Homeowners need to understand the seller’s liability for these defects. Many homeowners find that they have problems with their home after they move in. The roof may begin to leak. The electricity may not work. The windows may let in the cold air. There may be water runoffs when it rains. Home-buyers need to make several key decisions. They also need to understand the seller’s liability for these defects.
- They first need to get a professional opinion. The opinion should indicate what is wrong, what steps need to be taken to correct the problem, and how much it will cost to fix.
- The home-buyer should make an appointment with an experienced Florida seller’s liability attorney. The lawyer will review when the seller is liable. He’ll analyze whether the homeowner’s problems are the fault of the seller. A respected lawyer will then review the merits of filing a legal claim against the seller.
- The homeowner should then review his/her title insurance and homeowner’s insurance. The companies that issued these policies may be liable to fix or repair the damages.
Legal issues in seller’s liability lawsuits
Generally, sellers cannot be held liable for home defects they were not aware of.
They generally can be held responsible if they failed to disclose a known defect and they were asked to disclose all known defects.
A trickier issue is – are seller’s liable to disclose known defects if they weren’t asked about the detects. In Florida, the general answer is yes. Florida homeowners have a duty to disclose defects they know about – even if they weren’t asked.
Seller’s liability to disclose known defects applies – even if the property was sold “as is.” An as-is buyer is agreeing to fix known repairs and to do the work needed to meet local building codes. The as-is buyer is not agreeing to fix problems the seller should have disclosed.
Florida Statute 689.25 provides that sellers do not have to disclose if prior occupants had AIDS or that murder, suicide, or death took place in the home.
Practical issues in seller’s liability lawsuits
Home-buyers should ask the seller about any known defects before they sign an agreement of sale. They should also ask before the settlement and at the settlement. They should also hire an experienced home inspection contractor. A qualified contractor will inspect the home for a checklist of possible problems.
Proving that a seller knew about known defects is not easy. Sellers often artfully hide defects. They may cover up defects with rugs. The seller may try to misdirect the homebuyer by painting over defects. They may fix part of the defect (but not all of the defect) and then point out the part they fixed. They may not provide notices they’ve received from building officials or local government officials.
An experienced Sebastian or Vero Beach seller’s disability lawyer will work with the contractor to expose these flaws. The lawyer will request that local officials provide any notices. They will question the homeowner as to a wide variety of issues such as prior repairs. The attorney may speak with friends to find if the seller complained about the defects.
Damages in seller’s liability cases
- The main damage claim is the value to make the necessary repairs. Alternatively, damage can be based on the loss of the fair market value of your property.
- If the seller’s actions were fraudulent, your seller’s liability lawyer may seek punitive damages.
- If insurance companies act in bad faith, they may be liable for legal fees.
- In cases of fraud and dishonesty, you may be able to reverse the sale of the house. This way, you get your money back so you can buy a quality home.