After what may have been a long and stressful search, you bought a new house. After the excitement wore off and you got settled in, you started to notice something. Perhaps a bit of water where it shouldn't have been. Perhaps an odd, moldy smell. Perhaps a new crack that you swear wasn't there before.
At first, maybe you ignored it or tried to tell yourself it wasn't a big deal. Maybe you had someone come to look at the problem, only to tell you that it will cost a bundle to repair. Maybe you still haven't had someone look at it. Either way, you can't help but wonder why you were not told about the problem. How could the previous owner not have known about it?
Maybe they did know about it.
Sellers Have A Duty To Disclose Material Defects
Unfortunately, in order to sell a piece of real estate, sellers, or sometimes realtors or brokers, may intentionally hide problems. It happens. However, that does not make it right. Or legal.
California law makes sellers responsible for disclosing all material defects in a document called a disclosure statement. If the roof leaks, that must be included. If there is mold, that must be included. If there are foundation issues, that must be included. Any problem that has, as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors puts it, "a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk" must be disclosed.
If a known material defect was not disclosed, the seller may be liable. It may be possible to recover the cost of repairing the defect, or to have the purchase rescinded altogether. It is important for home buyers to know that they are protected.