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Question: When a homebuyer orders a home inspection and the inspector discovers termite damage, who pays to repair the termite damage, the buyer or the seller?

Answer: Any repairs are negotiable between buyer and seller, including repairs of termite damage. Who is most likely to pay depends on local customs and whether the home is listed during a buyer’s or seller’s market.

Termite inspections are not required in California, nor are they customary in all regions. However, forward-looking buyers and sellers will order a termite inspection to ensure problems won’t be discovered after closing when it’s too late.

While no substitute for an official inspection, agents and their clients can keep an eye out for these signs of a termite infestation:

  • sawdust piles near wood surfaces;
  • dirt or mud-like trails about as thick as a pencil near exterior walls or crawl spaces;
  • darkened, blistered, hollow or thinned wooden parts of the home such as windowsills; or
  • swarming winged termites (sometimes confused with winged ants) in or around the property.

When an official termite inspection is ordered, the results are delivered by the termite inspector using a form called a structural pest control report (SPC).

SPCs are not required in California and many lenders do not require this type of disclosure. In contrast, the Natural Hazard Disclosure (NHD) and the Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS) both need to be delivered to the homebuyer purchasing a one-to-four unit residential property. [Calif. Civil Code §§1102(a), 1102.3; see RPI Form 304]

When termites are found in the home, the entire home will likely need to be fumigated by a licensed and registered provider. This is true even if termites are only found in a part of the home, as they may have spread undetected.

Notably, if a seller was aware of termite damage and did not disclose the damage in their TDS, the buyer may be able to cancel the purchase agreement or demand the seller pay for the repairs.

Related article:

Client Q&A: Who pays to cure any safety hazards on the sale of a home?

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