Are Appliances Guaranteed to Work When You Buy A House

Can a Thermostat Blow Up a Deal?

This post was originally written for my newsletter, May 2019.

How have you been? Did you hibernate through that deep freeze of winter? If you’re like me, you still haven’t seen your shadow; too gloomy outside to feel like it’s spring.

As I write this, Maria is asking telling me to turn the furnace on. I refuse to put it on this late in May simply on principle!

Bah. It will get nice at some point and we’ll all moan and complain about how hot it is and we’ll quickly forget about how bad the winter was.

Speaking of thermostats, I had to kick a couple of people out of this little community of ours because of a thermostat. 

Seriously.

Allow me to regale you with this doozy of a story.

If you’ve bought a house with me before, you had a protection clause in your offer about chattels and fixtures (appliances and certain other items physically attached to a house) that they would be in working order on closing.

“The Seller represents and warrants that the chattels and major mechanical systems included in this Agreement of Purchase and Sale will be in good working order and free from all liens and encumbrances on completion.”

What is good working order? A fridge keeps food cold, a stove warms up food, a furnace that warms the house, etc. 

To the story at hand:

I was with (former) clients in a condo that hadn’t been updated since it was built in the late seventies, exactly what they were looking for, when I noticed that the thermostat was one of the old kinds with a mercury trigger.

Of course, I had to tell the husband a story about how I played with the mercury from a broken thermometer when I was a kid and poured it down the drain once I was bored of it.

He was taking measurements and wasn’t really listening and, simply said “Oh, OK.” to my story. 

I need to shut up sometimes.

The wife, who had been on her phone the entire time (she was like this when they purchased their home at Yonge and St. Clair), looked up from whatever she was thumbing through and became fascinated with the relic fastened to the wall.

She decided that the temperature should be cranked up to 35 degrees, twisting the dial well past where it could go.

The dial reset itself back to where it was. That’s what happens with this type of thermostat when it gets turned past its highest possible temperature point.

Being the HVAC technician that she was, she says, “it’s obviously broken”.

Awesome! She unknowingly gave me an idea for a closing gift; a Nest thermostat.

They decided they wanted to buy it, no need for an inspection, much like the first house I helped them buy because, like that house, it wasn’t liveable in its current state.

Also, being pre-approved for a mortgage, they didn’t need a financing condition.

Additionally, the status certificate was available to review ahead of the offer day, so I had my preferred lawyer look it over and let us know if any concerns with it should prevent them from making an offer.

None were found.

It was one of the best status certificates he had seen in a long while, he explained to us.

I spoke with the listing agent, and got the preferred closing date, along with a range of what the seller’s expectations were on price.

After reviewing the comparable sold condos, we decided that $7,000 more than the asking price was what they were willing to pay.

They won the offer competing against 7 other offers.

Let’s skip to the juicy part because everything was going swimmingly with the deal until:

A few days before the closing date, I get a nasty text from the wife,

“You mislead us. You didn’t tell us that the seller is responsible to make repairs to the condo based on the clause in the offer.”

What-the-what?

One of the associates from the law firm (that I recommended) advised that the clause I had in the offer required the seller to repair or replace any non-functioning fixtures.

To note, all of the appliances worked, even if they were avocado colour, and the thermostat too.

I was completely confused so I called her to explain to her that the lawyer was wrong (more than likely she misunderstood what the lawyer said).

I have never been so demeaned in my life. She tore a strip off of one side of me and then the other.

If there is one thing I know, is when someone is irrational and completely irate, there is no point in arguing. Just listen.

There were threats of suing me for negligence (I forgot to tell you that both she and the husband are lawyers…), and that I had better have insurance in place and something about going after personal assets.

She demanded that we revisit the condo at 7:30 in the morning so she could make a list of the required repairs.

I tried to make her understand that she was wrong about what she expected the outcome to be based on the clause, but she knew best and wouldn’t listen.

