It’s dif­fi­cult to prove a dis­hon­est dis­clo­sure form

Orlando Sentinel - - EXTRA HOMES - By Ilyce Glink and Sa­muel J. Tamkin

be­yond a rea­son­able doubt.

What does it take to prove the sellers lied on a seller dis­clo­sure form? Here’s a sit­u­a­tion Sam faced in his law prac­tice:

The buy­ers had a large plumb­ing prob­lem within a month af­ter clos­ing. The new home­own­ers called a plumber to fix the prob­lem, and for­tu­itously it was the same plumb­ing com­pany the sellers had used when they owned the home. The very same plumber came out who had warned the sellers that they had a ma­jor is­sue. In fact, he had ad­vised the sellers that the cheap fix they re­quested would re­sult in a big, ex­pen­sive prob­lem in the near fu­ture. Be­cause the same plumber has ad­vised the sellers — and had all the doc­u­men­ta­tion — the sellers paid up.

In a sec­ond sit­u­a­tion, a list­ing bro­ker who sold his own home rep­re­sented to the buyer that there was no as­bestos in the home. However, shortly af­ter the buy­ers moved in, they dis­cov­ered there was ac­tu­ally quite a bit of as­bestos in the home. The list­ing bro­ker tried to say that he had no knowl­edge of as­bestos. The court, however, took the view that the real es­tate bro­ker had years of ex­pe­ri­ence sell­ing real es­tate and should have known bet­ter. In this sit­u­a­tion, too, the seller had to pay up.

We know ter­mite dam­age is costly, and we un­der­stand that it ap­pears the sellers pa­pered over a known prob­lem. But you’ll need more than just spec­u­la­tion to prove your case. You need to prove the sellers knew or should have known about the prob­lem if you’re go­ing to col­lect.

Did the sellers use a car­pen­ter or tackle the ren­o­va­tion work them­selves? Your case would ben­e­fit if you found out that the sellers had carpenters come in to hide the prob­lem and if you were able to talk to those carpenters. You can check with lo­cal ex­ter­mi­na­tors to find out if any of them ever treated the home and when. Some states keep records of the ap­pli­ca­tion of the chem­i­cals used to rid a home of ter­mites; you may dis­cover your home is on that list. If you find any­thing that ties your seller to treat­ment for ter­mite or wood-bor­ing in­sects to the home, you may be closer to hav­ing an ac­tion against the seller.

You should know that some states limit the time a buyer has to sue a seller for vi­o­lat­ing dis­clo­sure re­quire­ments, typ­i­cally two to four years. You’ll need to find out what the time limit is in your state. Given that you have $10,000 in­vested into solv­ing the prob­lem, you might want to talk to an at­tor­ney in your area who has some ex­per­tise in seller dis­clo­sure is­sues.


Ter­mite dam­age.

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