If the seller did not provide the required energy audit during the home purchase process which would have disclosed the high electric bills, who is responsible for making the required repairs?

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If the seller did not provide the required energy audit during the home purchase process which would have disclosed the high electric bills, who is responsible for making the required repairs?

We purchased our first home 3 years ago and have been frustrated by the high electric bills every summer we’ve lived there. We incorrectly assumed that while the bills were high, $350 average from June-August, they were maybe not atypical for the hotsummers we have in TX. After comparing with other neighbors we’ve met since we have moved in over the past couple of years though, it seems our bills are at least 50% higher if not more than other homes around the same size in the neighborhood. We’ve started looking at our options and decided an energy audit might be a good first course of action. To our surprise, we found that our city code requires an energy audit be performed and included in the seller disclosure for any homes older than 10 years at the time of purchase; ours was over 30 years old. Nothing of this sort was provided to us by the seller or their agent prior to the purchase of our home, but also, we were not aware of this requirement so we did not explicitly request it either. Would the seller have any financial responsibility to split the costs of any major repairs we have done to improve the energy efficiency of our home in this situation, or does the fact that we did not make a request for the information before purchase, despite city code requiring it, remove any responsibility on the seller’s part for paying for such repairs?

Asked on July 29, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is no general answer to your question: the requirement for an energy audit is a purely local one, and so the consequences of not having an audit depends on what your city ordinance requiring it specifically says. Most city code violations do not necessarily let you get compensation from the home seller; rather, they might impose fines on the seller, which would not help you. But again, it depends on what this ordinance or code specifically says. Try contacting the city building deparment: they may be able to advise you as to what you can do if you neither asked for nor received the audit. If they can't or won't give you an opinion, you should consult with a local housing or real estate attorney, who likely has some experience with or knowledge of this ordinance, or at the least can review it for him/herself.


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