If you’re selling Alabama real estate, there are certain things you have to disclose to the buyer of your home before anyone signs on the dotted line. Sellers are required to share certain conditions regarding the property. But what are those exactly?
If critical issues and conditions aren’t disclosed properly, you could be sued, or, at the very least, you could owe a large fine.
What you’re required to disclose, as the seller, varies state by state. Working with a local real estate agent who has experience in your particular market can ensure you’ve met all the disclosure requirements that exist in Alabama.
Alabama Is a Caveat Emptor State
Alabama is a what now?
Caveat emptor is Latin and it means “let the buyer beware”. Basically, this means a caveat emptor state is one in which the buyer assumes the responsibility of finding out the true condition of the property they’re buying before they sign on the dotted line.
Most states in the US don’t follow this rule, but Alabama does. While certainly a benefit to you as a seller, you’re not entirely off the hook. In general, sellers have no legal obligation or duty to inform the buyer of most issues with the physical condition of the property, but there are exceptions.
3 Exemptions to Caveat Emptor in Alabama
Not all sellers can rely on the “buyer beware” law holding true. There are three critical exemptions you have to be aware of to avoid potential legal trouble. In the following three situations, you’re required to disclose pertinent information to the home buyer.
A Fiduciary Relationship Exists
A fiduciary relationship is a fancy legal term that means one person has the legal duty to act in another person’s best interest. For example, the relationship you have with your attorney or your doctor would be considered fiduciary relationships.
Your attorney is required to act in your best interest and make sure you’re taking proper legal actions; they can’t do anything that would put you at legal risk. Similarly, your doctor recommend treatments that harm your medical well-being.
Therefore, if you’re selling your home to a patient of yours who you know has a serious allergy to cats, it’s not okay to leave out the fact that the home once had five angora cats living in it.
There are a number of forms a fiduciary relationship can take, so if you’re in doubt, be sure to find out for sure before you assume you can withhold certain information.
The Seller Is Aware of Health and Safety Risks
Whether you’re a doctor or not, if you know there are certain issues that, if not disclosed, could cause harm to the buyer, you have to disclose it. Some examples of these issues would be the presence of black mold, asbestos, or lead paint.
Additionally, if you know there’s a weak spot in the attic floor or porch that could give way at any moment and you don’t tell the seller, you could be sued if they fall through and get hurt.
If the Buyer Asks a Direct Question
Finally, you can’t lie to a buyer. There are many things the state of Alabama lets you go without saying, but if a buyer directly asks you a question about a certain condition and you lie, you can be held legally responsible.
Legal Recourses Still Exist for the Buyer
Even if the home buyer can’t sue you for not disclosing certain conditions, they can seek damages, take you to civil court, charge you with suppression of material facts, or allege negligence. These issues are hard to prove since nondisclosure itself isn’t enough to charge you with any of the above.
However, if the buyer can prove that you knew or should have known a particular problem existed and you didn’t tell them about it, they can sue you. Proving such a thing is difficult, but it’s not impossible.
Also, you should be aware that there’s a federal disclosure policy that requires you to disclose the presence of lead paint in the house. If you’re not sure, it’s best to check that out because if you don’t disclose it, saying you didn’t know probably won’t hold up in court.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Working with a real estate agent who has experience in your area can help you ensure that you’re following the disclosure requirements. Your agent can help you protect yourself from legal action and make sure that you’re putting the buyer’s best interests at heart.