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Looking at the issue of disclosure in real estate purchases, P.1

In our last post, we mentioned the importance of obtaining as much information as possible before entering into a real estate purchase agreement. Most of the time, home-buyers can do so by working with reputable real estate brokers and obtaining a professional inspection of the home to determine its condition. In some cases, though, defects may be overlooked.

Some home defects are serious and some are not. Finding out you have a couple mice in the attic may be annoying, but it is unlikely to lead to serious damage to the home and doesn’t usually take much to address. A hidden crack in the foundation which results in flooding, or faulty electrical or plumbing, may be a different story, especially when it causes mold problems or results in a house fire. 

In our last post, we mentioned the importance of obtaining as much information as possible before entering into a real estate purchase agreement. Most of the time, home-buyers can do so by working with reputable real estate brokers and obtaining a professional inspection of the home to determine its condition. In some cases, though, defects may be overlooked.

Some home defects are serious and some are not. Finding out you have a couple mice in the attic may be annoying, but it is unlikely to lead to serious damage to the home and doesn’t usually take much to address. A hidden crack in the foundation which results in flooding, or faulty electrical or plumbing, may be a different story, especially when it causes mold problems or results in a house fire.

Most people are aware that home sellers are required to provide disclosure of problems and defects with their home. Not everybody is aware, though, of what the exact requirements are, nor what circumstances must be present to hold a seller accountable for undisclosed defects.

Under North Carolina’s Residential Property Disclosure Act, residential real estate owners must include a disclosure statement along with the sale, exchange, option and sale under a lease with option to purchase where the tenant does not occupy or intend to occupy the dwelling. The approved form for disclosure statements includes a number of questions which the seller must answer.

These questions pertain to a wide variety of aspects of the property, including: whether there are any problems, defects or malfunctions with any aspect of the property; whether there are any hazardous or toxic substances, materials or products in or around the home; whether there are any noises, odors, or other interferences from local commercial, industrial or military operations; whether there are any utilities or easements on the property; whether the property is subject to any lawsuits, foreclosures, bankruptcy, tax liens, judgments, or other encumbrances; whether the property is subject to flood hazard; and so on.

In a future post, we’ll continue looking at this topic, and what can be done when a home buyer suspects their seller may have failed to provide full disclosure on the property and how an experienced attorney can help. 

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