Required Disclosures when Selling U.S. Real Estate

You are obligated to disclose any potential problems that could affect the value of your property when you decide to sell your home. You can be held accountable for choosing to withhold information regarding major defects in your property.

In general, you are only required to disclose information concerning issues you are aware of—that is, you do not usually need to hire a home inspector to look for problems you had no knowledge of.

In California, those selling their home need to fill out and give the buyer a disclosure form listing multiple types of defects such as leaky roofs, any deaths that occurred on the property in the last three years, nuisances existing in the neighborhood such as a loud dog, and other potential problems. Any possible dangers posed by floods, earthquakes, fires, environmental hazards, and other problems need to be disclosed also in a Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement.

What should I do if I am trying to sell?

While not a requirement, get a home inspection and use the result to decide what things need repairing or replacing. You can use the inspection report as a helpful guide in pricing your house and negotiating its value.

If you are unsure whether to disclose something, go the extra mile and disclose it. This way, you will avoid any possibility for liability and you can increase the buyer's confidence that you are dealing with them fairly. You should remember that just because you disclose a problem does not obligate you to fix the problem.

Make sure you disclose lead-based paint and other hazards. You need to take certain measures if your house was built before 1978 in compliance with the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992.

This act requires you to do the following:

  • Disclose all known lead based paint in the house
  • Provide buyers a pamphlet made by the EPA called Protect Your Family from Lead Your Home
  • Provide warning langue in the contact and signed statements
  • Keep any signed acknowledgements for three years as proof of compliance
  • Give buyers 10 days to test the house for lead

Failing to comply with these regulations means the buyer can sue you as the seller for triple the damages actually suffered.

It is highly recommended you retain a real estate lawyer when you plan on selling your home who can protect your legal interests and ensure you are abiding by all relevant laws and statutes. Call Attorney Steven R. Lovett for seasoned real estate advice.