I should have stood strong and refused to take her, but I was scared shitless because I had never in all my time since 2004 had anything like this happen to me.

But I gave in to her demands and scheduled an emergency appointment through the agent who, thankfully, was understanding.

I didn’t sleep that night.

That morning, I arrived at 7:10 to make sure I was there before her so as not to give her any further fuel to complain about if I was late.

She arrived with her mom at 7:45.

Pompous you-know-what for showing up late.

Anyway, it was the most awkward elevator ride ever. The 2 minutes to get to the 7th floor felt like 2 hours.

I opened the door to let them in and do whatever it was they were going to do.

While they walked around making notes about the cabinet doors in the kitchen being squeaky, rust stains in the bathroom sink, curtain rods that needed to be resecured, everything that was in plain sight when we visited the place and none of which had anything to do with the clause they were so concerned with, I went into the kitchen and video recorded the solid ice cubes that were in the freezer, the refrigerator (luckily) had a thermometer, so I videoed that and made sure to wait until the compressor kicked on too for audio proof as well.

I then went to the stove and recorded all four burners heating up, watching them change from black to red, and did the same with the oven element.

From there, I video-recorded the toilet flushing, both the sink and the shower properly draining, and then went back to the kitchen to do the same with that sink.

There wasn’t a washer and dryer since the building had laundry facilities.

All the appliances were tested during our first visit with the husband in tow too.

I heard her say to her mom to tell me they were done. I guess she was no longer speaking to me.

“Is there anything else you’d like to look at while we’re here?”, I asked her.

No. Curt and sharp.

“Great, you can leave and I’ll lock up behind you.” I didn’t want to ride the elevator with her again.

“Why, so you can fix things behind my back and cover your mistake?”

This couldn’t be real, but I didn’t want any more drama. I was exhausted, constipated, and had cotton mouth. I wanted this done and over with, and I was starting to feel confident that she had nothing she could use against me.

Another tense elevator ride. She actually walked with me to make sure I put the key back in the lockbox.

I guess she didn’t think I was smart enough to re-open the lockbox after she left and go and fix things behind her back.

But I digress.

I called my errors and omissions insurance provider right at 9:00, and explained everything about how they were either confused by what their lawyer said about the clause, or the lawyer was clueless regarding what the clause meant. They asked me to send the offer so they could look it over.

Around noon I got a call from the errors and omissions legal advisor and he said, “If the appliances are working, there are no grounds for anything. They either received poor advice from their lawyer or, they’re trying to strong-arm you into paying for their renovations”.

I was instructed not to speak with them anymore and to tell them any further communication should be done in writing, and through their lawyer to my errors and omissions insurance provider.

So when she called the next day, I didn’t answer and texted her exactly that.

That final text was followed up with this email:

Mike

I have tried to call you to discuss a resolution to the matter discussed on our earlier call.  I have also sent an SMS messages requesting that you discuss this matter with me. You are refusing to speak with me or engage in a productive way in order to resolve this dispute.

We are extremely disappointed in your behavior and lack of professionalism. We have given you a tremendous amount of work and are frankly shocked at how you have treated us, particularly given the tens of thousands of dollars in the commissions which you have made from our family’s property transactions.

This is my last attempt to reach out to you to resolve this matter.  If I don’t receive a response from you within 24 hours, providing your availability for a call to discuss a settlement, I will assume that you are not interested in resolving this dispute outside of a formal dispute resolution forum. Please be assured that I will be escalating this matter.

I didn’t reply, and I didn’t hear back from them or the errors and ommissions until a couple of months later saying that they will put the file on hold as they haven’t heard from their lawyer at all.

Maybe cooler heads prevailed? Maybe they were told they were wrong, or misunderstood or misinterpreted what the lawyer meant.

Who knows, maybe they will bring legal action against me in the future.

All of this stems from a measly, ancient, thermostat and a misunderstanding of a legal clause designed to protect them.