Q: I just closed on a home. The listing agent who represented the seller of my home did not disclose information that there are plans to widen an adjacent highway that would require my home to be demolished.
My contract says that all disputes will be settled through arbitration. Does fraud provide a circumstance for being able to have a trial by jury? If a lawsuit would have to be settled through arbitration, what are my chances of receiving fair consideration of my circumstances?
A: The real estate agent representing the seller may not have a duty to tell you that there are plans on the books to widen a highway and demolish your home.
Plans like these may be considered part of the public record. Part of your job as a home buyer is to make sure you know what’s going on in the neighborhood, or that you hire your own real estate agent to help you in this regard.
You should have spoken to someone at the village or town hall in which the property is located and asked them if there were any major improvements planned that might affect this particular property. Municipal officials would have certainly told you about the widening of the highway, showed you a map that included homes that had been slated to be demolished, and might even be able to give you a start date, if the plans have been approved.
Even if the plans for the highway aren’t an official “done deal,” it’s likely that your local paper has published stories about it. You may not have done your homework.
While the seller’s agent doesn’t have a duty to disclose public information to you, if you ask a specific question, the agent and sellers have to answer it honestly. If you had said, “Are there any plans to widen the highway that would have an impact on this property?” the seller and agent would have had to give you an honest answer.
As far as lawsuits go, I’m not sure you have a case. But to check out all of your legal options and to get answers to your legal questions, please talk to a real estate litigator.