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What should a seller disclose about a property?

Buying a new home should be an exciting time for you. You find a place that meets your expectations and can serve as your residence for a long time, perhaps for you and other family members like your children. But sometimes a seller fails to tell a buyer everything he or she needs to know about the property, such as defects in the home.

A failure to disclose a defect can be a serious matter. You might not have bought the property if the seller had informed you about serious plumbing or structural issues, plus it could cost you a lot of money to repair the defect in question.

Disclosures according to law

According to Pennsylvania law, a home seller must make disclosures in respect to different matters pertaining to the property.  These disclosures include letting you know about the state of the electrical system, the plumbing, and the heat and air conditioning systems. The seller should also inform you about termite, sewage or water issues with the property.

The seller should also inform you about any legal issues with the property title that could cause you problems with the use of your home.  You should know about easements, liens or possible claims by other parties on the property.

Sellers and lack of knowledge

Some defects do not show themselves easily. Someone may sell you a home without realizing it had a serious problem. State law allows a seller to evade responsibility if the seller lacked expertise in areas involving the construction and condition of the property. In other words, the seller could not have known about the defect because he or she lacked the skills and knowledge to detect it.

This does not mean any seller can use lack of knowledge as an excuse. State law can still penalize a seller for making a false or misleading statement about a property or for failing to inform you about a known material defect. For instance, a neighbor or a relative might have told the seller about an undiscovered problem with the home. At this point, the seller may be liable for not disclosing the defect.