What Does A Real Estate Agent Have To Disclose To The Buyer?
Let’s say that you are selling your property. No property is perfect; every piece of real estate has some little quirk or problem that needs attending to. But when you sell a home do you have to disclose every little potential problem to the buyer? What has to be disclosed?
Standard Disclosures Aren’t Enough
The standard Florida real estate contract has a list of mandatory disclosures, that you will just check off if the problems exist or if they do not. But that list isn’t exhaustive; there are still things you may have to disclose to a prospective buyer.
As a general rule, you have to disclose anything that would have a substantial impact on the property’s value or desirability. Unfortunately, these terms aren’t specifically defined, so it is always better to over disclose than do the opposite.
Although there is no one list of what has to be disclosed, as a general rule, you should disclose things such as:
- Erosion, for property that may be on costs or shores that are subject to erosion
- Major structural problems, like instability of decks, stairwells or porches
- Major electrical problems; a bad outlet is not a big deal, a major problem with the electrical wiring that runs through the property would be
- Problems or defects with major appliances, plumbing, the roof, or the HVAC/Air conditioning systems
- Any environmental hazards
- Any alterations to the property that may not be compliant with any legal codes, like building codes or zoning ordinances
- Infestation of organisms that affect the structure or integrity of the property
Remember this list is not by any means exhaustive; anything that could materially affect the value of the property must still be disclosed.
Exceptions to Disclosure
The law does have one major exception to the disclosure requirements: You do not have to disclose something if you truly did not know about it, and you don’t have to disclose something if the buyer already knows about it.
This often happens when a buyer gets an inspection which shows up with problems. Anxious to buy the property, the buyer may ignore an inspection that raises a potential problem. Later, when the problem gets worse, the buyer tries to blame the seller for not disclosing the problem. But that argument will fail; the buyer knew of and ignored the problem before closing.
As a general rule, courts understand that properties aren’t perfect and courts are hesitant to overturn a sale, or award damages, for every little fixable problem. You should still lean towards disclosing too much, but the good news for sellers is that absent fraud or purposeful concealment of a major problem, the law is generally on their side.
We can help you understand the real estate closing process. Call a West Palm Beach real estate lawyer at The Law Offices of Larry E. Bray is ready to help if you are buying or selling property.