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What is a seller’s duty to disclose?

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2023 | Real Estate Law

Purchasing a new home is an exciting time. Owning your own home may be something you dreamed about for a long time, but finding the right home can be challenging. Therefore, when you do find the right home, you want to make sure that you know what you are purchasing.

California law protects home buyers by imposing a duty to disclose on sellers. This requires sellers to disclose certain details about the property. If they do not disclose these details, they could be held liable.

The disclosures required by a seller generally fall into some basic categories. Sellers must disclose any physical defects of the property, any structural hazards, any environmental hazards and any part of the property that does not comply with local building codes.

How do I see the disclosures?

You will typically see the seller’s disclosures through a transfer disclosure statement. This is a document the seller provides to you before the closing date that lists all meaningful disclosures about the property.

Some examples of meaningful disclosures include information about:

  • Prior property damage
  • Improvements to the property
  • Mold or mildew issues

The transfer disclosure statement must also include information about neighborhood conditions that could make the property less desirable, such as outside noise, and any deaths on the property within the last three years.

The seller should provide you with this document well in advance of the closing date so you have time to review it and decide if you truly want to go through with the purchase of the property.

What if I don’t want the property after seeing the disclosures?

Once you receive the transfer disclosure statement, you have three days to cancel the real estate contract if you received the transfer disclosure statement in person or five days to cancel it if you received it by mail.

If you purchase a home and believe the seller failed to disclose information they were legally required to, you could have a case for fraud and be entitled to damages. However, you must act quickly, because the statute of limitations to bring a fraud action is three years from the time you receive notice of the problem.