Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Can I recover damages if there are problems with the house I just purchased that were not told to me by the seller?
Buying a house is a memorable and exciting time for many people. Unfortunately, along with the joys of home ownership can come unexpected issues and repairs which can cause great financial distress after making a large investment. In order to help protect buyers against known defects in a residential property, Pennsylvania has the Real Estate Sellers Disclosure Law.
Pennsylvania Real Estate Sellers Disclosure Law
Under the Pennsylvania Real Estate Sellers Disclosure Law, the seller in a residential real estate transfer (subject to certain exceptions) shall disclose to the buyer any material defects with the property known to the seller by completing a disclosure statement, answering questions on the history of the property with respect to multiple subjects. These subjects include but are not limited to the property’s roof, basement, structure, water, electrical system, hvac, and hazardous substances.
In completing the disclosure statement, the seller cannot not make any representations that the seller or the agent for the seller knows or has reason to know are false, deceptive or misleading and shall not fail to disclose a known material defect. For example, a seller cannot physically cover up an existing water leak in the house and then fail to list the leak on the disclosure statement. A seller who willfully or negligently violates their duty to disclose shall be liable in the amount of damages suffered by the buyer as a result of the violation.
That being said, a seller is not required to tear down the property’s walls to find every issue that they are not aware of. If at the time the disclosures are required to be made, an item of information required to be disclosed is unknown or not available to the seller, the seller may make a disclosure based on the best information available to the seller. The seller is not obligated by this law to make any specific investigation or inquiry in an effort to complete the disclosure statement.
Time Limit to File Suit
Buyers who wish to take action for damages as a result of a violation of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Disclosure Law must do so within two (2) years after the date of final settlement. If you recently bought a house in the Berks County, Lehigh County, or surrounding areas, the Law Office of Alexander J. Elliker in Kutztown, Pennsylvania can provide you with thorough analysis on the best procedure forward. Please call 484-332-8318 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment with Attorney Elliker.