Disclosure is a complicated and frustrating process for many property sellers. Prospective sellers often struggle with the balancing act of designing an attractive, high-value property listing alongside meeting their legal disclosure requirements. These requirements are often location dependent and sellers should consult state regulations for specific disclosure exceptions and obligations.
Remember, even if you're not legally mandated to disclose an issue, concealing known problems with your property is ethically dubious at best. What's more, non-disclosure can leave you vulnerable to lawsuits from deceived and disgruntled buyers. To safeguard yourself against future legal trouble, we've listed ten repairs and issues that you must disclose when selling your home.
Violence on the Property
Information on any violence, murders, or suicides committed on a property is a required disclosure in some state areas. However, the requirement for disclosure usually depends on the length of time that has passed since a murder or death — for instance, California homeowners are only required to disclose a murder on the property if it occurred in the last three years.
Criminal stigma may also need to be disclosed in some jurisdictions. If the property was previously used as a brothel or drug house, this usually requires full disclosure. Although state law applies, homeowners should also disclose the presence of any local sex offenders.
If you have experienced a haunting event in your home, you may be required to disclose this information to potential buyers. State regulations on this topic vary but most jurisdictions mandate that sellers disclose any paranormal phenomena that may leave the property stigmatized.
Previous Repairs and Renovations
It's a good practice to disclose any repairs or home improvements on your home. If a similar repair is required after the sale has been finalized, sellers can demonstrably show that the buyer had full knowledge of the potential issue at the time of sale.
Structural Issues and Malfunctions
Major structural faults in a property's foundation or frame can make a home unsafe for habitation. Seller's should also disclose any other home system malfunctions, including:
- Cracked or peeling vinyl siding.
- Clogged, leaking, or low-pressure plumbing.
- Faulty heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units.
- Recurring electrical wiring problems, such as frequent surges, power dips, or blackouts.
As one of the most common forms of property damage, many sellers attempt to conceal signs of water damage. Don't fall into this trap! Water damage will create mold and attract termites if left unattended. To avoid an expensive lawsuit, be sure to disclose any ongoing water problems, such as a flooded basement or high local water table.
If your home was built prior to 1978, federal regulations under Title X — specifically, the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 — requires sellers to disclose all available information about the use of lead-based paint and hazards. Upon disclosure, sellers must grant buyers at least ten days to have the property re-tested for lead.
Diligently testing and declaring the presence of lead paint is a mandatory disclosure for sellers. If you do not comply with Title X and undisclosed lead-based paint is discovered on your property, it can expose you to a hefty lawsuit.
Toxic Material Presence
The presence of toxic materials in a house structure or yard can have long-term health implications if left unchecked. As long as they are aware of the issue, sellers are required to disclose the presence of the following toxic materials:
- Asbestos: The inhalation of asbestos fibers is a serious health hazard, causing heightened incidents of lung disease and cancer. Although asbestos has become a more tightly regulated building material, it is still present in many older homes — especially in plaster, ceiling tiles, and insulating board.
- Radon: Exposure to radon, a radioactive gas that seeps from the ground, is the second highest cause of lung cancer in the United States. As it is colorless and odorless, sellers will need a radon test kit to detect for the toxic gas.
Local Disaster Zone
Depending on state law, you may need to disclose if your property is located in a high-incident natural disaster zone. Earthquake zones, hurricane-prone coastal areas, flood plains, or tornado alleys are some examples of local disaster zones.
Size of the Home
Surprisingly, the square footage of your home is often a contentious disclosure for many sellers and buyers. Square footage is consistently measured along physical rather than cadastral boundary lines. If you market your home with more square footage than it actually contains, you can be liable for legal action from future buyers.
Homeowners Association and Covenant Restrictions
In some state jurisdictions, sellers are required to disclose if their property is subject to homeowners association rules or restrictive covenants.
Still Confused? Contact a Local Real Estate Agent Today!
If you're ready to sell and are looking for guidance on how to prepare your home for listing, it might be time to connect with an experienced real estate agent. Agents in the Clever Partner Network are committed to providing full-service support and guidance throughout the entire sale process. This means they can advise you on regional disclosure laws and help firewall you against future legal trouble.