It cannot be denied that the struggling economy has adversely affected the real estate market. As a result, some sellers of residential real property who are desperate to sell their property are failing to disclose known defects with their home. These defects cover a broad range and include, but are not limited to defects with the Seller’s roof, basement, water/sewage systems, plumbing, electric, heating and air conditioning as well as damage to the structural integrity of the home caused by termite infestation. Buyers damaged by such defects are naturally wondering “what can I do?”
If you have recently purchased residential real property and have been affected by defects to such property, you should be aware of the Pennsylvania Real Estate and Seller Disclosure Act (the “Act”) and its underlying rationale. Under the Act, a Seller who intends to transfer an interest in real property is required to disclose to the Buyer any material defects with the property which are known to the Seller by completing all applicable items in a property disclosure statement. The Act requires that such seller property disclosure statement be provided in all residential real estate transfers except for certain fiduciary transfers and transfers of new residential construction that have not been previously occupied and have been inspected for building code compliance and received a certificate of occupancy or code compliance.
A Seller of residential real property will be liable in the amount of actual damages suffered by the Buyer if such Seller willfully or negligently violates or fails to perform any duty prescribed by the Act. However, a Buyer’s action for damages against a Seller for violations of the Act must be commenced within a certain time period that begins to run from the date of final settlement on the affected property.
In addition to a cause of action under the Act, liability may also be imposed under alternative legal theories. There may also be causes of action against the Seller’s Agent and/or the Buyer’s Agent. Such options should be discussed with an attorney.
For more information, please contact Chris Turner in our litigation department.