Purchasing a home can be an exciting milestone. To avoid later regrets, it is important to be thorough in learning all the facts. Many buyers assume the law obligates the seller to disclose anything they would want to know.
In practice, this issue can be far more complicated, as the legal obligation to disclose may not cover everything a buyer may deem relevant. Additionally, if a seller does fall short of his or her legal obligation, the buyer may not necessarily have recourse to a legal remedy that would fix the problems the nondisclosure creates. Common remedies may include suing for damages or having the contract revoked.
Generally, a Florida seller must disclose material defects he or she is aware of that may not be readily apparent to buyers. One should note this does not obligate a seller to hire an inspector or otherwise go digging for potential defects.
The buyer still needs to obtain a proper inspection and exercise common sense in investigating further if the inspection reveals red flags for potential issues. If a defect is a matter of public record, the law tends to assume the buyer should have known about it.
Types of defects
Material defects are those that one would reasonably assume to have an effect on the property's value or on whether the buyer would still want to purchase if he or she learned about the defect. For example, this category would typically include structural problems or bad wiring.
Florida law also addresses some specific situations to help define material defects in this contexts. Although many people would want to know if a property was the site of a murder, suicide or other type of death, the law explicitly states sellers do not have to disclose this information.
Conversely, sellers must disclose potential radon gas hazards and the existence of a requirement to join a homeowners association. Sellers of coastal properties may have to disclose potential erosion and legal restrictions on construction and use. Sellers of condominiums must inform potential buyers of the resulting fees and condominium rules and regulations.