When selling a home, people will generally make the home as attractive as possible for potential buyers. The house will have been cleaned as it had probably not been in years. Sellers may do some repairs or repaint some rooms to give the house a fresh new look to impress people as they come into house. While important, all these improvements are superficial and despite how clean and new the house may look, you have no idea what is happening behind those walls.
New York State law makes sellers responsible for disclosing any issues, such as a roof that needs to be replaced, termite activity, or damage from a pest infestation even if the issue had been dealt with already. The law is designed to protect a buyer from making an investment in a home under false pretenses or without a complete picture of the responsibilities they will be taking on.
The Property Condition Disclosure Act (PCDA) requires sellers of a house, not including coops or condos, with up to 4 units to provide a disclosure statement detailing all known defects related to the property or pay a credit of $500 to the home buyer at closing. The questions that must be answered include information about the ownership and occupancy of the property, and any structural, mechanical, and environmental issues on the property or in the house. These issues could be things such as problems with the foundation, electricity, heating, drainage, or the existence of hazardous materials. Sellers are required to disclose the presence of any lead-based paint or asbestos.
Failure to disclose any issues can lead to liability even after the sale has been completed if they knowledge of the unclosed issues would have had an impact on the buyer as to whether they would have wanted to proceed with the sale.
The process of selling a home is a long and potentially stressful one. Sellers are dealing with moving out of a home they spent a significant amount of time in while also dealing with where they are going to be living. Buyers are working on securing a loan and dealing with all the finances and paperwork involved with that. A real estate deal is an almost endless list of details that need to be researched, documented, disclosed, and resolved before sitting at the closing table. Many of the homes on Long Island are approaching 75 years old. The post-World War 2 housing boom started on Long Island in 1947 when William J. Levitt started the first planned communities shaping what we now call suburbia forever. Between 1947 and 1951, Levitt built about 17,500 houses. At his peak, they were completing 12 houses per day. Planned communities continued to expand throughout the 1950s.
All of these homes, many of which have been bought and sold multiple times, and have survived through storms, termites, rodents, fires, DIY repairs and upgrades, and generations of kids who grew up getting yelled at for playing ball in the house, all have their fair share of issues. When you buy an old house, you are not entitled to a new house. However, that does not mean you are not entitled to have the full picture of the issues and potential expenses you will incur when you buy a house. The law protects the buyer so they can make an informed decision. The law also protects the seller from angry phone calls and potential lawsuits after the fact.
Buying or selling a house is not easy. At Taub and Bogaty, we have the team to help you get through the process so you can enjoy the newest phase of your life.