There is a saying that honesty is the best policy. We’re all taught this at very young ages. Some people rigidly adhere to this philosophy, others can struggle with it. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon which side of things you are sitting on, there is a legal system that helps, or at least works towards keeping people honest.
Which brings us to the essence of todays post.
From time to time some variation of the following question is posed to the realtors at Hearth and Home Realty… “We have an issue with our home, should we say anything about it?” Our answer to this question is always the same. Absolutely yes… you need to disclose any and all issues. Not disclosing issues you are aware of prior to selling is a fast way to find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit (is there a right end?). There are two types of defects when it comes to homes. Patent defects and latent defects.
We’ll break each one down for you.
Patent defects – these are issues that are typically immediately obvious. Examples would include broken windows, prominent water stains on drywall and really most other readily visible issues. Put another way, patent defects are issues that should be reasonably discoverable by inspection prior to purchasing the home. Typically you cannot sue over a patent defect.
Latent defects – a latent defect is an entirely different kind of issue in that it is usually not immediately obvious (or in worst cases it was something that was deliberately obscured). Think of a roof leak that hasn’t created visible water stains, a cracked foundation, or issues tied to electrical or plumbing behind drywalls. If the former homeowner, renovator or even builder is aware of these issues prior to the home selling and they are not disclosed, the responsible individual could be held liable.
You probably just noticed the issue that commonly comes up with latent defects, that “If the former homeowner, renovator or even builder is aware of these issues…”. How could anyone prove you knew about the latent defect? Let’s put it this way, lawyers go to school for a very long time in part to figure out ways to uncover the truth about things, even when someone doesn’t want that truth uncovered. Lawyers have numerous methods of getting to the truth of the matter. They can pull permit histories, hire engineers as well as use other methods to determine what you did or didn’t know and when you did or didn’t know about it.
So as mentioned, if there are any issues of consequence you are aware of, we strongly suggest you discuss these with your realtor prior to listing the home.