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What are your rights if a seller hides a defect in a house?

For many people, buying a home is the largest purchase they will ever make. The equity that builds up in a home over time can also be the largest investment of someone's adult life. It is only natural to want to make the best possible decisions about these important purchases. Unfortunately, there are many potential pitfalls along the path to home ownership that can end up costing you money.

One relatively common concern, regardless of whether you are buying new construction or an existing home, is the potential for defects in the property. Familiarizing yourself with common defects is a good way to know what to look for when you tour a property and review the seller's disclosure. However, it is possible to buy a home with defects that you discover after the purchase.

Sellers have an obligation to report known defects to buyers

There are many laws in place that guide real estate transactions in Florida. Generally speaking, sellers must indicate the condition of the property that they are selling and provide a disclosure that outlines any known issues, including a recent infestations, structural defects or other potential concerns for the new homeowner. In some cases, major defects can be the difference between deciding to purchase a property and continuing to search.

Some sellers, wanting the best potential price for their home and a quick sale, may choose to cover up or hide defects and not report them to the buyer. This tactic is particularly common in homes sold as is. However, some sellers will intentionally falsify the information on their disclosure for a standard home sale. Whether the defect is obvious or hidden, the seller should make the buyer aware of its existence.

You have legal rights if the seller failed to disclose a known defect

You may be thinking that you are just stuck in a bad situation after you discover a defect. After all, he purchased the home and now it's yours. Thankfully, Florida law does allow for buyers to seek compensation from sellers who fraudulently withhold critical details prior to a sale.

Perhaps you contacted the well maintenance company, only to learn that they notified the seller last year that the well should be replaced. This was not indicated on your purchase report, but now you must incur this fee in order to comply with county standards. It could also be possible that local contractors or professionals have quoted prices to repair the property to the previous owner who opted not to perform the repairs.

Any documentation you can obtain can help you build a case. Every home and every sale is unique, so make sure to familiarize yourself with your legal rights and get professional help if you are unsure about how to proceed.

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