Real Estate Seller’s Disclosure Statements: Honesty is the Best Policy
Selling or buying a home is a major life decision. The decision involves planning, stress, and money. Buying a home will be the biggest purchase most people make in their life. While many buyers will walk through a home once or twice prior to purchasing the home, buying a home comes with many unknowns. Do the pipes in the crawl space leak? Is the septic system old and decrepit? Is the electric properly wired? Most house problems stem from the “guts” of the house such as the electric, plumbing, sewage, etc. These “behind the wall” areas of the home go unviewed by home buyers. Thus, it is imperative that a buyer employ experts to inspect the house prior to closing on the house.
Moreover, it is important for buyers to carefully examine the “Seller’s Residential Real Estate Sales Disclosure” form executed by the seller. Indiana Law requires home sellers to execute a Sales Disclosure Form. The Sales Disclosure Form requires sellers to identify whether the house’s various appliances, electric system, water and sewer system, heating and cooling system, and roof are defective or not defective (to the extent the seller knows). The Sales Disclosure From also requires sellers to disclose whether any hazardous conditions are currently on the property or have previously been on the property (i.e. methane gas, lead paint, radon gas).
While it is important for buyers to carefully examine the “Seller’s Residential Real Estate Sales Disclosure” form, it is equally important for sellers to honestly answer the Sales Disclosure Form. A seller who is dishonest on the Sales Disclosure From may be subjected to legal action by the buyer. Furthermore, the seller can be held responsible for any damages sustained by the buyer due to the seller’s dishonesty. The penalties can be severe, as a court may impose “treble damages” against a seller in particularly egregious cases. Treble damages mean the damages awarded by the court to the buyer can be tripled!
It is imperative that buyers closely examine the Sales Disclosure Form prior to making the biggest purchase of their life. It is also imperative that sellers honestly answer the Sales Disclosure Form, so as to not expose themselves to liability down the road.
The attorneys at May Oberfell Lorber are well-versed in real estate law and can assist buyers or sellers with the purchase/sale of their home.
This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.