If your newly purchased home came with unhappy surprises such as cracks, leaks, broken mechanical systems, or defects, the financial obligation might not be yours alone.
Such problems can come to light days, weeks, or even years after the final deal, leaving you indignant and wondering whether you really have to bear the entire financial burden. If that’s the case, you might be able to ask the responsible person to pitch in and take the matter to court if they don’t. In the best-case scenario, you will be able to resolve matters without filing a lawsuit. To better understand what might happen, this post will analyse:
- Who might be held accountable, and
- Whether found forward with claim makes sense
Common Undisclosed Defects after Purchase
- Hidden water damage
- Rusted piped and bad sewer
- Huge cracks in the house foundation or driveways
- Radon leaks
- Heater or septic system defects
- Outmoded wiring
- Bad roofing
- Plumbing, electrical and HVAC issues
Natural Ageing or Minor Home Defects Aren’t Grounds for a Lawsuit
You probably knew when you bought the property that it wasn’t completely new or in perfect condition. Common defects like a crack in the front walk might have been visible. Other defects, like an ageing plumbing system, might be avoided in the course of the sale.
Your real estate agent, supposing you employed done, probably also told you about a few defects. Then after the sale, the property presumably resumed its normal process of ageing and decaying, leaving you to deal with any outcomes. Unfortunately, none of these problems offers any reasons upon which to file a lawsuit against the seller.
What Home Sellers are Required to Disclose
In some states, homebuyers are protected from sellers’ deceit by a law that requires them to disclose any latent defect. These defects, however, are something that neither you nor your home inspector would reasonably discover – something that you could discover months after purchasing the property.
If there are any latent defects, you must prove the property owner knew about the defect. And just because you discover a few defects after you buy the house does not mean the seller knew about it. Latent defects are those that are not visible but the seller didn’t know about their existence.
Can I Sue My Home Seller?
Even if you think you’ve been wronged, you can’t file a lawsuit against every person involved in the sale of your home. Obviously, the home seller is the first one to consider.
However, as we previously mentioned, almost every state has laws requiring home sellers to advise home buyers of any existent defects in the property, normally by completing a standard disclosure form before the sale process is completed.
This document usually asks the home seller to state where the building has certain features (such as a roof, a foundation, appliances, water, a system for electricity, and more) and then to rate or describe their state.
This law may vary from one state to another, which means you can receive a more comprehensive disclosure, and if a feature isn’t on the list, the seller might not be able to speak up.
According to legal experts from ReviewOfSolicitors.co.uk, there’s an empty place on the disclosure form, and the seller avoids stating a problem or denies it, you need to figure out whether the vendor actually knew about it.
For instance, if the home seller hid or patched over problem areas, or if the neighbours noticed you about the seller’s efforts to manage the defects, the evidence is on your side. Even so, it is possible to sue your home seller for:
- Breach of warranty
- Breach of contract
- Negligent misrepresentation
Legal Basis for Construction Defects Lawsuit
In-home defect cases, the most viable remedy is to sue the seller for breach of contract. Let’s say that the defect is a rotted deck. The home seller had promised your property with a deck, thus implying that the deck would be constructed with appropriate materials in a professional manner.
Your lawsuit would declare, through expert witnesses, that the seller used low-quality material and constructed the deck improperly.
Is there a statute of limitation for construction defect lawsuits?
As a claimant, you need to consider two types of laws that might exist in your state:
- The statute of repose
- The statute of limitation
The statute of limitation reduces the amount of time during which you may file a claim, based on when the defect occurred or was discovered. In case of a breach of contract, the statute of limitation ranges from three years to ten years.
You would need to declare that the breach of contract ( the faulty construction) happened within that time frame.
In construction law, there’s something known as a latent defect – a defect that you could not have reasonably known about throughout the statutory period.
Building Your Case
Once you’ve figured out the responsible parties, you will want to know whether their negligence – or inaction- might entitle you to compensation. To do that, you might need to prove that:
- The defect there before you bought the house
- There was no obvious defect that you could have seen yourself
- You hadn’t received information about the defect before the sale, and you were lied to
- You relied on non-disclosures or on the lies
- You’ve endured financial damage as a result
Before you go….
No one wants to discover that their dream home has defects, particularly after the property transaction has already been completed. Because this is often considered a breach of contract, don’t hesitate to contact a real estate solicitor for more specific and detailed information.
Disclosure: This is a featured post.