What should I disclose about my property? (what is it)?
What is a sellers’ disclosure?
When someone decides to sell the home they own, they are charged with compiling a list of any conditions or facts about the home that could potentially affect its value now or in the future. The sellers’ disclosure is a list of defects the seller knows about, whether they’ve been fixed/updated or not. A seller usually makes this list available to any potential buyer at the time of closing.
This list doesn’t typically include things a buyer would be able to see or find in an inspection; things a buyer might not find out about a home until they’ve lived in it for a period of time. This might include something like bathroom plumbing that must be snaked once a year in order to use regularly.
Sometimes sellers are hesitant to include defects they know about. Of course, they feel it could dissuade buyers from moving forward with an offer. However, disclosing everything they know about the home actually protects the seller. For example, if a home had a leak in the wall and the seller had the wall removed, leak fixed, and wall replaced, disclosing that information would mean that the buyer could not later come to the seller with a new leak and accuse the seller of hiding it, thus holding the seller liable.
What’s in a sellers disclosure?
Anything that could potentially affect the value or desirability of a home, value or desirability, should be included. A seller could disclose past or present roof defects, asbestos, insect infestations (especially termites), ongoing problems with the AC unit, a problem with the house’s foundation, or an issue with the property’s title. If a seller is aware of a defect, it is in their best interest to disclose it.
What if the seller doesn’t disclose?
A buyer could find a seller liable for defects in a home even after closing. If a buyer feels that a defect was not disclosed, they can consult with a construction attorney (or other appropriate counsel) to build a case against the seller for damages. It’s best to disclose everything up front.
Even a home that is being sold “as-is” the seller still must disclose any defects about the home in a sellers’ disclosure statement. Some real estate transaction contracts in Florida use the term “as-is” within them and that still does not excuse the seller from disclosing anything they know about the property that could negatively affect its value.
However, a buyer still has to use their common sense and make a reasonable attempt to inspect the property. The seller is not obligated to disclose any defects that are obvious, such as a broken window or a hole in a wall. Only those issues known as “latent defects” must be disclosed. A defect that cannot readily be seen during a normal inspection is considered “latent.”
The most common latent defects we see in our practice involve mold and wood rot behind walls that results from long-term water intrusion. At The Robertson Firm, we have experienced construction experts who can assist you in investigating hidden or latent defects.