What Does A Home Seller Have To Disclose To A Buyer?
When property is sold in Florida, the seller is in a much better and more advantageous position than the buyer, for one major reason: The seller knows the home, and the buyer often does not. The seller has been living with the home, repairing it and maintaining it, and thus, knows what the problems, short and long term, of the property may be.
That’s why the law puts obligations on the seller, to disclose to the buyer certain information about the home. But what kind of information? Does a seller have to disclose absolutely everything?
What Has to be Disclosed to a Buyer?
As a general rule, a seller of a home has to disclose any defects or problems that fall into two major categories.
- Any condition on the property or information, that may substantially impact the home’s value and
- Any condition that other people (the buyer) can’t see or discover on their own
There are also some other statutory disclosures, such as that of radon gas, or related to seawall erosion, but most standard real estate contracts will already contain these disclosures.
The standard real estate contract contains areas in it where the seller can disclose some commonly problematic areas. For example, the contract will require the seller to disclose if there are any lawsuits related to the property, whether there are any sinkholes, any boundary disputes, termite infestations, and whether things like the HVAC, wiring, plumbing or other major systems are in need of repair.
As a general rule, a seller cannot be held responsible for things the seller didn’t know about.
For example, if the seller made a renovation, but was unaware the renovation violated building codes or similar laws, the seller wouldn’t be liable for failing to disclose that information. However, sellers do have a legal obligation to disclose any known code enforcement actions against the property.
Suing for Faulty Disclosures
In order for a buyer to sue for a seller’s alleged failure to disclose information, the buyer has a high burden. The buyer would have to prove that the seller knew of the defect, and that the defect was not minor—that is, that the defect has a substantial effect on the home’s value. The law doesn’t want sellers being sued for relatively minor, repairable or trivial non-disclosed defects.
The buyer also has to show that he or she couldn’t have detected the defect before the sale (one reason why buyers always conduct inspections).
Note that legally, sellers don’t have to disclose that any death or suicide occurred on the property.
“As Is” Sales
Many people like to sell their property in “as is” condition. This can make it easier on you as a seller—but it does not excuse you from making required disclosures, nor does it allow you to knowingly or purposefully conceal a material defect in the property.
Contact Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A.can help you avoid legal problems when buying or selling property. Contact our Tampa real estate attorneys today about your real estate closing.