Oftentimes our clients run into scenarios that involve the purchase a home, and, after closing the buyer find that representations made by the seller concerning the conditions of the property were false, misleading, or deceptive. The buyer is often in a panic, fearing that they have just made the largest purchase of their life and that they’ll have to spend significantly more now to repair the damage they were unaware of. There are several important things the purchasers must do to protect themselves, and in many situations, the purchasers may have the right to bring legal action against the seller to either recover damages or to rescind the contract.
Upon first discovering issues with the home, the purchaser should look to the seller’s disclosure to see if the issues were disclosed prior to the sale of the home. If the issues were not disclosed, a review of the home inspection report is necessary to determine if there were any visible issues with the home or if the home inspector noted any small or hard to see issues. If both the Seller’s Disclosure and inspection report show no damage with the home, you may have a valid cause of action against the seller, however, if you are able to prove that the seller was aware of the issues with the home and failed to disclose them and that such issues were not reasonably discoverable.
If you believe that you can prove the seller was aware of the defects with the home at the time of the sale and that the issues were not reasonably discoverable, there are several legal actions you may bring against the seller such as breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, or negligent misrepresentation. To succeed on such a claim, it must be shown that 1) the seller knowingly made a false statement/or should have known of the falsity of their statement, 2) that the statement was made with the intent to induce you, 3) the purchaser reasonably relied on the representations and suffered damages because of said reliance. You will need evidence to prove these elements!
The buyers should Conduct research as to the history of the home, find out if repairs were made to try to fix the issues, take plenty of pictures to document the conditions, look for “patch jobs” that the seller may have done on their own to try to conceal the issue(s), and talk to neighbors to see if they have any knowledge of the issues affecting the home. Legal actions concerning misrepresentation are complex, and often require a significant amount of time to resolve. Always make sure to consult with legal counsel familiar with such cases before reaching out to a seller whom you believe has concealed issues with a home.
by Thomas Hill, Esq.