Several laws and regulations have been enforced to protect homebuyers from unpleasant surprises and fraud when they purchase a property. Sellers are required to disclose certain information to the buying party pertaining to the condition of the house. Generally referred to as transfer disclosures, this type of information enlightens buyers about the existing legal, physical, environmental, and neighborhood problems among others. It helps them make a well-grounded decision about whether the property is worth the investment based on the facts and condition of the property.
What Type of Disclosures are Required
Every state has specific disclosure laws in place when it comes to selling property. In Illinois, statutory guidelines have been laid out in the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act. Generally, sellers are required to highlight defects and structural issues of their property of which they have personal knowledge. This means that it is not mandatory to hire a home inspector to perform a thorough inspection and search for defects that the seller may or may not be aware of. However, buyers may conduct a home inspection on their own to determine the potential issues.
Essential disclosures regarding issues with a property include:
- Foundation instabilities
- Issues with any appliances, such as water, sewer, HVAC, electrical, or any other mechanical systems
- Material defects
- Mold or water damage
- Potential dangers to environment, such as frequent wild fires, flood zones, and earthquake fault lines
- Previous repairs or renovations
- Roof damage
In addition, several federal laws exist that are applied on homeowners regardless of the state they live in. For example, if your home was built prior to 1978, you are required to comply with Title X, or the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. Under Title X, a seller must:
- Disclose information about known lead-based paint that has been applied in the house
- Provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pamphlet titled, “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” to the prospective buyer
- Give homebuyers a period of 10 days to examine the property for lead
- Make sure the sale contract has specific clauses about lead-based paint warning with signed statements about the disclosure of this information
If a seller fails to comply with these disclosure requirements, they can face serious legal consequences leading to financial liability. Buyers have the right to sue a seller for damages they suffered as a result, with settlements reaching up to three times the cost of actual damages.
How to Make Real Estate Disclosures
Generally, sellers are required to provide real estate disclosures in written form. These disclosure documents must be dated and signed by both the seller and buyer. It is always best to disclose potential issues of a property and get signed written statements of acknowledgment from the buyer to ensure they do not bring a legal action down the line. You should consider working with an experienced real estate attorney who can provide you detailed insights into real estate disclosures and ensure you do not overstep legal boundaries. Contact Casement P.C., to schedule a free consultation today.