I’m Eric Lanigan of Lanigan and Lanigan attorneys in Winter Park, Florida. In part 2 of this series on the questions buyers have on the property disclosure form, I will answer some questions about liability when defects are not disclosed.
Who Has Liability?
Q: Can I sue the selling realtor, my realtor, the seller and the inspector?
I’ve mentioned several times in these answers the phrase ‘knew or should have known’. On any of those parties the realtor, whether it’s the seller’s realtor, the buyers realtor, the seller, the inspector, if you can establish if any of those parties knew or should have known about the problem then there’s potential liability against that person.
I recently had a case and contacted by the seller who told me about the problem they had had in the house and now they were getting letters from the buyer’s attorney saying that this problem had been discovered and they wanted rescission, damages and anything they could get. In talking with the seller of the property I discovered that he had advised his realtor of the problem and essentially did so because the question was, does this need to be disclosed?
And he told the realtor what the problem was, showed the realtor the problem. The realtor made the decision that this was only a temporary thing and that it was being repaired and therefore would not be a problem. Well it turned out to be not temporary and whatever was being done was not repairing the problem. What I said to the seller in that point is there is somebody liable to the buyer and it’s your realtor.
Because you disclosed the information to the realtor as the professional for the realtor to make the decision as to whether or not this needed to be communicated to the buyer. And the realtor made the decision not to do it. So in that case ultimately I’m convinced that the realtor was the one who was going to be held liable for the damage.
Contact An Attorney for Questions on the Property Disclosure Form
Q. What’s the first thing I should do when I find a problem? Call my realtor?
What’s the first thing you should do? I think the first thing you want to do is get a thorough assessment as to what actually is the problem. How significant is it. What’s it going to cost to repair it. And even if you do repair it is the value of your property still being negatively being impacted? I would get all that information together first before I started contacting anyone.
Should you call you realtor?
As a lawyer, I would tell you that I think the realtor’s function is to bring buyers and sellers together, negotiate deals and sell property. What you’re talking about at this point is a legal issue. And it’s going to be decided on legal grounds and I think if you want to know where you stand in light of the problems, what you need to do is you need to contact an attorney. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with notifying the realtor that you found out this information and you can do some inquiry to determine what the realtor may or may not have known about these things that you found out.
In the final part of this series on the buyers questions on the property disclosure form, I will talk about legal remedies for the buyer if a seller did not disclose a problem with the home.