Unfortunately, Frank Spaans found out the truth of Mr. Hommersom’s credo “trust is nice, control is better”. Being critical of your own judgement also pays off.
After years Frank Spaans found his dream yacht, a polyester Trintella IV from 1975, with an asking price within his budget. The ad stated that the vessel was equipped with an “osmosis prevention system. For Spaans, this was crucial, since this was a polyester vessel over thirty years old. He visited the yacht three times in 2008 in the presence of the seller and his yacht broker. On those occasions the seller assured him time and again that the underwater hull was in good condition. The only problem was that the adhesive layer between hull and anti-fouling was bad and that it was coming loose in some places. No problem for the prospective buyer: just hose down the hull and apply the new layer. Since Spaans did not want to take any chances, he had a resolutive condition included in the preliminary agreement regarding the good condition of the underwater hull. He then inspected the vessel himself. Since the seller had repeatedly assured him that the hull was in good condition and he himself saw no problems, he concluded the purchase and enjoyed his ship in the summer of 2008. The joy was short-lived, however, when all paint and adhesive layers disappeared when the boat was put out to dry and hosed down, and the Spanish authorities were alerted and had the hull measured for moisture. The results were staggering: the hull was completely saturated with moisture with readings between 80 and 100 on the comparative scale (for comparison, a dry laminate measures between 0 and 30). During this inspection, a slightly sour smell was already detected… The osmosis had begun. Frank Spaans sued the sellers: after all, hadn’t the ad said that a preventive osmosis system was installed and hadn’t the seller claimed time and again that the underwater hull was in good condition? For Spaans the case was clear: the seller had committed a breach of contract and sold him a defective vessel. The damage was at least 15,000 euros. In addition, Spaans had fulfilled his investigation obligation by inspecting the vessel. And incidentally, had his obligation to inspect not already been lifted by the firm guarantee of the seller?
During the oral hearing of the case the seller’s wife acknowledged that during the various viewings the hull had indeed been reported to be in good condition. The wife also reported that they had installed the osmosis prevention system themselves in 1997. It was also said that Spaans had been advised to have the vessel inspected and she presented an email from the selling broker, who had said the same thing.
Spaans left feeling good, the seller had acknowledged that he had said the vessel was in good condition, the court would undoubtedly rule in his favor. The verdict, however, was a cold shower: the judge ruled that the seller’s defense that he had said that the underwater hull was in good condition was not a guarantee, but only a general commendation that – partly in view of the fact that the ship was 33 years old – was not intended to guarantee the prospective buyer that the ship was good. Also, according to the court, the mention that an osmosis prevention system had been installed said nothing about the condition of the vessel. The court found that Spaans did have a resolutive condition included about the condition of the underwater ship, but charged him heavily for not having the ship inspected by an independent expert. Since the seller and his broker had advised Spaans to have the vessel inspected, the court concluded that he bore the risk of the hidden defects.
Tip: as you can see: do not rely on your own knowledge, even if you have years of sailing experience. Do not trust the seller either, but stick to the saying: “trust is good, control is better” and have the boat inspected by an expert. You will save a lot of trouble and money!
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