What Must a Seller Disclose About Property Defects?
Sept. 21, 2022
If you are preparing for the sale or purchase of property, you need to be aware of the seller’s obligation to disclose certain information about the property and its defects to prospective buyers.
A real estate attorney at Law Offices of David W. Wilcox assists sellers and buyers of residential and commercial property with real estate transactions in Bradenton, Florida, and surrounding counties, including Sarasota County and Matinee County. Attorney Wilcox is dedicated to meeting the needs of both sellers and buyers.
What Are Disclosures?
In real estate law, the term “disclosure” refers to the seller’s obligation to reveal known property defects to prospective buyers. A defect refers to the property’s deficiency that may potentially become a health or safety hazard to the buyer or may impact the property’s value.
Disclosures are required in real estate transactions to ensure that the buyer is aware of the property’s known defects and conditions at the time of sale. Disclosures are also meant to protect sellers from any legal action that may arise after the sale is complete.
There are different issues that need to be disclosed in the sale of the property. Below is the list of some of the most common disclosures in real estate law:
Health/safety hazards. Any deficiency of the property that can be defined as a health or safety hazard (e.g., mold, asbestos, etc.) must be disclosed when selling the property.
Mechanical issues. If heating, air condition, ventilation, water, or appliances have any mechanical issues, a seller must warn a potential buyer about them.
Structural issues. A seller should also disclose any known structural issues, such as problems with the roof or foundation.
Water damage. When selling property, the seller should also inform the buyer of any known water damage as a result of flooding, plumbing issues, or any other causes.
Renovations. If the seller has made any renovations to the property, they may need to disclose them to a potential buyer.
Pest infestation. If there are any known issues with pests, such as pest infestation of rodents or termites, the seller is generally required to disclose this information to prospective buyers.
Legal issues. If there is an ongoing bankruptcy case or a lien against the property, the seller must disclose these and other legal issues affecting the property to the buyer.
Disclosure requirements for the above-mentioned issues vary from one state to another. Sellers may be required to disclose these issues depending on where they live. For this reason, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced real estate attorney well-versed in the laws of your state.
Federal & Florida Disclosure Requirements
As mentioned above, disclosure requirements in real estate law vary from one state to another. However, some requirements apply to sellers of property in all states. Under federal law, sellers of homes built before 1978 have a legal obligation to provide potential buyers with any information on lead-based paint hazards.
Florida law requires home sellers to disclose any material defects, conditions, or issues that can substantially impact the property’s value or desirability. Under this definition, sellers in Florida may be required to make all of the above-mentioned common disclosures.
Specifically, Florida sellers have an obligation to disclose the following:
Radon gas hazards
The potential for erosion in the sale of coastal properties
Condo or homeowner’s association (COA/HOA) rules if the property is governed by a COA or HOA
Pending code enforcement action against the property
Unlike other states, Florida does not require sellers to disclose if any murders, deaths, or suicides have occurred on the property. Additionally, a seller may not be obligated to disclose any defects or issues that are obvious to potential buyers during a reasonable inspection (e.g., holes in a wall, broken windows, etc.). That is why buyers have to make reasonable attempts to inspect the property before the purchase.
Remedies for Concealed Defects
Under Florida law, sellers must make disclosures about property defects before finalizing the sale of the property. But what if a seller fails to disclose defects? What remedies for concealed defects do buyers have?
If a seller fails to meet their disclosure obligations, the prospective buyer has the right to rescind the contract. The buyer can also recover compensation for any costs and damages they suffer by filing a lawsuit against the seller.
Whether you are a seller who is being accused of failing to make disclosures or a buyer who has been misled by an unscrupulous seller, reach out to a real estate attorney to start moving forward.
Legal Guidance You Can Trust
If you are in the process of selling/purchasing property, you need to understand the disclosure requirements in your state. Attorney Wilcox can explain a seller’s disclosure obligations in Florida and help you navigate your real estate transactions. Law Offices of David W. Wilcox represents sellers and buyers in Bradenton, Florida, and neighboring areas. Set up a consultation with Attorney Wilcox to discuss disclosures in your specific case.