Picking up where we left off last time, one important point to make about disclosures in real estate sales is that sellers have the option to either provide information concerning their actual knowledge of the characteristics of a property, or to make no representation regarding certain aspects of the property. If the seller chooses to make no representations for one or multiple items, the buyer does not have the ability to hold the seller accountable for issues that arise on those issues after the agreement is made.
It is only when the seller makes statements about characteristics of the property of which he or she has actual knowledge that the buyer can hold the seller accountable. For instance, if the seller claims that he or she has no actual knowledge of any issues with leaky plumbing and it is later discovered that he or she did have knowledge of the issue, the seller can be held to account. When a seller makes no representation, the buyer takes the risk that there are issues with the property.
A seller does have a duty to correct mistakes in disclosure statements. If the seller discovers a mistake resulting in material inaccuracy in a disclosure statement or the disclosure statement somehow comes to be materially inaccurate after it is delivered due to changed circumstances, the owner is required to promptly correct the mistake by delivering a corrected statement. Failure to do so or to make repairs to the property to ensure it is in the condition represented in the disclosure statement gives the buyer the right to seek appropriate remedies against the seller. This is only true, however, in cases where the property is required by the agreement to be in substantially the same condition at closing as it was at the time the offer was made.
Disclosure issues, when they come up, don’t always have a significant impact on the buyer, but in some cases they really do. In such cases, it is critical to work with an experienced attorney to determine the best course of action and to seek a proper legal remedy for the situation.