What Does A Home Seller Have To Disclose?
In a hot business market, many people are looking to buy and sell homes, or fix up older homes and flip them for profit. Selling homes can be big business. But it can also lead to big legal problems, as the sale of a home involves a complex set of laws, including questions of what you, as the seller, need to disclose to the buyer.
Do you need to disclose every little defect or problem? In many cases, if you are rehabbing and reselling property, you may not even be very familiar with the property and its problems. Can you get in trouble if you sell a home, and you don’t disclose everything wrong with the property?
What Has to be Disclosed?
As a general rule, the seller of property has to disclose any defect or problem that has a substantial impact on the property’s value, or on how desirable the property would be.
Some of these things are specific, and many are listed in the standard real estate contract. They include things like:
- Radon gas disclosures
- Erosion, for properties that are in coastal areas
- Information related to homeowners or condominium associations
- Whether there are any legal claims that affect the property or its value (which includes any boundary disputes)
- If there are any environmental hazards on the property
- Whether there is any infestation of organisms that could destroy wood or the foundation of the home
- Any problems with essential parts of the property, such as HVAC, major appliances, electrical systems, plumbing or the roof
As a general rule, a seller is also protected from problems, if the seller really and truly had no idea the problems existed.
What a Buyer Has to Prove in a Lawsuit
That means to be sued for failing to disclose a defect on property, the buyer must show that you had actual knowledge of the problem or defect, and that the defect would have been easy for you to know about or detect. The undisclosed problem also must have a substantial impact on the value of the property.
The buyer also has to show that they didn’t know about the defect when the property was purchased. Many buyers get inspections, ignore areas of concern found in the inspections, and then sue the seller for failing to disclose the items that could have been revealed, had the inspection been read or acted upon.
Courts are hesitant to hold sellers responsible for every little problem, absent fraud (that is, assuming you didn’t purposely and knowingly conceal a major problem or defect in the property). That means that buyers seeking to sue have a difficult road ahead of them.
Still, as a matter of caution, it is always better for a seller to over disclose than under disclose. Saying too much rarely gets anybody into trouble, although practically, it can discourage otherwise willing buyers.
Are you in any business that involves the sale or repair of property? Call the West Palm Beach commercial litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today to help you if you have any legal issues or claims.