Three Tips When Buying Residential Real Estate Without a Seller’s Disclosure Statement.
The Real Estate Minute: No Seller’s Disclosure?
The Seller’s Disclosure: An Essential Part of the Deal
What is a Seller’s Disclosure Statement (the “Disclosure Statement”) in the context of a residential property purchase? It is a printed form document, usually available to real estate agents through the local board of realtors, that sellers are to complete, containing a list of questions regarding the condition of the property they are selling. The intent of the Disclosure Statement is to make it easier for the seller to fulfill its obligation of disclosing hidden defects at the property of which the seller is aware.
Yes, that’s correct — it is a seller’s DUTY to disclose hidden defects at the property of which the seller is aware. What is a hidden defect? Generally, it is a problem unlikely to be uncovered by buyer’s diligent property inspection.
It has become an unfortunate trend for sellers to say they are not completing a Disclosure Statement because either (a) they have not recently lived in the home, (b) the home is an investment property, or (c) they have lived in the home for only a short period of time. Buyers wonder whether any of these are legitimate bases for not completing, signing and offering the Disclosure Statement to buyer.
Arguably, none of these are legitimate bases for not providing a completed and signed Disclosure Statement. First, seller is legally obligated to disclosure hidden defects, so why not do this formally, with the form Disclosure Statement? And second, the Disclosure Statement protects the seller when making this disclosure because in many jurisdictions, the Board of Realtor form comes with built in language protecting the seller.
In Georgia, where I am a broker, the Disclosure Statement comes with knowledge qualifiers built into the Georgia Association of Realtors’ form. The form expressly provides that if the seller has not occupied the property recently, seller’s knowledge of the property condition might be limited. So this caveat is ALREADY IN THE FORM.
The form goes on to provide that all statements are to the actual knowledge and belief of all sellers of…