So, you have bought your New Jersey dream home, the closing went without a hitch, and you are happily moved in. At least, that is what it seems like at first. As you live on the property, you slowly begin to notice problems. Unsettled flooring. Cracks in walls. A leaky roof, or leaky plumbing pipes. Shouldn’t you have been told about all of this before closing? If you were not, is someone liable to you for repairs?
“As is” Clauses
The first question is whether you had a purchase contract with an “as is” clause. As the name implies, this means that you took the property as it was, and you assumed all the risk of defects. The only avenue for a purchaser to be able to sue in this case, would be if the seller made an active misrepresentation—for example, specifically telling you that the roof was fixed a year ago, when it fact it was fixed 10 years ago. Simply leaving out information or failing to give you information will not defeat the “as is” clause.
Knowledge of Defects
Regardless of an “as is” clause, as a general rule, you cannot sue for any defect you knew about or could have known about, including what you could have discovered with an adequate investigation done by a home inspector. Because so many problems can be discovered, this eliminates a lot of possibilities for home buyers to sue.
Additionally, a buyer cannot sue for defects in property that the seller did not know about. A seller need only disclose those defects that the seller knows about. The seller does not have to conduct his or her own thorough inspection and discover every possible defect and disclose it to a buyer.
Other Problems With Lawsuits
Assuming that you get past these hurdles, next comes the problem of materiality. Minor defects, items that can be easily replaced, problems that can be fixed at a reasonable cost, or aesthetic issues will usually not be considered material.
A buyer then has a problem proving that a defect actually existed at the time of closing. A leak in the roof could have existed at the time of closing, but if you have owned the home for weeks, that leak could have just as easily developed after you purchased the property. Often, experts will be needed to evaluate how long a defect has existed on the property.
Are Inspectors Liable?
If there is a defect on your property and a lawsuit for damages is viable, you may initially want to look for the seller for repayment or damages. However, if you had a home inspection, and the inspector missed something he or she should have discovered, you may have a viable suit against your inspector.
Unfortunately, many buyers miss things listed in inspector reports, or else ignore them. In that case, you would have a hard time suing an inspector for problems after your real estate purchase.
Getting legal help now can avoid legal problems later, after your real estate closing. Contact our real estate attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC to help you with your real estate closing.