Seller Disclosure Laws
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
REM #LAW 695
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: A reader purchased a home that has
turned into a nightmare. The seller lied about the condition of several thing,
including the roof. Ilyce and Sam explain about seller disclosure laws.
Q: I bought a home early in 2005, and that’s when my nightmare started.
At the settlement table, my agent included a clause in the contract that the
seller would pay for some electrical work which was undone.
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The work will cost more than $2,700 and the seller has skipped town and we
can’t find him.
The seller had given me a document that listed the roofer that repaired the
roof as certified and that the roofer claimed that the roof was "in excellent
condition.” I have since found out that the roofer was not licensed and
that the roof was in horrible condition and leaking.
Two weeks ago, I found out that the water heater was placed over a hole in
the floor to conceal water seeping in from the ground. I have respiratory problems
which have been aggravated by these problems and I don’t have the money
for all of the repairs. What are my options?
A: Most states have seller disclosure laws that require the seller to disclose
to you material defects that affect the home. Simply put, if the seller lied
to you and you find the material defect in the home, you can sue the seller
to recover your damages. In some cases you can even recover your attorneys’
fees in suing the seller.
If the seller believed that the roofer fixed his roof, you might have a hard
time recovering anything from the seller. However, you may be able to sue the
roofer for his shoddy workmanship and lying about being licensed. You may be
able to file a complaint with the agency that licenses roofers in your state
and hope that they prosecute the case and you recover some money.
However, state agencies are rather pressed for time and money and unless the
agency has received enough complaints about the roofer, they may not act against
If the seller has truly disappeared, you will have a hard time suing him. To
the extent the real estate agent actively participated in the concealment of
these issues, you might be able to go after the real estate agent. But just
because the agent represented the seller, the agent may not have had actual
knowledge that would rise to a level to have him pay you for the problems with
the home. If you have other information that proves that the agent knew the
roof was shot and he hid this information from you, you might want to pursue
a case against him.
For more information, you will have to consult with an attorney and go through
your issues with him or her. If the statute in your state allows for the recovery
of attorneys’ fees and the attorney feels you have a great case, you might
want to go that route.
As far as the water heater is concerned, you should talk to a plumber and determine
whether the heater is properly installed. If you find out it was not installed
properly, you might be able to call the plumbing company that installed it and
have them fix the problem.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce
R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your
Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for
them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022
or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com