Understanding Disclosure Laws

Disclosure laws vary by state, but in some state law requires the seller to complete a rea1 estate transfer disclosure statement. Here is a summary of the things a buyer can expect to see in a disclosure form:

  • In the kitchen a range, oven, microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal, trash compactor. Safety features such as burglar and fire alarms, smoke detectors, sprinklers, security gate, window screens, intercom.
  • The presence of a TV antenna or satellite dish, carport or garage, automatic garage door opener, rain gutters, sump pump.
  • All amenities such as a pool or spa, patio or deck, built-in barbeque and fireplaces.
  • Practical concerns like central heating, solar panels, condition of electrical wiring, and gas supply.
  • The type of water heater, water supply, sewer system or septic lank also should be disclosed.

Home sellers also are required to indicate any significant defects or malfunctions existing in the home's major systems. A checklist specifies interior and exterior walls, ceilings, roof, insulation, windows, fences, driveway, sidewalks, floors, doors, foundation, as well as the electrical and plumbing systems.

The form also asks sellers to note the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any encroachments or easements, room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property and lawsuits against the seller affecting the property.

Also look for settling, sliding or soil problems, flooding or drainage problems and any major damage resulting from earthquakes, floods or landslides.

People buying a condominium must be told about covenants, codes and restrictions or other deed restrictions, if the homeowners association has any authority over the subject property and ownership of common areas with others. In addition, buyers should note that the simple idea of disclosing defects has broadened significantly in recent years to include locally mandated disclosure forms, burgeoning home inspection and warranty industries and a more alert group of brokers and agents who have their own detailed disclosure obligations. Be sure to ask questions about anything that remains unclear or does not seem to be properly addressed by the forms provided to you.

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