There are certain laws set in place to protect real estate buyers. In general, the seller must disclose material defects and other potential problems that could impact the actual value of a home and surrounding property before the sale is final. Sellers are not obligated to hire an inspector to evaluate the property, but it is illegal to conceal major property defects from the buyer intentionally. To avoid accusations of wrongdoing, sellers aware of flaws will draft a transfer disclosure to inform the buyer of these defects.
What to divulge?
Some common examples to put in writing include:
- Material defects: These would likely impact the value of the property and its desirability. Examples include old wiring not up to code or a cracked foundation.
- Hidden defects: These are defects that would not be obvious to the average buyer. A crack in the foundation does not qualify, substantial flooding on the property after a heavy rain does.
- Location of death: While a buyer may want to know if there was a death, murder or suicide on the property, the seller is not obliged by law to share any knowledge of such events.
- Environmental radiation standards: There is a statute that requires the seller to disclose any danger of radon gas.
- Coastal property disclosure statements: The seller must disclose any knowledge of erosion to beachfront properties, federal laws limiting construction on the property, and other local, state and federal environmental standards.
- Mandatory membership to homeowners’ association: Sellers must notify buyers of this obligation before the transaction is final.
- Condo disclosures: Buyers have a right to review all condo bylaws, association documents, property management agreements, timeshares, and recreational leases before the closing.
Divulging and resolving issues
Sellers with questions about what they should and should not divulge to buyers can speak with an attorney who handles real estate law matters in Florida. These knowledgeable legal professionals can help the seller avoid legal action. Once the seller shares the information, the attorney can help the seller equitably resolve the issue so the sale can move forward if both sides are still willing.