Buying a home is one of the biggest investments most people make in their lives. Finding out faults or serious issues in a home that one just bought can bring enormous financial and mental strain to a person. The party that wants to purchase a property will typically thoroughly inspect the property before investing in it. However, the law requires the vendor or owner in a real estate deal to inform the purchaser about any substantial defects in the property.
A real estate or property disclosure statement is a legally binding document through which the vendor informs the purchaser about any present or potential flaws or defects in the property. Most states require sellers to file a disclosure report before a real estate transaction is completed.
Property disclosure forms are documents that sellers give to buyers to inform them about any potential flaws or problems in the property. The person who sells the property would usually inspect the property and then specify any potential issues that can affect the buyer’s enjoyment of the property. These issues include issues with the plumbing system, water supply system, waste disposal system, roof, water leakage, heating system, pests, and related issues which can cause serious inconvenience to the purchaser.
It should also provide information about any zoning violations. If the house is near a military base, it must be disclosed. This printable real estate sales contract should also cover the presence of any health and safety threats including the presence of asbestos, lead, and radon gas. Information about any potential environmental hazards should also be included, for instance, if the home falls in a flood zone. The purchaser should also be informed about any present or potential property-related litigation or claims. The parties should then sign the statement and finalize the same.
However, it is important to keep in mind that these statements are not a substitute for the inspections that should be performed by or on behalf of the purchaser. The purchaser also has a reasonable duty to inspect the property before finalizing a real estate deal.
To summarize, any issue known to the vendor that can affect the buyer’s decision to buy a home or have a substantial effect on its value must be disclosed in the statement.
Owners usually prepare a disclosure statement when they list their property for sale. These documents are given to buyers after the offer made by them has been accepted and the earnest money deposit has been made. This should be done before the purchase contracts are signed and well in advance of the closing date. However, different jurisdictions can have varying timelines regarding the stage at which owners need to inform the buyers about these issues.
It is sensible to issue a statement around the same time as the buyers conduct a property inspection. Buyers can decide to not go through with the deal if they find any material defects in the property. Owners, in these cases, may be required to return the earnest deposit made by the buyers. The seller may face legal consequences if any undisclosed, serious defect is discovered after the deal has been completed. By issuing a disclosure statement, not only do owners help buyers in making a final decision, but also save themselves from any future liability.
Owners need to disclose any information that is in their knowledge and can affect the value of the property or raises a health concern including the presence of asbestos or lead paint. They must also include information about any legal issues concerning the property including liens or claims. Each state may require owners to mention different issues in the property disclosure statement. Some common state-required disclosures include:
Information about potential health and environmental hazards existing in a property should be provided. Notice or information about dangerous substances including toxic waste and radon gas should be included. In Missouri, the purchaser should also be informed about the existence of a methamphetamine lab in the home in the past. In New York, buyers must be informed if the property is located in an agricultural district, a wetland, or a flood plain. They must also be informed if the property has ever been a landfill site. This information is vital for the purchaser and it can cause serious physical harm to the people who will occupy the property after the transfer.
Information about the previous repair work done on the property should also be disclosed. If the property has been repaired due to the damage caused by floods, fires, or wind, the purchaser should be informed. Other major repair work done at the property including plumbing or electrical repairs should also be reported. This helps the purchaser to analyze what parts may require further work and what may be the cost of the repair. In Texas, the vendor should inform the purchaser about previous structural repair or any problem with the roof, walls, floor, or foundation of the property.
Water damage and leakage can potentially cause tremendous harm to the purchaser and his possessions in the property and may also require expensive repairs. In Michigan, vendors should inform the buyer if there is water leakage in the crawl space, flood damage, or roof leak.
Sellers should also inform the purchaser about the utilities including power, water source, and sewer system. Utility sources can be public or private and a purchaser assumes that utilities would already be taken care of. That, however, may not be the case. It is always better if sellers inform the purchasers about the utilities beforehand.
In some cases, purchasers are shocked when they do not find some appliances or fixtures that should have been in a home. This can include air conditioning, lighting fixtures, dishwasher, refrigerator, and other such appliances. In Michigan, sellers should provide a comprehensive list of items that are part of the deal including microwaves, air conditioning, and exhaust fans.
Sellers should inform the purchaser if an association fee is to be paid to any home owners’ association. Associations typically require home owners to pay yearly or monthly fees. The new owner might not want to pay an association fee or other such fees and should be informed about the same beforehand.
