Legal Question in Real Estate Law in Pennsylvania

We just purchased half of a duplex from a Management Company who is currently still renting out the other unit. Our units share a sewage drainage system. The main sewer drain pipe is in the other half of the duplex. Our drain in the basement as been backing up with water frequently, we have had plumbers out to snake the drain twice now, it temporarily helps the problem but after a few weeks we seem to have the same issue. They told us this is because the main problem is probably a blockage on the other unit.

Last night, our neighbors knocked on our door and had said their basement was flooding with actual sewage. They had previously smelled sewage but their landlord told them it was "normal is old houses" Our drain just seems to be backing up with water. They contacted their landlords who said they will send out a plumber to snake. (in my opinion, this issue seems to be a bit larger than what could just be fixed with a snake). What i'm wondering is, whos legal responsibility is it for a shared drain? No one disclosed the fact that we didn't have a completely independent unit when we purchased the home, there was nothing on the sellers disclosure about sewage problems or standing water in the basement, and this certainly isn't a problem that just started occurring the DAY we moved in. I'm at a loss, and would just like to know a bit more about where we stand before I contact the management company that sold us this property.

Asked on 6/07/11, 8:25 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Miriam Jacobson Law Offices of Miriam N. Jacobson

The problems you raise would normally be covered by some kind of declaration or easement recorded in land records and governing the rights and obligations of the owners. If your half of the duplex was sold without each of the units having been legally created as separate real estate and proper documentation as to ownership rights, your purchase may not have been valid.

Some issues should have been disclosed in the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement, required by law, and by any inspections you should have had done. If those matters were facts and were intentionally not disclosed, you may have a claim against the seller.

Was the Management Company the legal owner of the duplex? If not, was the deed signed by the legal owner? If you purchased title insurance at the time of the purchase, it may insure some of the issues, such as valid title to real property legally created, consisting of the one-half of the duplex, and that the seller was the legal owner without any claims by others to title or an interest in the property.

Were you represented at the settlement? By a lawyer?

Consult a local real estate lawyer to go through your documents and analyze your options.

This response is not legal advice, since I do not have all of the information that would be required, and I do not have a representation agreement with you.

* If the answers to your question confirm that you have a valid issue or worthwhile claim, your next step should almost always be to establish a dialog with a lawyer who can provide specific advice to you. Contact a lawyer in your county or township.

* Another reason for contacting a lawyer is that it is often impossible to give a good answer in the Internet Q&A format without having more information. The unique circumstances of your situation and things that you may not have thought to mention in your question may completely change the answer. If you want to be sure that you have a complete answer to your question and an understanding of what that answer means, establish a connection with a lawyer who practices in the area of your concern.

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Answered on 6/07/11, 9:16 am

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