Can a NJ Seller be Sued for Undisclosed Defects in the Home?

caveat emptor

When selling your home in New Jersey, “Caveat Emptor” (Buyer Beware) is the main tenet applied. The seller also has an obligation under common law to properly represent the property. If the seller fails to honestly represent the home for sale, they open themselves up to the probability of legal actions. Because we know this is an area of NJ real estate law that can easily be misinterpreted, Veitengruber Law always works hard to ensure that our clients understand their responsibility as a New Jersey real estate buyer or seller.

New Jersey courts have ruled in favor of misled buyers.

While the law is not specific, the courts have heard numerous lawsuits and ruled in favor of buyers when they have been blatantly misled by the seller. In New Jersey there is an “implied warranty of habitability.” This means that the seller is expected to disclose anything that can affect habitability of the home, and includes things like: drainage problems, hidden mold, roof leaks, poorly insulated walls and windows. Was the house ever tested for Radon? Hiding these types of things from potential buyers could bring about a lawsuit after the sale.

NJ real estate contract review is crucial!

There are good reasons to use both a real estate agent and a NJ real estate law firm like us when buying a house. Even the most basic real estate contract includes a laundry list of items that any buyer would expect to be included or corrected before they agree to purchase a property. All improvements and construction should be valid and up to code. This will ensure a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) can be obtained from the local municipality. You cannot move into a house without a Certificate of Occupancy.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Buyers should be sure that qualifying for a CO is written into their real estate contract, and every contract should be thoroughly reviewed by a real estate attorney. At Veitengruber Law, we work closely with many home inspectors to ensure that a full property inspection is completed before our clients sign any paperwork.

Undocumented improvements can lead to problems

Sometimes homeowners make improvements without securing the proper permits and inspections. This potentially means that if the situation comes to light before, during, or after the sale of the home, the municipality can levy fines and charge back taxes. Who is financially responsible for these fees depends  upon when the situation is discovered.

A house with a bad reputation?

There is no official requirement to disclose things such as a tragic event that occurred in the home, like a crime, murder, or death of natural causes. While sellers don’t have to offer up this information, they do have to respond truthfully if asked if an event of this nature has occurred in the home or on the property. If a seller blatantly misrepresents what has taken place in the home, the buyer can sue for relief.

As the buyer, you are spending a great deal of your money for the house of your dreams. You will likely spend many years living in the home, and you may even raise a family there. BECAUSE there are no solid laws requiring the seller to disclose the home’s “past,” it’s important that you do your due diligence. Research all available information and secure your situation with the expert representation of Veitengruber Law.

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