Housing markets across the country are red hot right now, and East Tennessee is no exception. The competitive nature of homebuying means that many prospective buyers are doing everything they can to gain an edge in the market, including bidding over the asking price and waiving some or all contingencies.
Although most homes in this market sell quickly and for high prices, some sellers try to gain even more value out of their homes by failing to disclose major problems that they’re aware of. These problems can include everything from water damage and foundation cracks to black mold and asbestos.
Home Inspections Aren’t Always Foolproof
To make matters worse, home inspectors don’t always find these issues. They may be hidden behind furniture, painted over, or simply in areas that are intentionally made inaccessible to home inspectors. These issues may not be discovered for weeks or months after new owners move in, and they often come with hefty price tags to repair.
Thankfully, if you bought a house and discovered major problems that the sellers and inspector should have known about or found, you have options. The Tennessee Residential Property Disclosure Act means that buyers of properties with incomplete or inaccurate disclosure forms can sue for damages and sometimes even force the seller to buy back the home.
What Types of Defects Must Be Noted?
When homeowners are aware of major defects or conditions, they must note them in their disclosure forms. Common defects and conditions include:
- Environmental hazards, including high radon levels
- Flooding or drainage problems
- Unpermitted remodeling work
- Non-compliance with building codes
- Structural problems, including foundation issues
- The presence of asbestos, mold, and lead paint
Note, however, that sellers may not be aware of all issues that their homes have, and they also aren’t required to discover them. In other words, a home seller doesn’t have to schedule an inspection of their own to find obscure defects, but if they are aware of defects or if a reasonable person in their situation would have discovered them while living in the home, then they can be held liable for failing to disclose.
How Can You Find Out if the Sellers Knew About the Issues?
Because sellers aren’t obligated to search for problems themselves, they may feel like they have some leeway to not disclose certain defects or conditions of the properties they sell. This is common, especially when the defect is located in a hard-to-see area of a home or only came about during their ownership of the home and was never previously noted.
If you purchase a home and discover major and unreported defects that you believe the sellers must have known about, an experienced Tennessee civil law attorney can protect your rights. There are many ways to determine if a seller was aware of a defect, including signs of repairs or coverups, DIY work, previous inspections, contractor work, and more.
You Have Two Options if the Sellers Lied: Suing for Damages or Recision
After you go under contract on a home, you may be able to back out of the purchase assuming you have contingencies in place, including appraisal (ensuring the home is worth the sale price) and inspection. In today’s hot real estate market, some buyers waive the inspection contingency. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an inspection performed, whether it’s through a home inspection company or a detailed walkthrough of your own.
If you discover major flaws that weren’t disclosed and you haven’t officially purchased the home yet, you can back out of the contract, even with contingencies waived, with no penalties and the return of your earnest money. If you’ve already closed on the home, you can sue the home sellers for the cost of the repairs or to force them to rebuy the home.
Never Waive a Property Disclosure Statement
While waiving appraisal and inspection are becoming more common, some buyers resort to even waiving full disclosure statements from sellers. Going this route means that you have no recourse for any defects that you discover after going under contract or closing on the house, regardless of whether the sellers were aware of them or not or how major they are.
If you discover major foundational issues that the sellers couldn’t possibly have missed, then you’ll still be on the hook for paying for repairs or backing out before closing and losing your earnest money.
We Can Help You with Your Inaccurate Uniform Residential Disclosure Issue
It’s essential to know about the existence of major defects of property you’re thinking about buying or have already gone under contract on, especially in a fast-moving real estate market. But too often, greedy sellers try to increase their homes’ values by lying about those defects.
At Ralls & Wooten, our Tennessee civil law attorneys can help you get the restitution you deserve if a seller lies on their uniform residential disclosure. Contact us today for a free consultation.