selling my home, I plan to hire a home inspector and shall correct every
problem listed in the inspection report. Once these repairs are completed, am I
required to disclose previous defects to buyers, or are past problems exempt
from disclosure requirements once they have been fixed? – Joe
In a world
uncorrupted by litigious madness and legal fault-finding, the answer would be, "No
problem, Joe. Just repair the defects and move on with your life."
Unfortunately, armies of determined tort practitioners, wielding the jagged
edge of the law, have redefined the meaning of seller disclosure, extending it's
practical limits to beyond infinity, replacing common sense and straightforward
disclosure with uncertainty, fear and distrust, while abolishing the reasonable
expectation that bygones can ever be bygones.
cold shadow of impending legal consequence, the answer to all disclosure
uncertainties is simple: When in doubt, disclose. Even a repaired condition can
pose liability problems if a home buyer, at some later date, discovers the
repair history of the property and feels (or if his attorney feels) that you
should have provided that information. The best defense against future
liability and possible courtroom conflicts is to disclose everything. It is
truly and sadly unfortunate that we must be so cautiously defensive, but such
is the way that the zealots of civil liability have denigrated the foundations
and culture of our business environment. (In all fairness, however, it should
be noted that 98 percent of attorneys give the rest a bad name.)
final analysis, you can never be sue-proof, but the more you disclose, the
better your odds.
home we are buying has a non-permitted addition (an extra bedroom), as
disclosed by the sellers. We're worried that this illegal add-on could cause us
problems in the future. There could be complications involving the building
department or difficulties with future buyers. The attitude of the sellers
seems to be "take it or leave it." Should we insist that they obtain
an after-the-fact building permit, or should we take our chances on an as-is
purchase? – Greg
may or may not occur with non-permitted construction, but the potential for
future consequences warrants serious consideration. The worst-case scenario
with an unapproved addition is forced demolition, by order of the local
building department. Fortunately, outcomes of that magnitude are uncommon and
typically only occur if a disgruntled neighbor files a complaint and if the
addition is such that approval never would have been granted. A more common
requirement of the building department would be corrective work to bring the
addition into compliance with building standards. Whether these upgrades would
entail moderate or excessive costs is unpredictable and therefore makes an
as-is purchase risky.
cases, an "after-the-fact" or "as-built" permit can
eliminate future concerns. A municipal inspector will determine that the
addition complies with applicable requirements, some upgrades will most likely
be required, and approval will be granted when the improvements are completed.
In any event, asking the seller to obtain an as-built permit is generally a
good way to protect yourself, rather than taking possession of a situation
whose consequences cannot be safety predicted.
to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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