In many purchase transactions the old adage “buyer beware” is king. Florida Courts and many other across the country have found that not to be the case for real estate transactions though. The state legislature has followed the Court’s lead and enacted laws to protect the Buyer in a real estate transaction. While this may appear unfair or bias towards the Seller, it actually provides protection for both parties. If a Seller discloses all of his or her knowledge about the property then the Buyer cannot claim they were duped or defrauded.
What disclosures does a Seller need to make?
While this is not a complete list, the most common disclosures a Seller is required to make to a Buyer are as follows:
- Notice of any liens or lawsuits or the potential of the same against the property;
- Coastal property or flood zone designation;
- Current or previous presence of a sinkhole;
- Any environment hazards including by not limited to: asbestos, mold, lead, and radon;
- Problems with the home’s mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems and other major components such as roof and large appliances;
- Wood destroy insect infestation and damage.
- Property is subject to a homeowner’s association or condominium bylaws.
- Improvements were made to the property without the correct permits and inspections.
What disclosures are a Seller not required to make?
A common misconception among many Sellers is if a person has been murdered or committed suicide within a home it must be disclosed to potential Buyers. While it may be common knowledge in the neighborhood, Florida Courts have ruled that this information need not be disclosed to a Buyer. The Court has also ruled a current or previous tenant’s HIV status does not need to be disclosed.
Disclosing may seem like a daunting task to submit to when preparing a house for sale but Sellers are in luck. The Court requires that Sellers disclose information only which is reasonably expected to be known to the Seller. For example the Court has found Sellers not liable for improvements made to a home by licensed contractors who failed to obtain the proper permits. The ruling stated it was reasonable for the Seller to expect that the contractors obtained the proper certificates and therefore wouldn’t have assumed the permits weren’t in place. Another example is a Seller may not be aware that their property has a termite infestation. It’s impossible to disclose of a condition that the Seller had no knowledge of. That’s why in such instances it is important that the Buyer make the necessary inspections prior to closing and despite disclosure.