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Undisclosed, Masked urine stain, smells in house

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My family just purchased and moved into a house on Wednesday, 10.14.15. That first night, I had my children sleep in one of the two guest bedrooms. There was a strong odor of ammonia mixed with very heavy fragrance from the air fresheners. The air fresheners had been plugged in prior to us entering the house. After my children fell asleep, I removed the air fresheners, thinking that would resolve the strange smell. It didn't.

As the night wore on and the air fresheners' scents dissipated, the smell of urine stemming from the closets and the areas adjacent to the closets became overwhelming. I was livid since it was our first night in the house and this smell was so pungent and my children were sleeping in the room which smelled the worst.

The next day (10.15.15) I emailed my real estate agents (Vin and Kal) and the seller's real estate agent (Mera). My email was very emotional and I asked Mera to come to the house to inspect this smell. On Saturday, 10.17.15, my agents visited my house and the smell was overwhelming. In an email to Mera, Kal described the smell as "worst public restroom in subway station."

Neither Mera nor the seller, Jonn, have personally visited our house yet and it has now been 14 days. I found out from talking to my new neighbors that the house we bought was occupied by squatters just prior to being listed. I am livid as this information was not disclosed to us. Jonn has insisted we use the company, AttiCare, he used to service the house which is still under warranty. I agreed but called AttiCare and asked if they did deep cleaning of hardwood floors or carpets and they stated they only clean and renovate the attic and crawlspace but do not do cleaning of any living spaces (hallways, closets, kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, etc.). Mera and Jonn did not respond to me. Since AttiCare was unable to come until a later date (on 10.23.15 or 10.25.15), my agents scheduled an inspection with ServPro (a national fire and water cleanup and restoration company) for Tuesday, 10.20.15.

The ServPro technician's assessment was that all the floorboards in those two guest rooms and the closets in those rooms and the master closet would have to be replaced because the stench of ammonia is overpowering and has seeped into the unsealed cedar floors. The tech said the urine has most likely seeped down to the subfloor of the house and that the use of air fresheners and sprays, deodorizers would only mask the problem and be temporary solutions as the odor of urine would always remain until the flooring was either removed, cleaned and sanitized, then replaced or completed replaced with new wood.

When I relayed this information to Miranda, there was no response. On Sunday (10.25.15), she was supposed to come to the house with the AttiCare technician but didn't. The AttiCare technician assessed the work that AttiCare had previously done on the house (in the attic and the crawlspace) and stated there was not an issue with their previous work. He said the problem was most likely urine in the bedrooms and closets and that AttiCare does not do that kind of cleaning or renovation. He also used a UV Light to detect bodily fluids and found that while the walls and paint were a normal neon-blue color, the sealed wood floors in the closets and under the new carpet (which had been laid by the seller) showed with a bright yellow/green indicating there was bodily fluids there. He assumed it was urine because of the strong scent of urine in those rooms and closets.

In an effort to work with Mera and Jonn, I've given them plenty of time to come see and smell this issue but they have been very reluctant to accept responsibility. ServPro's estimates to fix this pre-existing issue is around $23,000 and Jonn offered us $1,500 if we would sign a waiver releasing him of liability.

I have been filled with anxiety over this issue. It has been unbelievably stressful on me and my family. Is there a way I can make the seller properly address this issue?

Edited by Findlaw_FN
This post has been edited to remove personal or identifying information. – Moderator

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Have no idea (and dont't care) who John is ... unless he's the seller.

Sure, given apparent scope of issue, there are ways to force seller to address. I believe you understand that you may initiate legal action, even if it is only in relation to violation of property condition disclosure stmt-related law.

Find it hard to believe any realtor that isn't a moron doesn't know that overwhelming use of fragrances and/or all open windows doesn't spell trouble, and presume you didn't get home inspection by well-qualified person. I'd be filing a complaint with state realtor oversight body about all of them, and writing letters to owners of brokerags on both sides. Maybe prospect of further exposure might be motivation to resolve.

... and, yes, questioning neighbors is good idea before contracting to buy. ... as is looking at police-related databases (nuisance calls if nothing else).

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Just FYI, you're not supposed to identify folks by name.  Although you identified the agents only by their first names, other information in your post makes it very easy to figure out exactly who they are.




I found out from talking to my new neighbors that the house we bought was occupied by squatters just prior to being listed. I am livid as this information was not disclosed to us.


I don't understand your outrage.  Why would you expect it to have been disclosed?  Did you ask who occupied the house before it was listed?  The residential real estate disclosures required by California law do not require that sort of information to be disclosed.




Is there a way I can make the seller properly address this issue?


You're free to sue, but you should expect the seller's defense to go something like this:


Given the extent of the problem as described in your post, it is beyond unfathomable that the problem wouldn't have been detected by a walk through by you and by a standard home inspection.


Did you walk through the house before (or even after) you offered to buy it?  Did you have a home inspection done?

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I can completely relate!!  My husband and I just closed on a townhouse yesterday.  On the first viewing there was a very faint urine smell that the realtor said she barely smelled.  She said maybe they did not was the floors before they left (referring to the renters the seller had in the unit prior to selling).  Second visit was with sellers agent to see if I still liked it and I wanted to see if smell still there and if he could explain it.  Again still there but faint. He had no idea and we agreed maybe “a pet smell” in the floor and it could be an easy fix by cleaning at worst replacing pergo.  


Because we needed a fast closing due to school starting and already had moved from leased unit and was living August in our camper, we waved inspection (being a townhouse and we didn’t think we had to worry about exterior and all interior washer, dryer appliances, forced hot air and  a/c in working order and there were no disclosures).  Our buyer realtor advised us to get it, but we said nah, they would have disclosed any real problem.  


Day one that we closed, I had a home cleaner at my house at closing to wash the entire house before we started moving anything in.  She found cat urine on all baseboards. After washing it was still smelling and getting worse.  She opened a floor grate to wash and the smell burst out like nothing we had ever smelled before.  The cat urine is in the air ducts!!!  There was NO WAY anyone did not know about it! We were told during the second walk through the carpets were just replaced and if that was the case, they would have HAD to have removed grates to do that and would have found the issue. 


I wish there was something we could do to hold them responsible for non-disclosure.  


I hope you got better results. 


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