Q: I just purchased a townhome in Mississippi and everything was going well. I introduced myself to the head of the homeowners association (HOA) who welcomed me and then sent me information about an emergency meeting to vote on the street repairs which will cost each homeowner $1,200.
The letter came two weeks to the day after my closing. I just called her and she said that they (the sellers) knew about this since the beginning of the year and the last notice that went out about this was in July.
The seller did not list this home for sale until August or maybe even September.
What recourse do I have because this is something that they should have disclosed to me, right?
A: Did you ask the seller specifically about any special assessments coming down the pike? Did you request HOA board minutes from the last two years, where this would have been discussed? Did you request a copy of the HOA budget for the last full year plus the projected budget for the current year?
These would have been savvy things to ask for, and your attorney (if you had one) or your agent should have suggested you get these important pieces of information before you made an offer on the property.
That said, sellers have an obligation to disclose material facts that are hidden. An announced project could well be considered public information that would not fall under the seller disclosure rules. So, I’m not entirely sure that the seller had a legal responsibility to share this information with you.
Many real estate contracts have certain representations by the seller relating to homeowner association issues. Do you know if the seller made any representations about the association in your contract? You do, as a home buyer, have an obligation to find out everything you can about the property before you sign the contract to purchase the home and certainly by the time you close on it.
I’m not saying the sellers or their agent shouldn’t have shared this information — and if you asked them specifically about special assessments and they didn’t disclose it then you might have some sort of seller disclosure case.
But if you never asked them specifically about it and you never asked them to provide you with the HOA minutes for the past two years and building or development budgets, then I’m not sure what legal options you have.
You can certainly go back to your agent and ask why he or she didn’t know about this (and if this information was known, why it wasn’t shared with you). You can also talk to a local real estate attorney who can help you decide what, if anything, you should do about this situation going forward.
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