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My house has defects, but I did not get a home inspection done before buying it. Now what?

            Murdock Law recommends that all home buyers have a home inspection completed before purchasing a home. A home inspection can help identify defects that may prove costly to repair. Some buyers; however, choose to make offers without inspection contingencies to make their offer more attractive to sellers. Proceeding with a home purchase without an inspection may have adverse consequences if a defect is discovered after the sale.   

This post will address the situation where a buyer does not get a home inspection and then discovers defects after the sale.  Whether a buyer may bring claims for non-disclosure depends on the facts of a particular situation. Some important questions to ask include:

Were the defects identified in the Real Estate Condition Report?

Wisconsin law requires sellers of real estate to provide a Real Estate Condition Report to any potential buyer. The seller must disclose the existence of defects and provide a general description of potential defects in the property in the report. A defect is defined as “a condition that would have a significant adverse effect on the value of the property; that would significantly impair the health or safety of future occupants of the property; or that if not repaired, removed, or replaced would significantly shorten or adversely affect the expected normal life of the premises.”

A buyer aware of the “true nature” of defects, or who has the right to discover the “true nature” of defects that are disclosed, cannot later complain when he or she goes ahead with the purchase: (1) despite knowing about the defects, or (2) after giving up a right under the contract to discover their “true nature.”

A seller discloses a potential defect but the buyer fails to exercise the home inspection contingency, the buyer cannot successfully the seller. Courts hold that claims for breach of contract, breach of warranty, and intentional misrepresentation are waived.  Buyers are held responsible for failing to discover the true nature of the defect when they were provided with information that would have permitted them to do so but failed to obtain a home inspection.

What if the defects are not listed in the Real Estate Condition Report?

A buyer may still a viable legal case if the sellers did not disclose the existence of any defects in the Real Estate Condition Report. For example, in Beard v. Schertz, the sellers stated they were unaware of any defects, so the buyers made an offer and did not have an inspection performed. After closing, the buyers discovered several alleged defects in the home. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that that the “as is” provision did not amend the original warranties, which relied on the disclosures in the Real Estate Condition Report. The court also held that there was sufficient evidence for a factfinder to infer from the nature of the defects that the sellers knew about them from living in the house and that because there was nothing disclosed 

Conclusion

Purchasing a home and dealing with undisclosed defects can be a difficult process.  Murdock Law, S.C. has over a decade of experience resolving home defect disputes. Call us at 884-744-7529 or email us at [email protected] if you need help navigating your home defect problems.

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