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Failure to Disclose Defects Can Have Costly Consequences

Oct. 17, 2018

Buying a house involves some amount of risk, no matter how much research you’ve done and how thorough your inspections were. After all, you can’t know for sure about all the quirks and headaches with living in a home until you are actually living in the home.

However, that doesn’t mean sellers can engage in deceptive practices to conceal defects and other problems with the house. Those who do risk facing a lawsuit from unhappy buyers.

Failure to Disclose

This summer, for instance, two Florida homeowners who had just purchased their first home found themselves in a highly unpleasant situation. They learned that lurking beneath the new paint and carpet in the home was an overwhelming stench of car urine.

The home had evidently been used as a cat rescue home, and housed more than two dozen feral cats. The buyers had not noticed the smell before they bought the house, arguing that the realtor went to great lengths to cover up the odor, from repainting to replacing carpets. The realtor did not, however, repair the saturated the drywall or insulation, leading to the lingering stench and major unforeseen expenses.

The couple filed a lawsuit arguing the realtor was deceptive and failed to properly disclose the defects.

Avoiding Similar Situations

There are state laws that dictate the information sellers must disclose when selling property. Broadly speaking, the disclosures must include any details regarding defects and issues that affect the property’s value. This might include water damage, defective materials and faulty electrical work.

If a seller fails to properly disclose this information, legal action could follow.

To avoid the situation from escalating to that point, homeowners should carefully review a contract with an attorney before signing. Pay close attention to disclosures and request more information on the property when necessary. And sellers would be wise to understand their legal obligations regarding what they must disclose to buyers, or they risk facing a costly lawsuit.