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What happens if a seller makes false statements about a property?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2021 | Real Estate Law |

When you buy a home, your new property is like a blank canvas, full of potential. Your home is an opportunity for expression, exploration and personalization. Unfortunately, the house may not be in the condition that you expected when you actually move in.

There could be issues with some of the critical systems in the home, like the roof or the foundation. You will likely walk through the property and review the seller’s disclosure before making an offer.

What are your rights if the seller lied to you by telling you falsehoods about the property’s condition or omitting the truth when they knew about issues?

Sellers cannot lie or misrepresent the condition of the property

California has strict seller disclosure laws that require that they inform buyers of all known defects. Those same laws also protect you from outright lies. Neither the seller nor their agent can deliberately mislead you about the condition of the property.

When you spotted something unusual during your tour, maybe you asked the seller’s agent about it. They might have told you that the dark spot on the ceiling was the result of a botched slime experiment by the seller’s kids. You may have accepted that as the truth, only to discover a slow drip in a pipe that requires thousands of dollars of repair work. By lying about the cause of the stain, the seller’s agent opened the door to claims by you, the buyer.

Sellers can’t avoid telling you the truth either

Lies don’t just involve intentionally misleading someone. Sellers cannot hide defects or known issues with the property prior to a transaction. The disclosure laws in California mandate that they must make buyers beware of any issues they know about, from water seepage in the crawl space to low water pressure in one of the bathrooms.

Each of those minor defects, on its own, might not affect the property value much. However, multiple small defects or one large, latent defect could drastically reduce the value of the property or its livability. New owners may find that they have to sink thousands of dollars into repairs just to get the property into the condition they thought it was in when they bought it.

If you find yourself in this difficult situation, the law does protect you. You have the right to bring a claim against the seller for their mistruths or omissions. You potentially have the right to seek compensation for all provable losses, whether it is the cost of making repairs or the drop in property value because of those defects.

Even if they list the property in as-is condition and offer no warranties, they still have an obligation to tell you everything they know about defects and issues with the home.