Have You Discovered Problems in Your New Home?

Jumping into the market could potentially set you up for a stressful time, especially now. However, the stress you endured throughout the search will soon dissipate after making a purchase. Of course, there are minor adjustments you will make to fit your personal style: painting, changing light fixtures, etc.. But, what if problems arise after your closing date? What if you discover major problems with your home? While this is not a common problem, it is good to be prepared if it happens. 

As a new homeowner, one of the most distressing things you can come to face is discovering hidden defects with your new home. Yes, it is upsetting to find your home in a different state than originally thought, and you would likely feel angry about the deal. The first question commonly asked is, “What am I going to do now?” 

Bad Luck or Latent Defect? 

Many things can go wrong during the buying process, but here are some common defects discovered after the deal is done: 

  • Mold 

  • Water Damage 

  • Termite Damage 

  • Well & Septic Issues 

  • Roofing Issues 

  • Plumbing Issues 

  • Foundation & Structural Problems

Many may ask why these items weren’t discovered by a home inspector. The truth is, many of the items mentioned wouldn’t be easily detectable by the buyer or home inspector before settlement was completed. Now, most buyers will have a great home inspector look over the home for potential problems. Unfortunately, even the most experienced home inspector can overlook these hidden defects. Much too often, these defects are usually later found by the new homeowner after living in the home for a significant period. 

What is there to do? A seller of a residential home can disclaim any representation to a buyer regarding the condition of the property. However, the seller is legally required to disclose certain prior or current problems with the property being sold, no matter what. These potential problems are called “latent defects.” 

A latent defect is an issue with a property the seller knows about that:

  • Is not visible; 

  • A buyer or home inspector could not reasonably be expected to uncover before the purchase is made; and

  • Could endanger the health and safety of the occupants or visitors to the property.

It is important to understand any issue with your home doesn’t necessarily qualify as a latent defect the seller is required to disclose to you. A latent defect does not count all problems found after closing on a home. 

So, what steps do you need to take if you discover hidden defects? 

If you find yourself standing in a puddle of water in your basement, it may be time to take these steps: 

  •  Make sure your family is safe and sound. Before any decision is made, ensuring the safety of your family is the first priority. If there are any issues potentially putting your family at risk, vacate the property immediately and seek professional help. 
  •  Don’t destroy the evidence! Whatever you do, do NOT tear down, clean up, or repair the problem; this will destroy valuable evidence you will need to prove your case. 
  •  Document what you see. If the defect does not pose any threat or harm to you or your family, take photos and videos of the existing conditions as soon as you can. 
  •  Call the experts. Depending on the problem, contact an expert and have them give an estimate. Again, be sure to document everything. 
  •  Contact an attorney. If you have gone through all of the steps provided above and want to move forward with legal action, immediately contact a real estate attorney to discuss your options and next steps. Remember, these are important! Do not wait to discuss these items. 
  •  Weigh your options. For many homebuyers, suing the seller is the primary solution, but it’s good to have a more logical response. Your attorney will help you understand your options and put together a plan based on:
  1. Cost
  2. The evidence of prior knowledge on the seller’s part

All in all, having an experienced home inspector is important in these situations, but even the most experienced can overlook potential issues with a home. If this happens to you, remember to react rationally and discuss your options with your attorney. They will be able to help you through this situation and give you the knowledge needed if the decision to take legal action rises. If you are interested in learning more, reach out to us.

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