Reader Question: I just sold a home that I have been living in since 1996. The home inspector informs me that whoever built this home installed 40 feet of PVC pipe for the dryer vent. He says it is not up to the code now, and never was. I now have to replace the venting, pay for the product and labor to replace. Is there any remedy for me to recover these costs from the builder or report them to the appropriate agency? Ronald V.
Monty’s Answer: Hello Ronald, and “Thank You” for your question. Most municipalities conduct a final inspection and issue an occupancy permit for a new home. Were you the first owner of the home? If it was new and the PVC did not meet code, how was an occupancy permit issued? How can the inspector be certain the builder installed the venting if there was an earlier owner? The home inspector is not the last word. The inspector is correct that PVC pipe for dryer vents is not recommended; yet home inspectors can make errors.
Make an appointment for the vent to be inspected by the building inspector. If they say it is not to code, my question to them would be why was the original occupancy permit issued. Did the venting meet the code in 1996? Are there two types of venting material with the PVC not directly connecting to the dryer? If the building inspector signs off on the current venting, then I would take that information to the buyer and seek an amendment stating the venting will not be replaced because the inspector was in error.
Did a prior owner install the PVC pipe? Try to locate the sellers. A little detective work may be a sound investment of your time, especially if the investigation reveals the builder is not at fault.
If we assume the builder did install the vent, and it is not to code, the builder may gauge your expectation for relief after sixteen years as a reach, but still negotiate a compromise. They may have the original occupancy permit and an explanation as to the logic of their venting work. Perhaps they will throw in materials if you pay the labor or propose some other cost sharing idea. Another estimate may be in order as this repair appears to minor.
If the builder is no longer in business or is not cooperating, reimbursement may be difficult. If it turns out the builder made a mistake and yet accepts zero responsibility, there are many ways to make the consuming public aware of the issue. Make certain the builder installed the PVC pipe incorrectly before accusing them of it. Your lawyer may have advice about how best express the circumstances so there is little possibility of a lawsuit.
Trying to warn the builder’s potential customers saps your energy and time and may not be effective. Consider repairing the problem to close the deal, moving on and chalking the incident up to experience.
For the future, having a home inspected prior to listing it for sale is a method to minimize a problem such as this one. Check out this article titled “Home Inspections” for more information about this overlooked strategy in preparing a home for sale.
Good luck, Ronald, I would be interested in learning how this situation turns out. Let me know if there are additional questions.