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Seller’s Property Disclosure — It’s the Law

This post will discuss a common area of concern that arises in real estate sales and purchases — seller’s property disclosures.

We will address the following questions:

  1. What disclosure is required?
  2. Why is disclosure required?
  3. What happens if I don’t disclose?
  4. Who can be liable for disclosure issues?

Texas law requires that a seller of real property provide the buyer with a disclosure of certain information. Home buyers are entitled to information about the condition of the following:

  • Appliances
  • Fireplaces
  • Security systems
  • Windows
  • Garages
  • Pools
  • Communications systems
  • Roofs

Seller’s property disclosure laws also require transparency around termite issues, flooding issues, soil settling issues, construction issues, and lawsuits affecting the property.

The full list of legal requirements is exhaustive, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about the required seller’s property disclosures.

Why Is Disclosure Required?

Disclosure is required so that both the buyer and seller are all on the same page about the condition of the property.

Whether the representations in the disclosure rise to the level of a warranty depends upon the specific language of your contract, and the contents of the disclosure itself.

If you have any questions about the disclosure section of a piece of property you are selling or buying, you should consult an attorney.

What Happens If I Don’t Disclose?

If a seller’s property disclosure fails to meet the property code’s standards, the purchaser can back out of the deal.

Specifically, if a disclosure is not provided to the buyer on or before the effective date of the sales contract, the purchaser may terminate the contract within a specified time.

If you are considering terminating a contract over a seller’s property disclosure, you should first consult with an attorney.

Who Can Be Liable for Disclosure Issues?

The most common targets for disclosure lawsuits are sellers and seller’s real estate agents — lawsuits related to disclosures arise frequently in our part of the state since the real estate markets in North Texas are so active.

Many of these suits are brought as deceptive trade practices claims, fraud claims, or breach of contract claims.

Let’s discuss some of the specific types of claims pertaining to seller’s property disclosure.

Deceptive Trade Practices Act Claims

These claims, commonly referred to as DTPA claims, are especially appealing for potential plaintiffs in a seller’s property disclosure case. The Deceptive Trade Practices Act was passed by the legislature as a way to protect Texas consumers from certain types of actions deemed deceptive.

The DTPA allows successful plaintiffs to be rewarded three times the amount of their damages if certain procedures are followed throughout the lawsuit.

Because of these harsh penalties, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney early in a DTPA dispute.

There are specific tools available to an attorney to help reduce the risk of an expensive award against a seller.

Fraud

These claims can arise where a buyer accuses a seller of lying to deceive the buyer.

If a seller or seller’s real estate agent lies on the seller disclosure form a fraud claim may be brought.

For this reason it is a good practice to communicate in writing during a real estate deal.

Also, when in doubt, a seller would be well served to take a conservative approach — disclose, disclose, disclose!

Breach of Contract

These claims are brought when one party believes the other party didn’t live up to their end of a deal.

In a seller’s property disclosure setting, a plaintiff may claim that the disclosure is a part of the contract, or that one of the warranties contained within the contract was breached.

These claims are attractive to plaintiffs because, as long as certain steps are taken, they may be able to recover their attorney’s fees from an unsuccessful defendant.

Contact HBWV Law — We Can Help

Are you concerned about a seller’s property disclosure issue related to a real estate transaction?

Do you think you may be the victim of fraud, deceptive trade practices, or breach of contract?

If you have a potential problem with a seller’s property disclosure, click here to contact the attorneys at Hayes, Berry, White, & Vanzant today.

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