Buying or Selling: Why Real Estate Transactions End Up in Litigation
According to the Florida real estate site, the housing market has been fluctuating but without a significant decrease in recent years. Due to the high volume of transactions, problems can arise quickly.
Suppose you were involved in a transaction and later discovered that you were misled or fraudulent activity occurred. These examples may cause you to pursue legal action against the other party. This article will discuss how Florida handles real estate litigation and your options.
Can a Buyer Sue a Seller After Closing in Florida?
The short answer is yes, as long as the reasons are within Florida’s guidelines. The buyer possesses the burden of proof and must provide sufficient evidence that the seller failed to disclose crucial information that would have affected the decision to purchase the home.
Florida law allows the wronged parties to pursue the sellers due to a breach of duty in disclosing information they knew that may have altered the transaction.
Each seller is obligated to disclose issues that are not obvious or identifiable during the inspection of the property. For example, if there were a visible issue with the roof or front door, these issues wouldn’t qualify for necessary disclosure as they are apparent to the buyers upon approaching the home.
Sellers must disclose any issues they know that are not obvious to the naked eye. They are not, however, required to obtain a professional inspection to determine what problems may be lurking. Therefore, their breach of duty can only be proven if enough evidence supports that the sellers were aware of the issues and chose not to disclose them.
What Types of Issues Must the Seller Disclose?
If a known issue may significantly affect the home’s value, such as the examples below, it must be disclosed to the buyers.
Mold – mold can be tough to detect and may not be visible without removing parts of a wall or flooring
Boundary issues – if there are existing issues or disputes regarding the boundaries of the property that are not disclosed to the buyers
Plumbing or HVAC issues – if there are underlying problems involving plumbing or HVAC that are apparent to the sellers but not disclosed, this can lead to issues.
Structural Issues – if settling occurred and foundation issues arose but were not disclosed
Leaks – evidence of past leaks or risks associated with leaks that the seller is aware of
Property Taxes – if the amount of taxes wasn’t truthfully disclosed or an impending significant increase was not divulged, this can cause an issue
What Are the Requirements of the Seller?
Sellers are legally bound to disclose any significant issues that may affect the home’s value.
On the contrary, as mentioned above, if they aren’t aware of significant issues, they aren’t required to prove that with an inspection before listing the home.
Sellers also aren’t required to disclose if someone passed away in the home, whether via natural circumstances or criminal violence such as a homicide.
Sellers aren’t required to disclose whether or not previous occupants were afflicted with a disease or severe health risks such as HIV or Aids.
Sellers may choose not to answer a question based on non-disclosure rather than inadvertently place themselves into an issue by responding with a fraudulent answer.
So Will Selling the Property “As Is” Remove Responsibility From the Seller?
A property listed “as is” generally will allow the seller to remove themselves from paying for repairs if they are discovered after the sale. The buyer signs paperwork explaining that they are aware they are accepting the property and will need to do their own research and cover repair costs in the future.
Selling “as is”, however, does not exonerate the seller from the duty to disclose known material issues that would significantly affect the property’s value.
Examples of Known Issues That May Have Been Hidden
Suppose you suspect the seller knew of issues but didn’t disclose them before the sale. How can you determine this? Examples may be that there is fresh paint covering up significant leak evidence. Has part of the drywall been repaired in wet areas but not sufficiently eradicated mold?
By investigating to find out who the contractors were that have worked on the home recently, you may be able to gather sufficient evidence that the homeowners were made aware of the issues, chose to apply a “bandaid” to the issues discussed and sell their home without disclosing the problem in its entirety.
How Can A Real Estate Attorney Help Me?
As mentioned above, the burden of proof will lie on you and your legal professionals to prove that the seller was aware of significant issues and didn’t disclose them. Your experienced attorney can investigate by searching for contractors with evidence of existing issues and reviewing the paperwork to ensure that the seller breached their duty to disclose problems.
Through years of experience representing our clients in real estate law and litigation, we are invaluable resources to you and your real estate transactions. We become tireless advocates for our clients and utilize years of experience and knowledge of real estate law to ensure they are protected when they need it the most.
Contact our office at (407) 904-9166 to discuss your questions and allow us to build a strategy that achieves and exceeds your desired results.
We look forward to serving you.