PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - When Julie Navarro and her husband started their house hunt several years ago, one Phoenix listing caught their attention. It promised a recently renovated home with a low-maintenance backyard. Those were the magic words, and the couple decided to buy.
Fast forward to a massive rainstorm that rolled through the Valley. "We woke up around 4 in the morning to thunder and lighting, seeing the backyard filling up with water," Navarro said. "We started digging a trench from the backyard to the front yard to get the water to drain."
In the following days, Navarro discovered the root cause of the flooding. Somebody had filled an old swimming pool with drywall, doors, flooring, and ceiling fans, then buried it and never drilled holes in the concrete so it could drain. For who knows how long, the buried pool filled with water until it couldn't hold any more.
"If you were standing out here, the water was up to your knees," Navarro told 3 On Your Side. The buried pool didn't show in the home inspection before Navarro purchased the property, and it wasn't listed in the disclosures from the seller.
"It happens in Arizona more often than you would think," real estate attorney Benjamin Gottlieb said. "Non-disclosures are very prevalent."
Non-disclosures are also illegal. Sellers have a legal obligation to make disclosures about their property, even if the buyer waives an inspection or agrees to buy the house as-is.
"Anything the home buyer would reasonably want to know about, you should probably disclose as a home seller," Gottlieb continued. "Burying a pool probably falls under the umbrella of one of those facts."
For buyers, the clock is ticking once you find a problem that you believe the seller knew about. "In general, within three years, you're going to want to take action on the non-disclosure claim," Gottlieb suggested.
It's been longer than that for Navarro. "It's extremely maddening," she said. "A lot of heartache. A lot of financial burden."
And she's still uncovering new problems. There was a leaky sunroom that had to be converted back into a patio, and mold that had to be remediated.
"You have an inspection thinking everything is OK, but low and behold, mold, buried pool, sunroom now a back patio," she said. "It's just one thing after another." And she can't help but wonder what other secrets are hiding in her home.
The Arizona Department of Real Estate has a list of topics you should research before buying property.