Purchasing a home in California can be complicated and expensive. Before investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into a residence or property, you want to be certain you are getting what you pay for. This is where property disclosures can help.
The laws governing real estate transactions in this state generally protect the buyer. The same is true for disclosure statements. While each state has its particular requirements for the things a seller must reveal to a potential buyer, California’s requirements are among the most stringent. Nevertheless, you may have purchased a home based on the disclosure of the seller only to find that the seller may not have been entirely truthful. Does this mean you have a legal claim?
The seller should have told you
Federal law requires a seller to inform you of only one specific defect in the home, and that is the presence of lead paint. If the home is a pre-1978 construction, the seller must inform you in writing of lead paint and allow you 10 days to test the home. The seller must also provide you with important information about lead paint.
Otherwise, the federal government allows the states to set the rules for disclosures. California requires sellers to inform you of the following and many more:
- The presence of asbestos, leaking gas, mold, pests, radon or other environmental hazards
- Any natural hazards of which the property may be at risk, such as a history of flooding or an earthquake fault
- Structures like fences or driveways that cross property lines or any easements involving the property
- Nuisances in the neighborhood, such as the presence of anything that may emit a foul odor, loud noise or other disturbance
- The general condition of the appliances, gutters, windows, HVAC system, roof, foundation and other elements of the home
- Any renovations or additions that violate state code
- The presence of registered sex offenders in the neighborhood
- The occurrence of a death on the property
For you to have a valid claim of nondisclosure, the item the seller withheld must be a material defect. Material defects are those that might be serious enough to make you change your mind about whether to purchase the home. If you believe you would likely have backed out of a sale if you had known of certain defects or facts the seller did not reveal, you would be wise to learn of your rights from an attorney who is knowledgeable of California real estate laws.