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House Calls: Wet Basement

Edith Lank on

Dear Ms. Lank: I bought a house two years ago for which the seller's disclosure form answered "No" to questions about wet basement problems. It was a bald-faced lie.

I called a lawyer from one of the area's premier firms, and he told me: "Yeah, the seller lied, and if you sue, you'll probably win. But it'll cost you more than just repairing the problem and you'll still have to repair the problem. Caveat emptor."

So I bit the bullet and paid nearly $6,000 to fix the water problems in the basement. -- R. Y.

Sorry to hear this. In your state the statute of limitations for small claims court is three years. You still have time to hear what a judge would say there. The dollar limit might not completely reimburse you, but you could appear without a lawyer, representing yourself. It might be worth trying.

Escrow Interest

Dear Ms. Lank: You did a great job of explaining how mortgage escrow accounts function in your answer to a writer who wanted to know why a small balance is left at the end of the year.

You might want to mention that the bank (at least in my area) is required to pay interest on amounts held in such escrow accounts. And where I live, the interest the bank is required to pay is 3.5 percent -- far higher than could be earned on ordinary deposit accounts, or even on CDs.

Thus, I'm happy to have the bank keep a balance in my mortgage escrow account! -- J. M. G.

Thanks for the information. You're right when you suspect that not all banks are required to pay interest on money they collect to pay homeowners' future tax and insurance bills. In 3 out of 4 states, escrow deposits are held interest-free.

Association Complaint

Dear Edith: Can you please help me with this question?

I live in a house where we have a homeowners association on a golf course and we have yearly meetings. But I feel like the people in charge don't do what is good for the homeowners. They are more in company with the golf course owner. They take trips together and help sponsor projects for the golf course. People like me object while others know about it but don't care, so they don't show up at meetings.

I had stopped paying my homeowners association dues since 2014. On the yearly invoice it states: "Per the HOA Covenants and Restrictions, a 10 percent penalty per year will be assessed for dues not received by the due date."


My kids finally graduated from high school so I have decided to put my house on the market and move out of town. So I wrote a check and paid the dues for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, but I didn't pay any of the penalties. On the check I wrote, "Paid in Full."

The homeowners association cashed the check, and then they sent me a statement for the penalties. Am I still responsible for the penalties even though they cashed a check for payment in full? -- J.

Seems as if it shouldn't be that easy to shed a debt. Maybe a lawyer will tell us.

What I do know is that when you bought, you must have been furnished with a copy of those covenants and restrictions, and you agreed to abide by them. Your remedy should have been to run for election to the governing board, rather than withhold the financial support you had promised.

Final Hedge vs. Fence

Dear Edith: I was upset to read the letter reporting that a couple had replaced a privet hedge that "looked nice" with white vinyl fencing. OMG! OMG! Vinyl plastic in place of a living green hedge that was improving air quality for the owners and others?! Hedges I have known have been trimmed only once a year. If the one in the letter required more and the owner didn't feel up to it, he should have hired someone to have it done.

Property owners may do as they wish, but some decisions should require neighbors' consent, especially when their breathing is affected.

Incidentally, do you edit letters you receive? The letter that said "turned over their home to my sister and I" should read "sister and me." The writer would surely not say, "to I." -- B.

I like to retain the flavor of the letters I receive. If I edited them all down to Standard English, the column would lose some of its human interest.

As for that hedge -- your note will mark its last appearance in this space. It's time to move on.


Contact Edith Lank at, at or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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