What Must a Seller Disclose About Property Defects?
Buying or selling a home is an exciting event. However, you’ll want to know what a seller must disclose about a home in either situation. If you’re selling a home, you could face legal action if you do not disclose property defects to a potential buyer. If you’re buying a home, you’ll want to know which questions to ask to make sure that the seller is not withholding important information about the property. If you are buying or selling a home and require legal guidance, call us at the Law Offices of Peter V Lathouris LLC, serving Stamford, Connecticut, as well as other areas in Fairfield County and New Haven County.
Connecticut Disclosure Requirements
How are seller disclosures made?
If you’re selling a home in Connecticut, you must make certain disclosures, even if you are not selling the home with the help of a broker or other licensed salesperson. You must fill out a form (available online from Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection) listing all known property hazards and defects and give it to the purchaser to sign. All of this must happen before the closing.
Different states have different requirements regarding what you must disclose. Some states, for example, require you to let the purchaser know that there was a death on the property; this is not a requirement in Connecticut.
The Connecticut form will ask you to list the property’s age and the length of time you have lived there and whether anyone else has claims on the property. Other disclosures you must make include issues relating to:
Flood hazards (for example, if your house is in an area prone to flooding, such as inland wetlands)
The heating system/air conditioning
An underground fuel tank
The plumbing/sewage system
The electrical system
Well water quality
The fire system/fire and smoke damage
Water damage and rot
Structural issues (such as roof leaks/basement dampness or problems with the foundation, interior walls/exterior siding, floors, chimney/fireplace/coal or wood stove, patio or deck, or driveway)
Known presence of lead paint or plumbing (under federal law if you are selling a house built before 1978), radon, or asbestos
The form only asks if you know about these defects. You can select “Unknown” if you are not sure if a defect exists. This can protect you from liability if a hazard is later discovered. However, do not select “unknown” if you know that a problem exists, as this can result in a lawsuit from the buyer.
You must submit the disclosure form before the closing. If you do not submit this form, you will have to pay a penalty of $500 to the buyer.
If you are the buyer, it's always wise to hire a home inspector to walk through the property before you close and determine any hazards. Sellers do not have to conduct any kind of inspection; it is incumbent upon the buyer to do so.
Remedies for Concealed Defects
Demanding Repairs or Lower Price From the Seller
If you have not yet closed on the house and a defect is discovered that you believe the seller should have known about, you can ask the seller to make the needed repairs or you can negotiate with them on the house price. Your real estate agent and attorney will be able to advise you in this situation.
Always opt for a home inspection when buying a house, as you will save yourself stress and aggravation if you discover an issue that was not on the disclosure form. You can back out of a contract at this point if you have found a defect that should have been discovered but that the seller is unwilling to fix.
Going to Court
What can you do if important information wasn’t disclosed and you’ve already closed on the property? If you are a buyer who has discovered, after closing, that a defect is present that was not disclosed, you can file a lawsuit against the seller.
In order to win the case and receive compensation, you will need to prove that the seller knowingly concealed a defect. If you find, say, a significant leak that has obviously been ongoing and that any reasonable person should have found and reported, you and your attorney can argue that the seller willfully hid the leak. The seller may then be found guilty of fraud.
Contacting a Home Warranty Company
A home warranty is a type of insurance that covers the breakdown of a home’s appliances or major systems (such as heating/cooling and plumbing). If the seller has purchased a home warranty and transferred it to you when you bought the house, there is a chance that the home warranty company will pay for at least part of the needed repairs.
Let Our Experience Be Your Guide
Whether you are the buyer or the seller, Connecticut disclosure law can be tricky to navigate. For advice that protects your interests, call us at the Law Offices of Peter V Lathouris LLC.
Our office is located in Stamford, Connecticut, and serves the nearby areas of Fairfield County and throughout New Haven County, such as Darien, Greenwich, Norwalk, Danbury, and Westport.