Disclosures From the Seller
Writing an Offer – Seller’s Disclosure Statement
Although you have toured the property, looked at the walls and ceiling, turned on the faucets and played with the light switches, you have not lived in it. The seller has a lot more knowledge about his or her home from living there. For this reason, you may want to ask if the seller has filled out a “Seller’s Disclosure Statement” or if not, require it as part of your offer.
Basically, you want the seller to disclose any adverse conditions that may have a substantial impact on your decision to purchase the home. This would include any problems with the house, whether the property is in a flood zone or any other kind of hazardous area.
In Naples, Florida and Collier County a Seller’s Disclosure Statement is expected but not required by law. A seller my chose not to provide the written form to buyers but that doesn’t exclude them from disclosing any known facts that may effect the value of the property according to State laws.
In Johnson vs. Davis, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that, “where the seller of a home knows of facts materially affecting the value of the property which are not readily observable and are not known to the buyer, the seller is under a duty to disclose them to the buyer.” The seller may disclosure facts in writing or verbally.
In addition, in Rayner vs. Wise Realty Co. of Tallahassee, the First District Court of Appeal ruled that this same disclosure requirement applies to residential properties that are being sold “as is.”
I recently move from Overland Park, KS to Fort Myers, FL. KS requires that a seller disclose all maintenance and material conditions of the home. I did this on my home which I had owned for 20 years; lots of work but very detailed. Buyer and his Realtor was ecstatic as was my Realtor about the amount of information provided and the inspector (mechanical engineer) stated that home was in immaculate condition. Buyer bought ‘as is’.
In FL I purchased home and no seller’s disclosure was provided. I was told that it wasn’t required. I paid $1,150 for inspection and also bought Home Owner’s Warranty Service. I’ve now lived in the home for two months and learning about all the issues that the previous owner had to know about. HVAC was leaking Freon, cement tile roof has 28 broken tiles, Solar Heating system for salt water pool was leaking, etc. I replace HVAC which was needed (old one was 10 years old) and I knew this would be required. The other items (including leaking Freon) I fully believe the previous owner knew about. He made several statements about having been in home construction business for “over 40 years”.
Do I have any recourse other that small claims court against the previous owner?