A nuisance is something that causes substantial annoyance or inconvenience to a person. Prospective buyers usually do not know if there are any neighborhood nuisances around the property. Sellers are required to inform buyers about the same before transferring the property. In North Carolina, sellers should inform buyers about any odors, noises, or any other nuisances from the neighboring industrial, military, or commercial units. Similarly, in Michigan, the purchaser must be informed about any farm operations, airports, or shooting ranges near the property.
Buyers must be informed if there is pending litigation or potential claims against the property. This can cause serious harm to the buyer’s ownership of the property. Buyers should also be informed about any easements or encumbrances over the property.
Homebuyers can be superstitious in buying a home where tragic events including deaths have occurred. Deaths from natural causes need not be disclosed, but deaths caused because of the nature of the home or any violent crimes should be disclosed.
Of course, there are a lot of other facts that sellers can have to disclose to the purchaser. As a precaution, sellers should reveal these facts even if it is not mandated by the law.
If the statement reveals any present or potential negative issues or serious defects attached to the property, it is up to the purchaser to go through with the deal or not depending upon the state’s laws. The purchaser can also seek compensation for the cost of repairs from the seller. However, the purchaser may not be able to sue the seller for a material defect in case he or she disclosed the same in the statement. If in doubt, sellers should always inform the purchaser about an issue instead of trying to hide or lie about it.
In most locations, sellers are required to honestly reveal any material defects in the property to buyers before closing a deal. Failure to do so may leave sellers in a legally vulnerable position. Some of the possible consequences that may arise due to nondisclosure or concealment of facts are:
The purchaser may seek termination or cancellation of the agreement on the ground of concealment of facts or intentional misrepresentation. This means that the deal will not go through and the purchaser can also ask for a refund of the earnest money deposit.
Breach of Contract
In most cases, the disclosure report is attached to the agreements and may be a part of the contract depending upon the terms. This can allow buyers to sue for breach of contract and seek compensation for the repair work, if necessary. For instance, if the purchaser may discover an issue with the roof or the plumbing system after purchasing a home, he or she may ask the party that sold the home to get these issues fixed.
If an injury is caused to the buyer due to the concealment of a substantial flaw by the seller, the purchaser may also sue him or her to recover multiplied damages. This may include compensatory and punitive damages if there was gross negligence on behalf of the seller.
However, many states do not require sellers to get an inspection done before sending the statement to buyers. They are only required to reveal the defects that they are already aware of. A person may not be held liable for an issue unless he or she actually knew about it. For instance, in Texas, the selling party is not required to conduct an in-depth inspection before selling.
Federal and state laws may necessarily require the owner of a property to disclose some particular defects before selling.
Federal Lead-Based Paint Disclosure
The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X, requires the selling party to inform the purchaser of the presence of lead-based paint in the house if it was built before 1978. There are some other requirements as well under this law including giving the purchaser 10 days to inspect the property for lead.
Requirements may vary in each state including the information to be included in the statement and the time at which the statement should be given to the purchaser. Some specific requirements are discussed below:
California is strict when it comes to property disclosure issues. It requires sellers to inform buyers about many facts including neighborhood nuisances, recent deaths on the property, and the property’s structural information. Sellers are additionally required to fill a Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement that informs buyers about potential environmental hazards including hazards from floods, fires, and earthquakes. The purchaser must also be informed if there are any sex offenders in the vicinity of the property. These requirements apply to nearly all types of property including a high-rise condominium unit, a standalone home, or a mobile home. The statement must be provided to the purchaser before the transfer of title, and as soon as practically possible. If this statement is not given to the purchaser by the time of signing the purchase agreement, he or she may have the option to terminate the agreement.
In Florida, sellers are required to disclose any information that may substantially affect the value and desirability of the property and that buyers cannot easily see for themselves. This includes information about radon-related issues, the potential for erosion in coastal properties, mandatory association membership, actual or potential legal claims, past or present sinkholes, environmental hazards, structural issues, and similar defects. Even if the purchaser is buying a home on an “as-is” basis, he should still be given a disclosure statement.
Sellers need not conduct an independent inspection of the property before selling. They must only reveal what they are already aware of. A disclosure statement covers information about the water supply, water leakage, plumbing, sewer system, air conditioning, radon gas, zoning violations, and similar issues. If an issue is open to observation to anyone who looks at the property, it need not be disclosed. However, purchasers should not be prevented from investigating a problem.
The requirements in each state can vary and can be confusing. A real estate agent or attorney can help you in identifying the requirements regarding property disclosure statements.
Not all places have such elaborate requirements for property disclosure statements. Some states do not even make it mandatory for sellers to make disclosures to buyers. These states are known as caveat emptor or buyer beware states.
