Beebe and O'Neil

Protecting yourself from a seller's inaccurate disclosure

Buying a home is an expensive process. Every step, from making an offer to signing your documents, involves a lot of research and consideration.

Whether you already have a family and need to grow into a bigger house or have retired and need a downsize to something more manageable, your personal situation will have a direct impact on what condition and style of home you choose to buy. Not everyone can handle a fixer-upper or wants a yard, for example.

You rely heavily on the knowledge of your real estate professional during the home-buying process. You likely won't know what defects to watch for in a property, but your buyer's agent will. However, even with the skilled agent, there are defects that are harder to spot. That could leave you reliant on the seller to disclose them as part of the listing for the property.

Sellers won't always follow the law about disclosures

Many buyers who want to stay competitive in the current real estate market take steps such as waiving their inspection. That can leave them vulnerable to unscrupulous sellers who intentionally try to hide known defects from the buyers. These defects can range from a non-compliant septic system to updating electrical work that requires tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

Sellers should make certain that buyers are aware of issues or potential issues with a property before they sign the final paperwork. If the seller did not disclose those defects, you may be able to take legal action to protect your investments.

Establish that the defect is long-lasting

In order to establish that you have a legal claim against the seller, you need to show that the defect existed before you purchased the property. In cases that involve water incursion or outdated systems, it is more than likely that the seller knew about the problem.

However, if the issue involves the sudden failure of a mechanical device, such as the blower on your furnace, the seller may have had no way of knowing that this would be an issue in the future. From a sinking foundation to mold growing on the beams in the attic, there are countless potential latent defects you may not notice in your initial viewing or inspection of a property.

Just because you don't see them before closing doesn't mean you have to pay for them. Finding out a timeline for the issue can prove very helpful.

You can hold sellers accountable for undisclosed defects in civil court

The documents used in a real estate sale are legally binding. Those include everything from your initial offer to the seller's disclosure of the known issues with the home.

If a seller intentionally omitted a defect in order to increase the selling price or to take advantage of an unsuspecting buyer, the individual who buys the home under false pretenses probably has the opportunity to take legal action.

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Beebe & O'Neil
PO Box 6002
335 Washington Street
Norwich, CT 06360

Toll Free: 800-405-9174
Phone: 860-222-2021
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