Am I Legally Required to Disclose the Condition of My Home? Why Sellers Should Complete Repairs

Am I Legally Required to Disclose the Condition of My Home? Why Sellers Should Complete Repairs

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Every house is different, and in the course of everyday life there will be repairs that come up unexpectedly. However, in most states, if the seller is not honest about the condition of their home and the state of repair — or disrepair — then they may be financially liable for repairs and damages, even after the buyer has signed the mortgage and moved in. There are no “lemon laws” for residential homes like there are for vehicles that are sold in an undisclosed poor condition, but failure to disclose defects could have legal and financial repercussions and could end in a real estate dispute in court.
In some states, homeowners are required to fill out a formal document regarding the condition of their homes’ sewer, water, gas, and electric systems. They must also address any current insect infestations such as termites, any mold or rot in the home’s frame, any problems with the foundation or issues with neighbors, and whether there are any liens on the property that would need to be resolved in advance of a sale. Homeowners must also declare the presence of lead paint in their home, a statement which is required by law in all 50 states.
If a seller does not disclose condition and repair issues, real estate law firms may be willing to act on the part of the home buyer in an attempt to get restitution. Depending upon the facts of the case, sellers could be liable for the cost of repairs, attorney fees, taking ownership of the property back at their own expense, and damages for pain and suffering at the discretion of the court.
In order to avoid consequences associated with failure to disclose defects of a home in advance of a sale, home owners may wish to talk to a real estate lawyer to ensure that they fill out forms properly. After the home is thoroughly inspected — including the home’s connection to the city water and sewer lines — home owners who perform the necessary repairs may find that their homes sell more quickly. Any existing liens should show up in the course of preparing the title for transfer, and mortgage companies may refuse to underwrite new home loans until the liens are removed.
Some home buyers pay for several home inspections, figuring that a variety of specialists have a better chance of finding any damage in advance of a sale. Although the “time window” to perform these inspections may be rather narrow, having a full sewer system check and an entire heating and cooling systems check is recommended. Home buyers want to know without a doubt that they are making an investment that will not require extensive repairs. Failure to disclose defects could have severe legal consequences for sellers, and home owners must work to ensure that a quick sale is also an ethical one.

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