Home Defects Found After Home Purchase
Purchasing real estate, especially a new home, can be one of the most exciting events in a person’s lifetime. Or, at least it’s supposed to be. But it carries risks. Let’s talk about one kind. Concealed defect disclosure. If you’ve just purchased or agreed to purchase what you believe is your dream home (or just a home for now) in or near Bucks County, Pa., it is possible to get out of the deal before closing and get back your deposit, maybe more. If you have only discovered or just suspect the hidden defect after closing, you have many remedies.
But the clock starts to run as soon as you learn. Sure, you may feel extremely disappointed. Your insurer will likely decline the claim (although resulting damage may be covered). The Seller’s insurer does not cover intentional concealment damages. The last thing that you should do is panic, as you have many options before and after a closing. That’s why it is never too soon to involve a lawyer in discussing your options with you. Before signing a purchase contract is the best time to start. Contact the best Bucks County real estate litigation lawyer regularly handling cases involving real estate defect non-disclosure in Bucks County, Pa. if you encounter this issue, or just want to be prepared.
Oh, we help sellers too, in wording the Disclosure statement, negotiating pre-closing disputes, and negotiating or litigating post-closing claims.
What types of defects can be covered?
The sky is the limit when it comes to what home defects could be wrongfully concealed involving a home that you’ve recently purchased. Residential buyers have the most remedies. But, non-residential Buyers have many remedies too. Caution, the law does not require a Disclosure Statement from sellers if they are fiduciaries. Or for sellers to disclose non-material defects. Or for sellers to investigate for possible defects with no clue they exist. It does not protect against visible and obvious defects, or those which did not factor in as a dealmaker. Disclosure can kill deals. But it heads off some predictable type lawsuits. Better to be upfront and save.
Many sellers are aware of property defects but choose not to disclose them for fear they would keep a property from selling. Obvious defects need not be disclosed. The key is whether the defect(s) are material to a normal purchase decision. The disclosure statement should be reviewed and cross-referenced to your observations or any other relevant info you have, with a knowledgeable attorney in the field. That might nip it in the bud, or alert you to tactics you can use to foment a pre-closing settlement without a lawsuit (or at least one that goes very far).
Some common defects that sellers fail to disclose are:
- Presence of and damages from wood destroying insects.Structural issues.
- Water damage, from roof/plumbing or otherwise.
- Problems with sewer lines
- Electrical problems
- HVAC issues
- Broken doors, windows, and major appliances.
- Lot size and location disputes (encroachment).
- Adverse possession issues.
- Private deed restrictions or easements.
- Prior insurance claims.
- Outcome of work on, and/or type of, previous defects.
- Previous work lawsuits or adverse consequences.
- Well and septic system insufficiencies.
- Radon or other poisons.
- Lack of proper township or borough licenses.
- Existing leases or tenants, even squatters.
What is the seller’s responsibility for not disclosing a material defect?
Laws involving the disclosure of real estate defects Pennsylvania are varied. A victimized buyer can bring a “common law fraud claim”. If you buy a home to live in, you can bring a “consumer fraud” claim; that has special relief built in. You can sue under the Seller Disclosure Law. You can sue for breach of contract. Each type of relief has different elements and remedies, and time limits. Most home sellers are required by law to disclose any and all material defects in a property when it’s placed on the market for sale. In other words, all prospective buyers need to be made aware of all material defects in a home so that they can make an informed decision as to whether they wish to put in an offer to purchase the home or not. Commercial victims have less, but still some, options
Even just evaluating these kinds of situations is a complicated and in-depth process that requires the expertise of an experienced real estate defect lawyer. Olen Law Office real estate attorney in Bucks County, Pa. offers its assistance to you with these kinds of situations, whether just to consult about disclosure needs and methods/wording, determine your options/timelines, or actually pursue a claim (informally or by lawsuit).
How we can help
First of all, to get involved as early as possible. Be clear what should be actually stated about the property’s condition, and who states it? All sellers should join in the disclosure. Disclosures after the original one but before closing can cure a seller concealment. Defects known or reasonably knowable to Buyer before closing as well.
You will need experts on liability and damages. Photos and records too. Just to gauge what the claim might be worth, what problems you might encounter in seeking relief, and a decent cost/benefit analysis.
Don’t go at it alone. This is not like a small claims court matter or one involving simple or singular issues. Contact Olen Law Office in Bucks County, Pa. as soon as the sale process begins. That is your most economical and flexible time.
A lawsuit for damages for prohibited concealment is the typical remedy, often with interest or delay damages; and sometimes with attorney fees and court costs. But rescission (cancellation of the sale) may also be viable.
Try to nip it in the bud. But get good advice before taking action. And promptly. It is way harder to put together a good claim if it is not timely brought. And you must safeguard your evidence while available, in case it is needed. Failure to do so can be considered spoliation of evidence and hamper or even destroy your claim.
Sellers, we can help you with the flip side. Not every defect is concealed or compensable. Not every claim can be collectible. Insurance is not enough to count on. You can leverage that to your advantage in dissuading a Buyer from suing, and impeding the chance of making ultimate recovery too.
We hope it never comes to that, but if you are involved in these kinds of situations, you should consult with us ASAP.