Last Update: 04/18/16
There are all kinds of problems with their new home that buyers may discover after they’ve left the closing table and moved into their new home or condo.
Home defects can be found in brand new homes that have just been built. Problems can also be discovered in homes that have been around for awhile, too. (They are usually called “pre-owned homes.”)
The question is: who is responsible for fixing this stuff? What choices does a buyer have after discovering a big problem with his new home?
Steps to Prevent Unwelcome Defect Surprises
Here in Florida, the problem of home defects is hopefully kept to a minimum by the standard contract documents that are used by real estate agents. To try and minimize certain common issues and to standardize how matters are handled, the Florida Bar Association has endorsed certain real estate agreements for use in residential sale and purchase transactions.
In these standardized documents, language is included giving the buyer a right to inspect the home or condo for certain period of time before closing. This is done so the buyer can discover problems (defects) and decide whether or not to terminate the contract or go through with the purchase.
Most defects and problems that are found during this inspection period, are resolved between the buyer and seller before closing.
Unfortunately, some are not.
Examples of Home Defects Discovered by Buyers After the Sale
It can be such a disappointment, finding issues after the purchase of your new single family home or condo. Still, it happens to a lot of buyers. Most every home buyer can expect a few unwelcome surprises in the condition of their new property.
The question is, what are your options as a buyer when this happens?
Here are just a few examples of things Florida buyers have discovered in their homes after the sale is completed:
- The existence of a septic tank
- Leaky roof
- Electrical and wiring issues
- Cracks in the foundation
- Cracks in the walls
- Soil in the yard is not graded right (which can harm home’s foundation)
- Flashing is missing
- Toilets aren’t working right or a funny smell is coming from the toilet
- Drywall problems (including Chinese drywall being used)
- Air conditioning drainage issues
- illegal garage or porch conversions or additions
No home or condo is perfect; it’s to be expected that the home buyer may find some defects as boxes are unpacked and the family settles into their new place. Often, these are just cosmetic problems or minor fixes. New construction often comes with a “punch list” because the builder expects to return and tidy up a few things.
However, there are other situations where the home defects are serious and costly. Some defects permanently damage the property, and some can even threaten the physical health of the people that live there.
Serious Problems Discovered by the Home Buyer
For instance in Florida, humidity and weather are a big deal. We live near the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico and all that water threatens construction here with moisture, which can lead to huge and dangerous problems like toxic mold growing within walls. Moisture can also rot wood over time. Foundations can be threatened by moisture in the soil if drainage isn’t proper.
Drywall is another very serious home defect that has impacted a huge number of Florida home owners. For details on how drywall can harm homes and health, check out the Florida Department of Health website.
Of particular danger, were homes that were constructed in Florida (and other parts of the country) with drywall manufactured in China. Chinese drywall was purchased and used to build homes all over Florida and the rest of the United States; problems that arose from this defective drywall became the basis for lawsuits that were filed by hundreds of home owners.
Fix and Repair? Or Should You Make a Claim?
Only the home owner can decide where to draw the line. It’s an individual decision between dealing with the problems he has discovered himself or demanding that the seller take responsibility for them.
Legally, in Florida it is legally required for the seller to disclose to the buyer before the deal is completed that there are defects in the home. However, for Florida residential real estate, the seller is only required to tell the buyer about any home defects that the seller actually knows about or reasonably should have known existed.
Legal claims can be made against the seller after the buyer has closed on the property. Lawsuits can be filed for both property claims and personal injury damages (as for example, when people become ill from inhaling mold spores).
A good piece of advice is to at least speak with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to learn about your rights. Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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