When a property is listed for sale, the owner of the property is expected to complete a Seller’s Disclosure form. This form is signed by all parties to the transaction, including the buyer of the property.
Although most buyers pay for their own home inspections on the property, they also rely on the disclosure from the seller to discover any known issues or past issues with the property. We are routinely asked “Should I disclose this issue to the buyer?”, or “Can I just cover this up?” This answer is: NO! Disclose, Disclose, Disclose! Under Florida Law, in many cases a buyer can sue for damages, and even rescind a transaction, when known issues with a home are not disclosed.
We recently talked to a homeowner who had issues with a new home that she purchased. After moving into the home, the pipes backed up and flooded the master bedroom. After calling several plumbing companies, the homeowner discovered that just a few months before she closed, one of the plumbing companies had recommended (in writing) that the home’s pipes be hydro-jetted at a cost of over $2,000.00. The seller did not disclose this on the Seller’s Disclosure form, and in fact, they did not indicate that there had been any issues at all with the plumbing. The new owner has now hired an attorney to go after the former owner for the cost of repairs.
Another important point to remember is that although a seller may not have experienced any issues with the property, if a buyer’s home inspection reveals material defects in the property, and they provide the seller with a copy of the inspection but fail to purchase the property, those issues must be disclosed to future buyers. If a future owner discovers that the seller was informed of material defects and failed to disclose them, they may have a claim against the former owner.
The requirement to disclose known defects of a property even applies to properties being sold “as-is”. Selling a property “as-is” simply means that the buyer is agreeing to buy the property in its existing condition, without the seller having to make any repairs to it. This “as-is” clause does not mean that the seller is absolved from disclosing known defects, or the liability that comes with not disclosing defects.
As a rule of thumb, DISCLOSE, DISCLOSE, DISCLOSE!