basement. The seller assured me the home was 200 amp, when I mentioned I didn't put in an offer on a house specifically for this reason, on a preferred house the day before. On move in day we discovered the house has 100 amp service. I have heard no response from the seller when we asked for the seller to pay for the upgrade. Should I pursue at small claims court?
ANSWER: Hey, Nikki.
My first question would be to ask how you discovered 100A service on move-in day. Could you not have discovered earlier?
My second question would be to ask if you had a home inspection. Home inspectors normally note the service capacity in their reports.
Lastly, I'm not familiar with small claims courts in Canada. Sometimes here in the United States the cost to file a small claim is more than the cost of what one is claiming. So you'd need to get some quotes for the upgrade, find out how much it costs to file a small claim, and then factor in the inconvenience and your time for dealing with the small claims court.
Here in San Diego the cost to file a small claim can be anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on which jurisdiction. Our electric company would normally upgrade the service to 200A with no questions asked, but you'd have to get an electrician to install a new electric panel, which, depending on the make and model of service panel, could cost anywhere from $250 to $5,000.
You can help your situation by getting three quotes for the materials and labor needed to upgrade the service--call electricians and check with your electric company. Provide the three quotes to the Seller and/or Seller's Realtor and ask the Seller to pay for the upgrade using the middle quote. Then you can decide if you want the middle-of-the-road installation or a better one.
If you used a Realtor, get your Realtor involved as well. Realtors make a lot of money, so I would encourage you to use their services after the fact. A good Realtor shouldn't have any problem helping you if s/he represented you in the purchase.
Hope that helps. Feel free to follow up if you think I can provide additional help as things get rolling.
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QUESTION: Thanks for the response Russel. I purchased privately and did not get a home inspection. My brother in law looked at the panel on move in day and noticed it was labeled 100 amp. Prior to purchasing there was a bed in front of the panel box and it was not easy to get to, my brother in law was there as well and as he started to crawl over the bed to look at the box the owner assured us it was 200 amp and we just believed him (stupid now that i think about it). We have received two quotes between $1,800-$2,000. So does the seller have an obligation to be truthful and to also know what he is claiming to be true? Thanks again
Generally the Seller does have a responsibility to be truthful. If you have witnesses to the Seller's representation that the electric service was 200 amps, then you probably have a good case. The problem on your end, though, is how much money (and time) will you have to spend to get $1,800 or so from the Seller? And even getting it is not guaranteed, especially since you purchased privately.
The main problem as I see it is that it's your word against the Seller's word. Granted, you have a relative who was there, but all that does is make it the word of two relatives against the Seller. Quite often a relative is considered to have a vested interest and/or a conflict of interest when it's two relatives versus someone else. A disinterested third party (home inspector, real estate agent) sure would help you here. In a private purchase, buyers have a greater responsibility to beware, as in "Let the buyer beware." That's why you really want to get third parties (Realtors, home inspectors) involved in such a large purchase.
The best I can say now is to get three quotes for upgrading from 100 amps to 200 amps; make sure the panel is the same brand on all three quotes. Send all three quotes to the Seller and tell him you'll be happy with the middle quote. However, and this could be critical to indicating to the Seller how serious you are: Hire an attorney to send the three quotes. Or, at the very least, write your own letter to accompany the three quotes, but at the bottom of the letter put "Copy: [Your attorney's name, address, and contact information}." Make sure your attorney knows that you are writing a letter to the Seller and sending a copy to him/her. You don't want your attorney to get blindsided by anyone, like maybe the Seller's attorney.
Hope that helps, Nikki, and good luck. I'm here for you if you need additional help.