Jeff and Jody Brooks purchased a home in Annapolis, Maryland, but were forced to move due to snake infestation. An inspection of the house performed in November 2014 revealed that there were no snakes on the premises. The Brooks closed on the home on December 29, 2014, and moved out in April 2015.
They paid $410,000 for the house, and spent $60,000 on extermination services; they are now seeking $2M in a lawsuit against the seller, as well as her agent, who is also the seller’s daughter. The $2M includes $1M in punitive damages. An alternative remedy would be a rescission of the purchase, and a return of the house to the previous owner.
The plaintiffs claim that the realtor concealed her knowledge of the snakes from them, and are alleging that while she was the listing agent, she did not maintain a lockbox on the premises. Instead, she would personally unlock the house, turn on the lights, and look for snake activity prior to anyone entering the home. The lawsuit also alleges that the realtor told the couple that she hired an exterminator to perform treatment for snakes, as well as an infrared study.
However, the first snake was discovered by their four-year-old son months after the Brooks moved in. The snake was a seven-foot-long, but was only the first of several black rat snakes, snake skins, and nests that the couple encountered in their “dream home.” They hired a pest control company, which gutted the basement, where they came across snake tunnels throughout the insulation.
According to one pest control expert, the problem could be resolved by burning the house down and allowing it to sit for 15 years. After having a snake inspection performed, it was determined that the house was infested and was not a safe place for children. Eventually, the couple, their son, and infant daughter moved into the wife’s parents’ house a short distance away.
Failure to Disclose
The Brooks were not the first family forced to move out of the house because of snakes. Another couple with a six-year-old daughter rented the house from 2008 to 2013 and had a similar experience with snake infestation. Then, in 2013, another couple with two daughters and one son rented the house, only to find that the house was infested with snakes. Although the owner hired an exterminator, the snake problem persisted.
The lawsuit filed by the Brooks alleges that the house is uninhabitable and worthless. It was supposed to have been their 20-year home and now they are being forced to start over. If the realtor withheld information about the snake infestation, the Brooks should be allowed to rescind the purchase and return the house. Alternatively, the Brooks could recover damages to compensate them for the purchase price, the cost of pest control, and punitive damages, which would deter the realtor and other realtors from engaging in the same type of fraudulent behavior.
Seeking Legal Advice
If you think that you were the victim of fraud on the part of your realtor regarding the purchase of a home, you should consult a real estate attorney, who can conduct an investigation, and determine whether the realtor was aware of the problem prior to selling the house to you. Pest infestation is a material fact to most, if not all, buyers because it has an effect on whether or not the buyers would even purchase the house, and the price they would be prepared to pay.
Authored by Roxanne Minott, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law