When selling a house, it’s vital to understand the laws surrounding seller disclosure. “Seller disclosure” is the obligation upon sellers to properly document and disclose problems with the property that might not be immediately obvious to buyers. Selling a home without proper disclosure can lead to a lawsuit, so it’s vital to understand your responsibilities.
There’s no single list of rules to follow; disclosure laws vary by state and even by city. However, here are some general tips and advice that can help you stay on the right side of the law:
Proper Seller Disclosure When Selling a Home
1. Things you must disclose
- Basic physical properties of the residence, such as the size of the lot, square footage of the house, etc.
- HOA membership information and regulations
- If the property has ever been exposed to toxic substances, such as asbestos, chemical waste, etc.
- Known natural conditions including floodplain location, protected animal species dwelling, etc.
- Known problems, such as water leaks, termites, etc.
- Neighborhood nuisances like unpleasant smells from a factory or farm; noise from a nearby airport, etc.
- Repairs made to the property throughout ownership
- Results of any home inspections that have been conducted
- Violent or illegal deaths on the property
2. You can’t disclose what you don’t know
Ignorance may not always be bliss, but it can be a legal excuse when it comes to disclosure laws. Because potential problems with any property exist, the seller can’t be expected to know about all of them, especially for a property that has changed hands many times. Some sellers use this as a reason to not request an inspection before listing the home. In that case, it is the buyer’s responsibility to inspect the property.
3. Don’t make guesses
Some attributes of the home might be fuzzy, such as the exact square footage of the living space. Ideally, either the seller or buyer will hire a surveyor to determine the precise numbers. As a seller, you should not “guess” or go with an average, because that could be seen as a false representation if the square footage measurement is wrong. Don’t make any claims that can’t be supported by official documentation.
4. When in doubt, disclose
If you aren’t certain if you’re required to disclose something, it’s best not to risk an expensive lawsuit. Disclose everything you think might be important. Even better, consult with a real estate lawyer for more information.
If you’re selling a house, we’re here to help! Contact us to learn more.