Fraudulent MisrepresentationSeattle Real Estate Attorney
Real Estate Disclosure and Fraud
When you purchase a home that has been occupied by others, you are, in most cases, entitled to receive a Sellers Disclosure Statement, often known as a “Form 17.” In this document, the Seller informs you of his/her knowledge of the condition of the property by answering “Yes”, “No”, or “Don’t Know” to a series of questions and supplying some additional information. The contents of the Form 17 provide you with a disclosure of the Seller’s knowledge of issues that may affect your decisions regarding whether to move forward with the purchase of the residence and/or what price to offer for the home.
Sometimes, a seller will intentionally not provide important information to you regarding defects that exist in the home and/or on the property. These issues range from cracked foundations to leaking roofs, from poor drainage to encroachments on the property by a neighbor’s fence, and they impact the cost of occupying the residence and the value of the home at the time of purchase. If a seller has no knowledge of the problem and would have no reason to have known of the problem, then the seller may have no liability for such problems that first surface during your ownership or occupancy of the residence. However, if the seller had knowledge of the problem, such as a roof that leaks during the wet winter months, and does not disclose that knowledge in the Form 17, then that seller may be liable under the legal doctrines of negligent misrepresentation and/or fraudulent misrepresentation for the repairs to fix that undisclosed problem.
Always Have a Professional Inspect the Property
The American rule regarding attorneys’ fees is that each party pays for their own attorneys’ fees, unless they are provided for in a statute or in a contract. Fortunately, most purchase and sale agreements provide for prevailing party attorneys’ fees, and, as such, if you have to pursue a seller for failure to provide disclosure of concealed defects, you will be entitled to recoup your reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in pursuit of the seller. We suggest always having a pre-purchase inspection performed prior to making what is likely one of the most expensive purchases of your life. Follow up that general inspection with a more specific inspection of certain systems or items called out by your home inspector.