What do you do if you find your new home contains a terrible problem you didn't know about before closing? The answer to that question can vary based on several different factors. Here's a closer look at what you should know.
The Seller Doesn't Have to Tell You Everything
While the seller does have to give you a disclosure of defects, the disclosure doesn't have to contain all defects. The seller must tell you about latent defects. These are the types of problems that aren't always easy to see.
Examples of latent defects can include things like damaged pipes or foundation issues. Latent defects make a place dangerous, structurally unsound, or causes health problems. While a seller has to disclose latent defects, they only have to tell you about the ones they know about.
Patent defects are the problems you or an inspector can and should find. Sellers don't have to tell you about patent defects. Patent defects can include things like broken banisters, rotting wood, or anything else you or an inspector can see.
The Burden of Proof is On the Buyer
After closing, the buyer typically becomes responsible for any issues found in the house. Even if you find a latent defect, it falls on you to prove the seller knew about it but failed to disclose it. That's a difficult thing to prove, but not impossible.
If it looks like the seller made an obvious attempt to cover up the problem, the seller holds liability. If the defect is one the seller had to notice, that can also hold up as proof. For example, if the seller lived in the home with a severe plumbing issue, there's a chance they had to know about it.
Equally, the inspection service you used can hold some fault as well. If the inspection service missed a defect you found easily after closing, then you may have grounds to seek recompense from them.
What You Can Do If You Find Issues
You can speak to the seller. If you feel you're in the right, you can request they pay for repairs. You should also look closely at any contracts you signed that may have language concerning post-closing damage.
Speaking to a residential real estate lawyer, like one from Stoddard Law Firm, can also help you figure out what you can or cannot do regarding the situation. Legal counsel can also help you figure out early if you will have to swallow the cost, or if you have grounds to pursue a lawsuit.