Protecting Yourself from Undisclosed Defects in Residential Property Transactions

When purchasing residential real estate, it is often difficult to avoid potential dangers, risks to health and defects that could cause severe complications. Because of these issues, it is imperative to protect the buyer or owner from possible problems.

This may be accomplished through knowing what to look for, advise and information and by comprehending which processes to follow. Some items may need to be replaced or upgraded when a new house has been bought, and some difficulties may be discovered through a thorough tour before the property transactions have been finalized.

Some items that normally need to be replaced are not considered defects or glitches, and these may include outdated pipes, wiring and swamp like land. Roofing, septic tanks and similar issues may exist, and it is important to know how old these items are so the buyer understands he or she may need to replace or repair certain sections of the house. However, the seller in the transaction relationship is obligated to disclose any defects of the house or land to the buyer as is required in most states. This also includes any defective areas or parts of the home that are not obvious. However, if something is found after the sale has been finalized, the buyer must know what to do and how to proceed. The more severe the issue, the more important it is to seek a remedy.

Sellers’ Responsibilities in Disclosing Defects

Unfortunately, disclosure and real estate laws are not the same throughout the country, and they change regularly. This means that certain defects may remain hidden but serious or material defects that exist on or in a property must be explained to the buyer before he or she completes the sale of the house with the seller. When the sale has not yet been finalized, the buyer may have the chance to cancel the transaction. However, there are instances when someone does not have the capability to do so until after the sale has been completed and he or she has moved into the property. It is at this point he or she must determine the next course of action.

What is Considered a Defect?

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has deemed a defect to be something that affects a system, component or similar matter in a residential property that could adversely affect the value of the real estate, be a hazard to the health of someone or similarly affect others. However, this does not include anything that should have been replaced and has no useful life left such as pipes that have rusted many years ago but were not replaced and still function within usual standards. Similar matters are often discovered before the real estate property transactions are finalized with paperwork exchanging hands between the seller and buyer. However, it may be necessary to have a third-party complete a survey of the land or house and ensure there are no hidden complications.

Post-Sale Defect Discovery

Once the escrow closes and all paperwork has been finalized, there are few options in recovering from defects discovered afterwards. However, it may be possible to recover from the incident through a monetary resolution, and some states permit the buyer to back out of the deal if the defective issues are severe or so great they affect the value of the property. In certain situations, the buyer is not the sole person responsible for discovering defects, and the seller may not be held fully accountable for undisclosed defects. Liability may then extend to other persons such as the broker or the inspector of the home.
Post-sale problems found could lead to a case, but it must be determined who is responsible and held liable for the undisclosed defects.

The state this occurs within also determines what action may be taken. Some only have set defective issues on a list that must be disclosed, while others have a complete disclosure policy. Additionally, there are instances where insurance or similar items may be purchased before the sale is completed to account for these possible problems. These policies or coverages could ensure the issues are resolved in one manner or another.

Defects Handled by the Real Estate Lawyer

When anything has been discovered after the real estate transactions have been completed, it is often best to contact a real estate lawyer before seeking any other action. He or she may outline the options available and assist in determining what to do next. After revealing the person liable, he may suggest seeking a remedy through compensation or a cancellation of the transaction.

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