Real Estate Disclosure Requirements

by Les Mark Esq. Council to The League

Question: I own a home in Los Angeles. I plan on listing it for sale. Several years ago, I had some construction problems, particularly, small amounts of water intrusion through one window. This has not been a problem for several years. Do I need to disclose this information to a prospective buyer?

Answer:Yes.

California Law has stringent requirements when it comes to disclosing facts about a home for sale. A seller should disclose any defects they know about. Failure to disclose a known defect can lead to financial liabilities for both the seller and the listing broker should any problems arise with the property after the close of escrow. The general rule of thumb that a seller must disclose anything that could affect the fair market value of the home. Clearly, a water intrusion problem could affect the fair market value of the home and a prospective buyer is entitled to this information.

California requires sellers to disclose material facts in writing. The seller must sign and date a specific form also known as a Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement. This multi-page document requests information and details, such as defects or malfunctions in or around the structure, condition of appliances, materials or substances that may pose an environmental hazard, structure modifications in violation of zoning or building codes and neighborhood noise problems.

You can anticipate that you will need to tender these disclosures rather quickly once escrow is open. Section A of the California Residential Purchase Agreement allows for a certain number of days for the delivery of seller’s disclosures to the buyer - usually seven days from acceptance of the offer. A buyer usually has three days after the disclosures have been made to back out of the agreement.

I would strongly recommend that you consult with a real estate attorney to further advise you of the law in this area and to guide you through this transaction.

Leslie Steven Marks is a senior litigation partner with the Los Angeles law firm of Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin, LLP. He has particular expertise in real estate, construction, business and tort litigation. He is also an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association and the Contractors State License Board. Mr. Marks can be reached at: 310.478.4100 or lmarks@wrslawyers.com
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Selling a Home - Disclosure Requirements