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Real estate shock: When your property has an undisclosed defect

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2018 | Real Estate Transactions |

When you buy a home, it’s a long process. You want to make sure you get the house inspected and that you have a substantial contract that protects you in case defects appear after the sale. On the whole, it’s the seller’s responsibility to disclose any significant defects with the property.

If you look at a home and believe it’s the right one for you, wait before you buy. Get the seller to disclose everything he or she knows about the property. Ask for paperwork for any changes made to the home, so you know what has, or has not, been fixed.

Disclosing problems is a seller’s responsibility to buyers

Dishonesty ruins a good contract, and sellers risk losing buyers if they’re not honest. When it comes to some defects, though, they may believe the buyer won’t ever find out. For example, if there’s water damage behind the walls from years before, an inspection might show it, but it could also miss it. If the inspection doesn’t see the damage, a buyer could end up with a home with significant water damage.

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors defines material defects as those that have an adverse and significant impact on the overall value of a property. The defect may also be an unreasonable danger to those living in the property. For example, a support beam that no longer supports the weight of the home could result in a floor sloping, warping or falling apart completely, putting the people in the house in danger.

What do you do if you realize there’s a defect after you buy a home?

If you purchase a home and realize that a defect is present after you complete the sale, you may have limited options. It depends if the escrow has closed. If it’s closed, it’s harder to regain compensation unless you pursue a claim directly against the seller. Even then, you might be limited in how much you can obtain. Comparatively, if the escrow fund is still open, you may be able to stop the transaction and reverse the sale, rescinding the transaction until the home is in the condition you expected.

Sometimes, it’s not the seller who’s to blame. If an inspector fails to find a problem that he or she should have seen, then he or she may be responsible for refunding the cost of the inspection. It’s unlikely the individual would be liable for the full price of the defect.

The most important thing is to get the case to your attorney quickly. The time you have to rescind your offer or make a claim is limited, so filing a claim quickly is key to getting the compensation you need to make repairs.