Seller responsible for disclosing home information to buyer
August 30, 2011
When buying a home
, the seller is legally obligated to disclose certain facts about the property for sale. The exact disclosure laws can vary from state to state, so it's a good idea to brush up on these details about a property for sale with a real estate agent when talking to the home seller, if not before.
In general, home buyers have to be informed of any problems with a home's structure and major systems. However, it's possible a home buyer won't find out until years after the fact, since some home defects can easily go unnoticed.
According to Nolo, there are three parties who have to disclose information, and
any of these three may be liable if information is hidden. The home seller, the
seller's agent, and the home inspector may all be responsible.
Who is responsible
Inman News notes that if a defect that should have been disclosed is discovered
after the deadline for negotiation passes but before the deal is closed, it can
be grounds to suspend the deal.
Disclosure is a legal requirement, and failure to meet it can leave the home
seller liable for repair costs. If an inspector fails to notice a defect, it may
constitute professional negligence and render him or her liable as well.
Legal action on failure to disclose
Purchase contracts may contain a seller warranty which states the seller's responsibility to maintain the home until the sale is closed. Such clauses
generally cover plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems, although home
buyers will need to check specifics personally.
If the defect wasn't apparent before purchase, such as a remodeling that
reportedly met local codes, or was actively hidden by the sellers, then home
buyers likely have grounds for successful legal action, according to Nolo. This
is particularly true if the home has been further damaged by flooding or some
other result of the defect.
At that point, homeowers may notify the responsible party and request payment for
the repair costs. If they refuse, homeowners can pursue mediation or even a
lawsuit in order to recover the costs of repairing the damage that the defect has