When and how do I decide to take sellers to arbitration?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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When and how do I decide to take sellers to arbitration?

I’ve owned my house for about a month and a half, and an HVAC tech has red tagged the furnace deeming it unsafe. Another HVAC tech has stated that the AC needs to be replaced due to lack of

maintenance. What steps do I take to get the sellers of the home to pay for a new furnace/AC system – demand letter, arbitration, small claims court?

Asked on August 28, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Minnesota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

First, *why* do you believe that you are legally entitled to payment? If it's simply because these systems are failing or that the sellers performed inadequate maintenance, you are wrong: those things, by themselves, do not entitle you to anything. For the sellers to owe you something for these issues, you need one of the following things to apply:
1) They gave you some sort of written home warranty or guaranty as part of the sale--if they did, you can sue them for breach of contract to enforce the terms of that agreement, if they will not voluntarily pay.
2) The seller knowingly (that is, on purpose; while knowing better) misrepresented (or lied) to you about the condition or shape of the A/C and/or furnace; if they did lie, that would be fraud, and you could sue them based on fraud for compensation (e.g. the repair costs).
But if they did not lie and did not give you a warranty/guaranty, they do not owe you anything; only an agreement to pay for certain costs or active wrongdoing (e.g. fraud) on the part of the seller would obligate them to pay. In the absence of one of the above, this is simply one of the unfortunate costs of homeownership.
(I sympathize: within 4 months of buying a new home, we had to redo two bathrooms because the fixtures did not work right and were coming off the walls. However, the sellers did not lie about the shape of the bathrooms: it was an elderly couple who only lived there part time and whose children had long ago moved out, and they simply had no idea how bad two of their bathrooms were. Therefore, we had no recourse against them.)
If there was a guaranty or fraud, you would, as stated sue the sellers: where to sue (e.g. small claims court) depends on how much money is at stake.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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