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We so rarely receive questions of wiring, but here is such a thing from Mike:
I have an ethical dilemma.
I live in South Orange NJ, in a 100-year-old house which we bought last year. The lovely neighbors next door, who were very welcoming to us, including having us over for dinner, just moved to San Francisco on short notice due to a job relocation and put their house on the market last week.
Being a nosy sort I went to the open house to get to see the parts of a house you don’t see when over for dinner, and saw telltale signs of knob and tube wiring. Knob and tube, which I didn’t know existed until las year, is an old kind of electrical wiring which is perfectly legal to leave in place but prone to fires and impossible to fix of there’s a fault, so you can’t get insurance if it’s known to be there. It’s very common in houses of this vintage and it’s one of the things as a buyer you pay for an inspector to look for after you sign contracts. Unlike UK are contracts are done first and are binding unless defined unresolvable defects are found (no gazumping!).
Jonathan, the house inspector who looked at our house, missed it however, and we were stuck with a $10,000 bill getting the house rewired. We told Jonathan last year after the electrician we hired to do some minor work dropped this bombshell on us but he shrugged and said he can’t see everything, although now that I know what to look for it’s completely obvious, so I’d suspect he’d miss it again.
I just looked out the window and the neighbors’ house is under contract and the same inspector is there. Should I say anything to my new neighbors (whoever they are)? What about after they move in?
I’ve seen knob and tube in friends’ houses and my wife insists I keep silent. Is it ever appropriate to point out a potentially costly defect in somebody else’s house or is this something one keeps to oneself in polite society.
Oh Mike, I can smell your conscience from here. Although it’s too late for you (unless you sue Jonathan, which will cost you considerably more than the wiring), you’ll never be able to live with yourself if some other innocent gets hammered with $10,000-worth of rewiring. You have to tell. Doesn’t he, readers? What do you think? Advise Mike in the comments.
PS ‘knob and tube’. Fnarrr!
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