Seller Disclosure Laws May Allow You to Sue for Fraud or Damages

Q: We purchased our first home in September 2009. We hired a professional home inspection and no major problems were noted during the inspection.

After a few months, we began to notice a sewage gas smell throughout the upstairs and into the attic. We had a plumber out several times but were not able to solve this problem. I called another local plumber and he claimed to have been out at our home numerous times with the previous owner for the same problem, but nothing could ever be resolved.

The previous owner opted not to take more exploratory measures on account of the cost it would be to do so, and so left the issue unresolved. We were not informed of this problem when we purchased the home and only recently learned that the seller was aware of this problem from a professional.

Additionally, we have a fireplace that was said to be in working order when the home was purchased, but on trying to use it, the entire house filled with smoke. We later had talked to a group of people in town who knew the previous owners and asked if we had ever gotten the fireplace problem fixed. They knew the previous owner had a problem with it. We had a fireplace guy out to have a look and he said it obviously needed some work and is a potential fire hazard.

My question is, having already purchased the home and now occupying it for more than a year, do we have any kind of legal recourse against the previous owners?

A: If you sue the seller for fraud (claiming the house was in working order while knowing that there were material issues), I don’t believe there is a statute of limitations, or if there is one in your state, it could be as short as one year or longer. So, if you don’t sue your seller within the time frame required in your state you’d be out of luck.

I wouldn’t wait. You should immediately contact a real estate attorney that handles seller disclosure issues and go over the facts of your case. But before you start spending big money with attorneys, you should determine what each problem is and what it will take to fix it.

Make sure you get at least two estimates as to what it will take to correct both problems. If you end up finding out that the cost is less than $1,000, you might decide to move on and forget it. While you could sue the seller for that expense, you might find the hassle of dealing with the issue might outweigh what you get back from the seller.

You can even go to small claims court in your state and sue the seller, but you still have to determine what it will cost you and what you can get back.

You can also contact the broker and the sellers and let them know what you found out. Give them the opportunity to make it right and come clean. If they can’t or won’t make you happy, then you should consult with a litigation attorney with experience in seller disclosure issues.

If you bought the property as a short sale, the sellers likely don’t have any cash to make things right, and suing them might be a complete waste of your time and money.

If this is the case, you might be stuck for the cost of fixing these problems, unless you can prove that the seller’s agent knew these problems existed, had a legal obligation to disclose these issues to you and failed to tell you about them.

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8 Responses to Seller Disclosure Laws May Allow You to Sue for Fraud or Damages

  1. TM says:

    This happened to my parents in the house we grew up in. The sellers knew they had a faulty sump pump system and never disclosed it. Every time it rained and the power went out, our entire basement flooded.

    It was a split foyer and the basement was where the master bedroom was. Talk about costly. Thank God for insurance or my parents would be bankrupt.

    They did approach the sellers after a few months and were “given” a couple thousand. But that was no where near enough to do the needed replacements and repairs on top of the cost of having 3 children.

  2. Denise McGill Swinton says:

    We just purchase a home and only have been in the home for a month and a half. Their is a small leak coming from the roof to inside the home . When we did our inspection you could not notice damage. The home owner had the ceiling cover up

    Could we sue the former homr owner

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  4. frank Serpa says:

    I purchased a lot to build a Dealership and this was the last lot left from the sellers and after building a Dealership building in 2004 I noticed that the property start sinking few years later. Having said that the contractor didn’t want to repair now 2015 We decide to demolish the floor/lot and realized that they use this lot for a dump site from debree from other lots. Now 12 years later, I have to clean up the the site and repair the sinking building. Can I go after the seller trust for my damage since was not disclosed?

    • Kelly says:

      You are most likely outside your states statue of Limitations, but consult with a real estate attorney in your area. Also, many times when purchasing from a trust there is no disclosure, so next to impossible to prove anyone knew of the issues with the land.

  5. Melzine Young says:

    My water pump and water tank went out I have just been in my house only a year. I have No home warranty insurance. Who responsibilities is it to replace it and I did have a home inspection done. Also how do I go about getting my money back and from who since I just been in my house a year.

  6. terri mathis says:

    I am currently suing the previous owner of my house. It was a DIY job when he installed new windows. they had been leaking for 3 years. mold in the walls and flooring. There are certain ways to install windows and he did none of it. However, my inspector never noticed either. He’s next on my list. My attorney said to have them repaired because we have to have a final price for what all it cost. Every window had an issue except one and brick is below it. I tore out drywall, flooring, and even sub-floors to get rid of the mold and smell. all the windows had to be re-wrapped on the outside and caulked properly. I had to pay for two months extra in my apartment. new carpet, drywall, flooring, studs. It takes forever for this process.

  7. rudy lesshafft says:

    bought a home at absolute auction. on lbar it said it had a geo thermal system. after trying to sell it months the sellers but it up for sellers disclosure it showed a heat pump had been added, but nothing else.the real estate company hired a auctioneer to auction off home. we were told the geo thermal system was in the basement, so we saw a unit which we thought was the geo thermal unit.we also saw a radiant heat system on 2 floors of the house. So in our mind we have radiant heat for the floors,geo thermal for heated and cool air, and a heat pump for heated and cool air. 3 types of heat and two types of cool air.the auctioneer and realtor told everyone that the geo thermal was there but needed a part. they told everyone at the auction and recorded that it needed a part but was there.After we signed papers we found out later the geo thermal was pulled out a year and a half earlier by the son-in -law who lived at the house. it was going to cost us $37500.00 to replace, so we sold home to to another buyer for 37500 to cover cost of replacing geo system. do we have any grounds to collect losses since sold this property.the realtor would not let us talk to the owner and told us they knew all about the property. we tried to revisit the property before closing and was not allowed in time to reinspect.we did file a complaint against the realtors broker , and auctioneer but they gave excuses like we did not know and its your fault for not inspecting it better, even as they were telling everyone its here it just needs a part. they have also defenserealtor lawyers already,lol. again do i have any rights since i sold property and how much time ti file somethingl. thank you

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