Avoid Home Buyer’s (and Seller’s) Remorse-What You Should Know About Home Seller Disclosure Law
What is a home seller disclosure law?
A home seller disclosure las is a law that requires home sellers to disclose or reveal known defects regarding the property that is being sold. Every state has their own unique disclosure laws and timelines. Many states also require a specific disclosure form, which should be provided by your Realtor.
What defects should be disclosed?
Material defects, anything that has an impact on the home’s value or safety. Water or flood damage (basement), leaking roof or ceiling, foundation cracks or issues, structural issues, insect infestations, mice infestations, toxic conditions such as asbestos, mold, lead paint, mechanical issues with the HVAC system or otherwise, electrical issues, deaths that occurred on the property in the recent few years, zoning issues or proposed changes to zoning, property line disputes-and depending on the state, naturally hazardous conditions such as location in a flood zone or near an earthquake fault line, tree roots impeding the plumbing lines, etc. The seller has a duty to report all defects they are aware of. If you can, paying for a detailed home inspection may help spot latent defects (defects not visible and not always detected by a general home inspection) and help you provide a comprehensive disclosure.
Does an issue have to be disclosed even if it was fixed by the homeowner?
Yes-disclose it in case the issue reappears for the buyer. Avoid a misrepresentation, negligence or fraud claim. Sometimes home issues that are repaired/fixed are perpetual problems. When in doubt, disclose.
What are your legal options if a problem wasn’t disclosed before you bought the home?
The buyer may have a claim against a seller when it can be proven that the seller knew about the defect and intentionally failed to disclose it. Typically this must be something that existed prior to the buyer taking possession of the home, a defect that is not obvious or visible to the buyer, and there is monetary damage resulting from the defect (buyer has out of pocket costs to fix or repair the issue.) The value of the claim is typically the cost to repair the defect. In some cases, there may be an attorney’s fees provision in the purchase contract.
What can a buyer do to make sure they aren’t buying a home with issues?
Pay for a thorough home inspection by a qualified professional that comes recommended to spot/reveal any issues. Read the entire disclosure form provided regarding the property, follow up with questions to the seller if you have any. Buying a home is a large investment, and you should take the time to understand what you are buying, and the contract you are signing-it is worth hiring a competent realtor or attorney to review the documents regarding the sale. Homeowner disputes can be lengthy and costly, so if you notice any red flags regarding the property, purchase agreement or disclosure, ask your realtor to ask the seller additional questions, and ask for them in writing.