Legal Claims For Defects With A House You Just Bought

Say you just bought a house and it turns out that there’s something wrong with it.  Maybe the roof needs to be repaired at a tune of $10,000.  You think to yourself “why did I buy a house that immediately needs a new roof?”  Then your next thought is “wait a minute, I didn’t know the house needed a new roof, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought the place or would have asked the seller for a lower price.”  So you check the seller disclosure statement and, sure enough, the seller claimed that there was nothing wrong with the roof.  So what are your legal rights and who can you assert them against?  There are a number of possibilities, depending on your situation:

1.  You can sue the seller.  Possible claims include Iowa Code 558A (which governs disclosure statements) and Iowa’s private consumer fraud statute, Iowa Code 714H.

2.  You can sue the seller’s real estate agent, who may also have been your real estate agent if there was a dual agency representation.  Real estate agents have specific duties and obligations under Iowa Code 558A.  Realtors are not covered by Iowa’s private consumer fraud statute.

3.  If it’s a construction defect, you might be able to sue the builder and builder subcontractors if the house is less than fifteen years old.

4.  If you have a home loan for the house, you may be able to sue the bank under very restricted circumstances, although such circumstances would be rare.

5.  If an appraisal was done as part of the loan process and the appraisal missed the defect or said that it did not exist, you can sue the appraisal company or the appraiser.

6.  If you had a home inspection done, and the home inspector missed the defect or said that it did not exist, you can sue the home inspection company or home inspector.

Please be aware that banks, appraisers, and home inspectors often have language in their contracts, reports, or other documents by which they may limit or try to eliminate your ability to sue them.  Such language is not always valid, depending on the circumstances.  You should consult with an attorney if such situations before deciding that you have no right to sue.

Erbe Law Firm can help with your construction defect or real estate fraud claim.   If you need a Des Moines construction law or real estate fraud attorney, contact Erbe Law Firm today.


Proving Bed Bug Cases

A while back I wrote about Erbe Law Firm’s pending bed bug lawsuits.  This time I thought I would summarize the plan for proving them.

We are proceeding under three main theories of liability: (1) negligence; (2) violation of Iowa’s landlord/tenant statute; and (3) breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  Each of those claims are based on the idea that apartment complex owners have an obligation to treat for and eliminate bed bugs before and during your tenancy and also to warn about bed bug infestations before and during your tenancy.

Every city also has pest and insect control laws for rental property owners.  Although we are not making a separate claim under those laws, we will point to them as an indication of the level of care that apartment complex owners must exercise when confronted with a bed bug infestation.

None of these claims will be successful unless we can prove that the apartment complex owner knew or should have known of the bed bug problem.  We are using potential sources of proving such knowledge, including tenant complaints to management, prior treatment history, interviews with other tenants, previous lawsuits, records from pest control companies that worked at the complex, and complaints to the applicable city rental housing authorities.

Personal injury attorneys represent victims of accidents, including bed bug bites, in an effort to recover fair compensation for their damages.  If you need a Des Moines personal injury or wrongful death attorney, contact Erbe Law Firm today.

United States Supreme Court Broadens Anti-Retaliation Law

The Supreme Court recently decided that an employee’s oral complaints of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act could protect that employee from employer retaliation.  The case is called Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation.

Kevin Kasten claimed that he had made numerous oral complaints within the company — to his supervisor, his lead operator, the operations manager, and human resources personnel — about the location of the company’s time clocks, which were situated between where the employees had to don their protective gear and where the employees actually had to work. This meant that employees were not paid for the time they spend putting on their gear at the beginning of their shift and taking it off at the end, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
In a separate lawsuit, a federal court found in Kasten’s favor on the underlying complaint about the time clocks. The lawsuit that made it to the Supreme Court was about Kasten’s retaliation claim: He alleged that he was disciplined and ultimately fired because of his complaints to the company. The company countered that Kasten was fired because he refused to use the time clocks. It also argued that Kasten couldn’t claim retaliation, because the FLSA protects only employees who “file” a complaint, which, according to the employer, must be done in writing.
The Supreme Court found for Kasten.  The Court determined that the term “file” doesn’t necessarily require a document. The Court also concluded that requiring employees to put complaints in writing would thwart the statute’s protective purpose by discouraging complaints from those who are less educated, illiterate, or simply overworked. On the other hand, the Court agreed with the employer that the employee’s complaint had to be sufficient to put the company on notice of the problem in order to trigger the law’s retaliation provisions.   So the Court came up with this standard:  “To fall within the scope of the antiretaliation provision, a complaint must be sufficiently clear and detailed for a reasonable employer to understand it, in light of both content and context, as an assertion of rights protected by the statute and a call for their protection.”
Erbe Law Firm can assist with any employment law or labor law questions that you might have.  Please feel free to contact Erbe Law Firm for a free initial consultation with an employment law or labor law attorney.