Caveat emptor is a Latin phrase that translates to “let the buyer beware.” This means that it is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure that there are no material defects in the property. Buyer beware states usually require little to no information to be disclosed by the selling party before completing the deal and do not hold him or her responsible after the transfer of title. This places the burden on the purchaser to inspect the condition of the property. Anyone buying a property in a caveat emptor state must buy it on an “as-is, where-is” basis. This puts the sole liability for any serious defects discovered after the completion of the deal on the purchaser.
Although there is no strict rule that provides which states follow the caveat emptor principle in real estate transactions, Alabama, Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, Massachusetts, and Wyoming have regularly recognized the principle.
Sellers need to inform the purchaser about any present or potential flaw before a deal is finalized. Disclosing flaws and issues with the property is a crucial part of any real estate transaction and should be performed diligently. The following steps can be followed to smoothly complete the disclosure process.
Step 1- Inspect the Property
It is the seller’s responsibility to first inspect the property for any issues by examining all the parts of the property. He or she should check for any issues related to the drainage system, roofing materials, septic tanks, neighboring properties, hazardous substances including radon gas, and related issues. The selling party should also make sure that there are no claims or encumbrances on the property. This inspection can also be done by a home inspector who can provide a better report.
However, if the property is in a buyer beware state, it is the buyer’s responsibility to conduct an inspection through qualified professionals. The seller should allow him or her to access the property for the same. It is better for both parties if they are aware of the problems beforehand.
Step 2-Prepare a Disclosure Statement
Once the problems have been identified the owner of the property should act upon them and prepare a disclosure statement with a complete list of the defects. This document should include all the potential flaws that might change the buyer’s mind regarding the property. The document should also elaborate upon and explain these issues in detail so that the other party fully understands them. Sellers should not hide or conceal any material defect. Once the purchaser is made aware of the defects, he or she may not blame the seller after the deal is complete. Sellers can also use a pre-written template for the statement as provided by various websites and real estate organizations in many locations. If there are any issues not covered in the template, sellers can manually add the same themselves.
Step 3-Sign the Form
Once the document has been completed, the seller must sign it. This makes the representations and disclosures made in the document binding upon him or her. He or she may be held liable for not disclosing a fact that may potentially cause harm to the buyer. It may be wise to take advice from a real estate attorney before signing the document.
Step 4-Send it To the Buyer
After signing the document, the seller should send it to the purchaser as soon as practicable, but definitely before closing the deal. The purchaser should read the document carefully and understand all the issues mentioned in it. If there is still any doubt, he or she must communicate with the owner and ask for further clarification. Relying upon the representations made in the disclosure statement, the purchaser must then sign the same. Once the purchaser has signed the statement, he or she cannot hold the owner responsible for the defects mentioned in the document.
FormsPal’s easy to use and understand property disclosure template can be filled out by following these simple steps:
Specify the Date
Specify the date on which the document is made by the seller in the first blank space provided in the opening paragraph of the template.
Fill In the Property Address
Provide the full property address in the second blank space provided in the opening paragraph of the document.
Provide Information About the Property
The next step is to make the disclosures provided in the template. You can choose the first option of “YES” if the condition mentioned in the disclosure applies to the property. You can choose the second option of “NO” if the condition does not apply to the property. If you do not know if the condition applies to the property or not, you can choose the third option of “DON’T KNOW.” Some questions might require you to provide additional details about the property. If that is the case, you can provide these details in the space provided next to or below the said question number.
For instance, in question number 1 on page 1, you can choose whether you currently occupy the property or not. If you choose “NO” as your answer, you can mention the last time that you occupied the property in the blank space given next to question number 2. Similarly, in question number 28 on page 2, if you chose “YES” as the answer to the question regarding mandatory association fee, you can specify the amount of the monthly or yearly fee in the blank space provided next to question number 29.
Provide Any Additional Disclosures or Explanations
If there is any additional information that has not already been covered in the template, you can mention it in the blank space given at the bottom of page 3 of the document. You can also use this space to provide any additional explanations or details about the property or the issues related to it. You can also elaborate upon all the disclosures for which “YES” was chosen as the answer. You can attach additional pages, if required, for this purpose.
Choose the Items Which are Included in the Sale
Some items may, at the time of filling this template, be on the property and will be included in the sale. These items may include smoke detectors, dishwashers, trash compactors, pool barriers, and other similar items. You can choose which items are to be included in the sale out of the options provided in the first part of page 4 of the template.
Sign the Document
Once all the details have been filled in, the seller and the buyer must put their signatures. The seller must fill in his signature and printed name in the corresponding blank spaces provided under the term “SELLER” at the end. The buyer must fill in his signature and printed name in the corresponding blank spaces provided under the term “BUYER” at the end.