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Answers to real estate questions as appearing in the Houston Chronicle
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Are sellers obligated to disclose pet/urine stains?
 Submitted to the Houston Chronicle on 06/07/09

We purchased our current home on March 13, 2009. The sellers did not disclose any problems with the flooring on the seller's disclosure notice.

The home smelled like Glade or Febreeze when we first were shown the home by our real estate agent, so we did not suspect any pet stains at that time. After we moved in, we found out that there are multiple pet urine stains on the flooring throughout the home. We also noticed the house smells terrible especially when it rains or is humid. Stains on the carpet were invisible to the naked eye but a black light inspection performed on May 1, 2009 revealed that there are multiple urine stains in every bedroom and in both hallways. Some stains appeared to have had attempts at cleaning and some did not. I have taken pictures of these stains under black light. There are at least five stains in every room.

Even after a professional carpet cleaning, the house still smells like urine. The carpet cleaner stated that the urine soaked through to the slab and the smell cannot be further addressed through chemical cleaning.

Living in a home that stinks is not an option for us. In order to get rid of the smell of urine, we have to replace all the carpeting, clean the stained slab with an enzyme cleaner followed by bleach, and treat it with Red-X sealant, for a total cost of $7400.

My question is: Do sellers have to disclose pet stains on the floor? Are they liable for the cost of new flooring?

Answer: Sections 2 and 4 of the Seller’s Disclosure Notice, (TAR-1406) and Sections 3 and 5 of the Texas Real Estate Commission form OP-H, both provide the opportunity for a seller to disclose problems with floors (and our interpretation of that includes floor coverings such as carpet), as well as both forms also provide the opportunity for a seller to disclose any item, system, or equipment on or in the Property that is in need of repair that has not been previously disclosed in this notice.

Thus, in our opinion, a seller is required to disclose serious urine stains such as you describe. Our recommendation to you, however, is to document in writing (invoices, etc, as well as the photos that you have already done), the extent of the damage and what it costs to remediate it. Your first obligation is to yourself and your family and to make the home as pleasant to live in as possible. That does not mean that you should not hire an attorney, successfully experienced in this type of litigation, to represent your interests. Just because you may have a legitimate claim against the seller, however, does not mean that the seller has the financial ability to pay should you win in court. It is usually a good idea to remediate an unpleasant condition first while you are seeking settlement costs.

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