When you first saw the house, you thought it was too good to be true. It had everything you were looking for, and the price was right. After you moved in, however, you discovered some surprising problems. Maybe it was a leaky roof, malfunctioning HVAC system, or hidden water damage. Whatever the issue, it is going to be expensive to repair, and you feel like you should have been told about the problem before you bought the house. Is there anything you can do? It all depends on whether the seller was honest when they filled out the required disclosure form.
Ohio Disclosure Form
When a homeowner lists their house for sale, they are required by law to fill out the Ohio Residential Property Disclosure Form. This form is an extensive list of every part of the house, and the seller has to indicate what kind of system they have and whether they know of any previous or current problems with each area. The seller must complete every section of the form by checking the “Yes” or “No” box and explaining any “Yes” answers. Included on the form are the following areas:
- Water supply
- Sewer system
- Water intrusion
- Structural components (foundation, basement, floors, walls)
- Termites & other wood-destroying pests
- Mechanical systems, including electrical, plumbing, HVAC, fireplace, security system, lawn sprinklers, and built-in appliances
- Presence of hazardous materials such as lead paint, asbestos, and radon
- Underground storage tanks
- Flood plains
- Drainage & erosion
- Zoning or building code violations
- Boundary line issues, shared driveways, or party walls
The seller initials and dates each page of the document, indicating that the information they are providing is true to the best of their knowledge. In the process of buying the house, you would also initial and date each page, indicating that you accept the condition of the home as it has been described by the seller. By law, the seller does not have to disclose defects that are open and obvious—such as a giant water stain on the bathroom ceiling. Also, the seller does not have to disclose problems they don’t know about. In other words, they are under no obligation to have the home inspected to uncover hidden problems that were unknown to them.
Failure to Disclose Defects Could Be Grounds for Legal Action
It is always recommended that a buyer hire their own home inspector to go through the house with a fine-toothed comb before finalizing the purchase. A skilled inspector can assess the seriousness of problems revealed on the disclosure form and find problems that are not listed on the form. However, even the best inspector can’t uncover what happens to the basement after a heavy rainfall or whether the air conditioning works in extreme heat, for example. The seller should know things like this, however, and must disclose them if they do know about them.
So, what can you do if you suspect that a seller lied about a costly defect on a disclosure form? The first thing you should do is talk to an experienced Ohio real estate litigation attorney.
How Littlejohn Law Can Help
If the defect you discover is potentially very costly, you should consult our real estate litigation team for advice. If it can be proven that the owner knew about a problem and failed to disclose it on the required form, you might be able to hold them responsible for paying for the repair. If the seller and/or their realtor intentionally defrauded you, you can seek damages amounting to double the cost of repairs. Learn more about failure to disclose laws by contacting our office.