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I averted a flooded basement/seller is in a rage


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Today stopped at a house to set a radon monitor and take a water sample prior to the inspection Saturday. When there is a water softener, I need to take a 'raw' sample from the pressure tank. I turned the drain valve (red in the picture) a quarter turn. Water came out full-force. Turning the valve back to its original position had no effect. The valve stayed wide-open.

Crap! The shut-off valve is on the house side of the drain valve, so that was useless. I was in the house about 5 minutes and didn't know the layout, plus it was an odd contemporary. Luckily, I found the breaker panel and got the pump breaker turned off pretty quickly. Luck was also with me, because there was a nearby utility sink that allowed me to open a faucet to help relieve pressure. A nearby Tupperware bowl and tub allowed me to collect the water as it continued to drain out. Eventually it stopped. There was a lot of water on the floor, but it stayed around the pressure tank.

I carry a few hose thread caps in my tool bag, but unfortunately I didn't have my bag with me. I drove to K Mart a few miles away, but wouldn't you know it, they didn't have any caps. I ended up buying a lawn sprinkler just to get the cap that was on it. Back to the house, put the cap on, turn the breaker on, go upstairs and bleed the air out of the lines, go back down to check the valve, and find all is good.

As I was leaving, the wife pulls up. I explained what happened and gave her my cell number in case her husband had any questions. A few hours later, I get a call - not from him, but from his agent. The agent said the guy is furious that I 'broke his tank'. I explained to the agent that I didn't break anything by turning a valve a quarter turn and I don't intend to pay for it. I also added that I thought the seller should be thankful that I prevented any water damage being done to the house (the finished part of the basement is a few feet away from the pressure tank).

I tried t call the guy to talk to him directly, but the phone just rang and rang.

So I'm curious, would anyone offer to pay for the valve replacement?

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As a general rule, if something breaks while I am operating something properly, its not my fault. If you really want to piss him off (which I don't recommend) you could tell him you will not charge him for your time needed to deal with HIS broken valve.

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I just lost a really nice gig, 2700SF 1900 vineyard, because I don't offer ancillary services. Client wanted well and septic, radon, termite, lead paint and water quality testing. Either that, or her head exploded when I quoted my fee...

Joe, sounds like your client needs a plumber. Let him fix it.

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It's an interesting question, to pay or not.

The customer gets the seller shit and doesn't know what to do. The times I go magnanimous and pay, it comes back with grateful customers. Don't pay, it leaves a sour taste with the customer.

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Bedrock English Common Law, from which it all derives, sez......."But for your actions, a condition/fault/leak/result would not have existed."

Doesn't matter if the valve was on the hairs edge of leaking; it was not leaking when we got there and it was "broken" and leaking when we left. It's ours. This has been explained to me a dozen times by a sitting Federal judge and a half dozen law professors at Northwestern that I have coffee with in the morning.

Don't touch it, all conditions and results are theirs. Touch it and it leaks, it's ours. The law is not logical. Not even a teeny bit.

That said, if you feel it's not your problem, fight it. That's the other thing the professors say. Fighting is part of the law. Just cuz the law sez whatever.....it doesn't mean we can't disagree. That's where really good attorneys are like magic. They can take something that's cut and dried and flip it around where one questions whether black is white or up is down.

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.......That said, if you feel it's not your problem, fight it. That's the other thing the professors say. Fighting is part of the law. Just cuz the law sez whatever.....it doesn't mean we can't disagree. That's where really good attorneys are like magic. They can take something that's cut and dried and flip it around where one questions whether black is white or up is down.

..........to fight for the principle of an issue can be really expensive. And no matter the outcome, win, lose or draw - all the attorneys always get their money[:-paperba......Greg

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Are you not the owner's agent when you take a water sample? Did he not say "go to my house, open a valve, get some water, and send it to the lab"? I know in this case the buyer is probably the one who wants the test, but the seller is complicit in that, let you in the house, agrees that the buyer can have you get the water, etc.

If you subscribe to the "you touch it you own it" maxim, where does it stop? You operate faucets, switches, thermostats, and a lot more during any inspection. There is a lot of stuff out there waiting to break.

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No good deed shall go unpunished.

Sorry to hear this, Joe.

I recently had a better outcome to what could have become a bad situation.

My client ordered radon tests as an afterthought to the inspection. When I went back to set them up two days later, the partially finished basement was flooded because the sump and or battery backup failed. (never did find out) Absentee owner.

In this case, everyone was grateful I'd returned and discovered the problem.

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If you subscribe to the "you touch it you own it" maxim, where does it stop? You operate faucets, switches, thermostats, and a lot more during any inspection. There is a lot of stuff out there waiting to break.

Yep, there is. It doesn't stop. I've had a couple unpleasant experiences over the last 28 years if you need illustration. Reality says, probability for problems is small, otherwise we'd all be screwed and gone out of this business years ago.

"I know in this case the buyer is probably the one who wants the test, but the seller is complicit in that, let you in the house, agrees that the buyer can have you get the water, etc."

That's a conditional fact (or something like that....I think it's a condition anyway) where attorney's find niches and create defense arguments.

There is no subscribing or not subscribing. People mistake what is the law and what is an opinion. Opinions are where attorney's come in, and and where arguing conditional facts makes things go in directions unknown until the final gavel comes down.

Do not ever underestimate a judge's or jury's proclivity for ignoring facts and making determinations based on all sorts of goofy stuff. That's where appeals come in.

I'm not proposing anything, I'm only citing what judges and law professor's tell me and what my experience in a few cases has shown me. The law is not logical nor fair. We like to think it's fair, but it's not. Not always, anyway.

Also, folks think law gets argued on facts and conditions. It also gets argued quite heavily in accounting, as in, is someone collectable, how long to argue a point and is it worth it, and all manner of calculus that gets considered in this stuff. I know there are those that argue on principle, but day in and day out, a big chunk of the arguing is figured in with accounting.

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